Mauritius - Tropical Paradise?
By John Hicks, Founder of International Animal Rescue
Like most people I always thought of Mauritius as a holiday paradise with it’s sandy beaches, clear blue seas and plenty of sun. I was therefore delighted to receive an invitation by the Mauritian Government to visit this paradise. What is more they even paid for the flight and put me up in a 5 star hotel along with my co-director Alan Knight.
The reason for our visit was to advise the Government regarding the control of stray dogs. After our arrival we were taken to meet Dr Shuja, the Director of the Mauritian Society for the Protection of Animals (MSPCA). We were shown around their headquarters and were amazed at the wonderful facilities, the like of which I have rarely seen. At this stage we wondered why the government had spent so much money bringing us over, as we were so impressed. However, things were soon to change!
The following day we joined Dr Shuja and one of his dog catching teams to round up some of the stray dogs. One of the first things we saw was a dog knocked down by a car. We expected the MSPCA to screech to a halt but instead they drove past without even hesitating and our complaints were passed off as irrelevant.
The next shock was seeing the way the dogs were caught and handled. It was done without any thought for the well-being of the dogs and it amazed us that they didn’t all end up with broken legs. On one occasion they caught a dog on the forecourt of a shop but the dog was very obviously not a stray. The owners of the shop ran out protesting the animal was theirs and that they wanted it back. Their children were screaming with hysteria at seeing their beloved pet stolen in such an awful manner. The only response from the MSPCA and Dr Shuja was to scream back a string of foul abuse. IAR made sure that the owners knew where their dog was being held and arranged for its safe return.
The day got worse when we discovered that, if they were not reclaimed by their owners, the dogs were all to be electrocuted within a few days. And reclaiming a dog was almost impossible because of the red tape and the size of the fine which few people could afford. Back at the dog pound we saw the dogs waiting to be killed. These poor creatures were totally traumatised even after being there for a few days.
The following day we had to go back to watch a number of dogs being dragged out and electrocuted. There was no attempt to show any compassion, not even a reassuring word. We found that the MSPCA were equally as ruthless in their trapping and killing of crows and even killed the fruit bats feeding in the trees at the MSPCA Headquarters. Needless to say we reported all of this to the government and presented our recommendations at a conference they organised. It is clear that the government have found themselves in a difficult situation and we believe they wanted our report as a catalyst to change things.
As a direct result of our visit a new group called PAWS was set up and the government have already donated a large piece of land to them to help them become established. It also looks as if the dog pound is to be taken away from the MSPCA and given to PAWS along with a Government grant to set up a mass neutering campaign.
The fact that The Minister of Finance and Commerce, Mr Xavier Duvall, has taken the post of President of PAWS gives an indication of the importance being given to this new group. Two members of PAWS have even been to our sanctuary in Devon for training on how to handle and catch stray dogs and it is hoped they will be visiting our centre in Goa for hands on experience.
During my last visit I was delighted to see how well PAWS were doing. Not only are they starting to deal with the dog situation but they have become actively involved in a wide range of animal welfare problems on the island. They have even been given their own TV series and I was asked to record the first two of these on their behalf and they have asked me to return later in the year to record more programs.