End animal cruelty: Advocates push for more clinics, shelters


South Pacific Animal Welfare veterinary clinic at Tokomololo clinic, Tongatapu Island, Tonga. Picture: SUPPLIED



REGARDLESS of the significance of animals in the Pacific, the sector faces a number of constant and extensively reported challenges.

In the Pacific, the animal care sector has been suffering a great deal due to the lack of animal clinics in the region. Fiji is fortunate to have a total of five animal clinics as well as shelters.

Despite this, there is a need for constant education around the welfare of our fur friends. In trying to address this issue, the Pacific Community (SPC) brought together appropriate professionals, lawmakers, and key stakeholders to strengthen animal health and production, as well as improve veterinary services in the region, which are currently inadequate.

The expert workshop supported the Pacific’s regional capacity, animal health, welfare, and production, veterinary public health, biosecurity, and food security.

Pacific Community (SPC) animal health officer Elenoa Salele said the animal cruelty rate in Fiji had improved compared to past years and this could be attributed to the increased awareness and advocacy for animal rights.

“Raising awareness on various platforms (develop and disseminate awareness materials) and enforcing animal welfare/legislations education at school level are vital,” she said.

“SPC is planning to collaborate and help finance animal clinics in the future to advocate for animal welfare in the Pacific, especially for livestock.

“More organisations should be set up in the region to advocate animal protection.”

The need for more experienced vets in the Pacific has also been a concern. This was also one area the Pacific Community was working on to establish a mobile veterinary unit and also deliver para-veterinary studies as most Pacific Islands lacked trained and qualified vets.

Discussions at the workshop led to the creation of the Pacific Animal Health and Production Capacity Development Plan, endorsed by Pacific heads and ministers of agriculture and forestry.

According to Salele, priority areas included para-veterinary training for Pacific countries and improving diagnostic capacity across the region. Neighbouring islands such as Tonga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands have only one clinic if not any.

The animal cruelty cases are rarely taken to task and the ones that go unreported cost lives of many animals. It is vital that more clinics and shelters are established as well as animal laws revised.

Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals staff members during an awareness programme on animal welfare and care in PNG schools. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is one such charitable organisation that is dedicated to the welfare of ‘all creatures great and small’ in Papua New Guinea. It is the country’s only community-based organisation devoted to stopping animal cruelty by actively advocating animal welfare and safeguarding.

Clinical manager Karen Swale said the animal cruelty rate in PNG was high and this was reflected in the number of incidences of animal cruelty they received at the clinic.

“Rumours of dog eating has also reached island homes far and near. It’s not so much about PNG’s culture or traditional beliefs, but more do to with education or educating people of the benefits that a pet can have in a community.

“It has been known that dogs are eaten in some provinces in PNG. This is more to do with the availability of a meat source that is convenient not cultural. Pigs are usually slaughtered for cultural and traditional celebrations,” Ms Swale said.

As an animal welfare organisation, she said, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals played their part by removing animals from harm or households that have been known to or witnessed neglecting or abusing a domestic animal.

“We do our best to talk to the owners and make them understand that we will take the animal into our care, for the animal’s benefit and the reasons why it would be better off for the family to surrender their pet to us,” Ms Swale said.

“We do have to involve the National Capital District City (NCDC) police if the matter excels from this point, as we do not have any authority to go into anyone’s property without police presence; a warrant is needed prior to this.”

Through educational programs and presentations, tours of their facilities, and awareness events on social media, Ms Swale said the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was actively advocating animal welfare and protection.

She agreed that more animal shelters were needed in the region.

“There is a huge need and demand for more experienced vets for domestic animals and wildlife,” she said.

“Animal welfare laws are not outdated in PNG but there is a dire need for it to be reviewed.

“The laws aren’t enforced enough and there is no plan to my knowledge for a review of the animal welfare law.”

Meanwhile, the Tonga Animal Welfare Society also known as TAWS was established in 2020 by a group of animal-loving residents. It is the only clinic available in Tonga.

By raising animal welfare awareness, TAWS advocates for animal welfare, promotes humane treatment of animals and encourages people to use veterinary services.

The Society provides assistance to neglected, abandoned, or unwanted animals and aid to injured and sick animals in order to alleviate their suffering.

TAWS secretary Debra Allan said they tried to assist people on the proper ways to care for their animals, but this was also difficult as there was no government vet in Tonga.

Ms Allan said it was also well documented that some Tongans ate dogs.

“This is not a rumour and it is not illegal in Tonga. It is illegal to be cruel to dogs and we encourage people to report any known cruelty to any animals to the police as they are the agency that has the authority to impose penalties,” she said.

TAWS is actively trying to educate the Tongan community on animal legislations. Ms Allan said their advocacy work included sharing tips on animal care on through a radio programme.

She said the Tongan community was also encouraged to attend TAWS pop-up clinics for parvo vaccines and flea treatments for the animals.

“During COVID-19 we used Facebook to upload educational videos for families to watch.

“We were funded by New Zealand High Commission for educational programmes in schools.”

Tonga is serviced by the South Pacific Animal Welfare Society and TAWS works with the organisation and others in the region to promote and advocate for animal wellness and protection.


  • Brittany Nawaqatabu is a final-year journalism student at USP’s Laucala Campus. She is also the 2023 Insight Features editor for Wansolwara, USP Journalism’s flagship student training newspaper and online publication.
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