86.8 F
Cruz Bay
Wednesday, July 24, 2024


If you have an animal-cruelty complaint or a stray, dead or injured animal to be picked up, don't call the Humane Society. That is the unfortunate word put out by St. Thomas Humane Society president Claudia LaBorde, as the V.I. government has failed to make good on its monetary obligations.
These are services the society routinely performs under contract from the V.I. government, according to LaBorde.
"We believed this fiscal year's contract was moving along the necessary channels, until, with the new administration (but) we found we had to almost start from scratch again," Laborde said.
The government owes the society $75,000, and has not renewed its annual contract.
Though the Humane Society cannot currently perform the previously stated services, LaBorde has emphatically issued a public plea: "Please, please do not leave your kitties and puppies by the dumpsters. Bring them to the shelter and we will care for them."
The society will continue to provide animal care and adoption services.
LaBorde wrote to Gov. Charles Turnbull in July pleading for funding and asking for an explanation. To date she has received no reply.
The society has been under contract with the government since 1968, and up to last year, though with some bumps along the way, they have ultimately been paid. They perform a 24-hour animal emergency service, investigate animal-cruelty complaints, issue dog licences and pick up animals for the Department of Agriculture.
"The sad part of the whole picture is that we are in existence to help animals – and now we are constrained in what we can do," LaBorde said.
The Humane Society is private and non-profit and operates on an approximate $300,000 yearly budget, which is minimal. Most of the society's income comes from fund-raising efforts such as the annual Valentine's Ball and from the popular Sunday Flea Market.
The fire-damaged Flea Market building is in dire need of repair, and is the group's steadiest source of income, bringing in about $2,000 a month. The amount the government pays helps subsidize the operation, but by no means supports it, LaBorde said
The issuance of dog licences is very much on her mind.
"We are trying to figure out how to do this without the government," LaBorde said. "Under the V.I. Code this is a function of the Agriculture Department. We want all dogs to be able to be identified in case of being lost. It is a gray area which we are working on."
Adding to the society's current problems is a question of land use. One of the society's immediate goals is to reconstruct the fire-damaged Flea Market. However, that building sits on land that may or may not be taken from it by the V.I. government under the law of eminent domain. This was explained to the society last year by an appraiser representing the government.
"It's a Catch-22 situation," LaBorde said. "On the one hand, we want to rebuild the Flea Market, yet we are advised that the land may be taken over for the Nadir flood-control project. It's a challenge, always."
Laborde said the Humane Society will stay open; there is no question of closing. It will maintain its low-cost spaying and neutering program, its adoption services and the humane education program including field trips for children.
"However," LaBorde said, "by not honoring our agreement, the government has placed the safety and health of the territory at risk. Disease, rabies and packs of wild animals are the result of not enforcing population control."
Stray animals can be reported to the Agriculture Department at (340) 774-5182 or (340) 778-0997.
Animal-cruelty cases can be called in to 911.
Instances of sick or injured birds should be called in to the Wildlife Service at (340) 775-6762.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.