During the COVID-19 crisis in the US animal shelters have seen an increase in animal adoptions by people seeking companionship or who want to take care of a pet.
Animal shelters in T&T have reported a somewhat similar trend however, the furry companions that are being adopted out the most are dogs, rather than cats.
Animal rescuers Clifford Tardieu and his wife, Sharon, have adopted out five kittens during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Tardieu and his wife have been rescuing animals since 1991 when they lived in St Maarten. Over the last 29 years, they have rescued and rehomed hundreds of animals. They find homes for about 30 to 40 dogs and 20 to 40 cats and kittens a year.
Speaking at their Mt Lambert home, Tardieu said "This is what we do rescuing animals, namely dogs and cats, puppies and kittens. We can’t drive over or around them.
"We also rescued a rabbit, snakes, birds, manicou–you name it. When we resided in St Maarten we rescued mainly puppies and dogs, but after moving back to T&T in 1997 that started to include kittens and cats as well as the other animal species.
"We've rescued from puppies dumped in a deep dry well, to kittens inches away from an attacking dog, kittens and puppies thrown out of cars on the side of the road, in the middle of busy highways in the searing noonday heat, the dense darkness of midnight, to dogs deliberately driven over on a highway.
"Yes, a car was seen driving over the two front legs of a dog. I rescued the dog, a vet surgically repaired the legs with screws and pins and he is happy now living at our shelter. Some of the animals rescued over the years are still with us."
He said rehoming the animals with loving families was not always possible. Home checks for adoption of their rescues were mandatory and if Tardieu or Sharon were not comfortable with a potential living situation, they will not relinquish the animal.
Tardieu said many times even after much posting on Facebook, Instagram or distributing flyers there were no responses and the animals stayed with and grew with them. He said they were loved and taken care of and there are success stories where some of the rescued animals have found loving homes in Canada, the United States, Tobago and Guyana.
Tardieu said all of the animals were spayed and neutered so as not to add to the already burgeoning homeless population of kittens and puppies on the streets of T&T. He said they paid for these procedures out of their own pockets although it is a very expensive endeavour.
Tardieu said added to the expense was the feeding of over 100 animals; their supply of cat food and litter for their clowder of rescued and abandoned cats and kittens was running low as they went through a 22-pound bag of cat food every day which was expensive at $195 at a warehouse shopping chain. A 50-pound bag of dog chow only lasts one week to ten days. He said sometimes they received help from other animal lovers and good Samaritans, even other fellow rescuers with pet food.
Tardieu said many veterinarians they had encountered over the years did try to keep their costs low to help out rescuers and for that, they were very grateful. He said for other veterinarians, it was "just a business" and a routine visit turns out to be a $2,000 visit or much more.
Tardieu said while it was understandable that they were a business and had their own bills to pay, high vet costs hurt the chances of helping other animals in need or just in taking care of those they had in their care.
He said there were so many other costs like providing food, getting vaccines, spaying and neutering the animals.
Tardieu said he does not publicly disclose their location because of the hundreds of animals that have been callously dumped in front of their gate in boxes, plant pots or bags. He said cars have driven up, a door or window was opened, an arm threw out a tiny kitten, a malnourished and sick puppy or even thrown on top of their roof.
He said as he was a cancer survivor since 2012, he cannot exert himself physically in his auto body garage as before as the chemotherapy had damaged his lungs.
Tardieu's wife was laid off a year and a half ago because of chronic autoimmune diseases and was now on a chemotherapy drug herself. Life these days for them has become a struggle. He said, however, struggle though they may, they will never turn their backs on the beloved animals in their care though it was a high cost to themselves both monetarily and health-wise.
Was there a benefit for them? Yes. There was the satisfaction of knowing they had taken literally hundreds of animals off the roads, saved them from likely horrible living conditions, disease and cruel death.
Tardieu said there was contentment and peace when they look at the cats and dogs in their care and know that the animals were comfortable, safe and fed.
Following several recent incidents of animal cruelty, on Government's proposal to increase the animal cruelty fines from $400 to $100,000 and an increase in jail time from two months to one year, when the legislation was brought to Parliament, Tardieu said it will only deter if people reported the perpetrators.
He said those that "see" must do more than just get upset. They must take action, he added.
With your help the Tardieus can provide a safe haven for many of T&T's abandoned animals. To assist call 770-7791 and 382-4926.