NEW hope has been given to the fight for animal welfare in St. Lucia after a U.S. philanthropist and her partners have pledged to supply desperately needed financial aid to animal groups on island.
Author and philanthropist, Jean Shafiroff, her daughter (and founder of Global Strays) Elizabeth, and her partner (Co-founder of Global Strays), Lindsey Spielfogal told The VOICE on Wednesday that their latest goodwill venture aimed at not only bettering the lives of animals on the island, but also to re-educate people on how best to care for animals.
New Yorker Shafiroff serves as an Ambassador to the American Humane and also a member of eight charity boards. She is the best-selling author of “Successful Philanthropy – How To Make A Life By What You Give”.
The trio came to St. Lucia to live up to their mission, which is to support animal rescue groups primarily outside the United States and raise awareness on the many issues faced in animal welfare, as well as to adopt dogs and transport them to their forever homes in the U.S.
Shafiroff spoke about the vast contrast on the relationship between pet owners in countries like the U.S., where up to 65% of households have pets, which are treated like family members, compared to places like the Caribbean, where this is not the case.
She said: “We want to help groups like SLAPS (St. Lucia Animal Protection Society) in your country and also collaborate with other rescue groups and government to see how we could help with finding solutions to the problem of spaying animals. Worldwide, there is a need for spay and neuter programmes to reduce overpopulation, and that can only happen through funding and also programmes where lower-priced spay and neuter services are available to those who cannot afford the regular costs. For education, we believe that by training and teaching young children at a very early age how to treat animals that the cycle of lack of care and even abuse will end.”
Shafiroff spoke out against pet owners who commit acts such as tying or chaining dogs to trees all day; she instead urged people to show kindness and love to animals.
She said: “Attitudes towards animals should be changed slightly to know that an animal must be treated with kindness and dignity and that one must never abuse an animal. The same way you would never want to abuse a child, you shouldn’t want to abuse an animal.
I believe there are laws against abusing animals in this country and I believe that stronger enforcement of those laws might be needed.”
She continued: “Animals give unconditional love back. We just need to show a little kindness and teach your children to be kind. It costs no money to be kind, nothing at all.”
The group also met with government officials and members of different local animal protection societies to pitch their ideas and to pledge their support through grant donations.
Shafiroff reminded that the island thrives off the tourism industry and that both the government and people needed to remember that.
She said: “Tourists don’t want to see animals mistreated; they don’t like it, and so if people who live on the island get together to try to improve these things, they’ll improve tourism, and in turn tourists might be more inclined to make donations towards animals. Those are things that can be done.”
Shafiroff said she was happy with the cooperation of the government towards their ideas and the fact that they were open and receptive about creating a bigger and better change to the island’s current animal policies.
Some of the other islands benefitting from the help of Global Strays include Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Costa Rica.
Elizabeth Shafiroff said the idea for the organisation was born after the family had travelled to South America and were disturbed by the images of the animals suffering on the streets.
She said although the organisation has been up and running for nearly a year they were granted tax exemption from the U.S. Government one month ago and so they are now a fully fledged charity organisation and will now be able to make larger grants to the organisations which need their help.
The organisation currently has five groups in Nicaragua and one in the Dominican Republic.