Local vet rescues puppies from Caribbean island
First by boat, then by plane and finally by car, five sleepy pups finished a long Easter Sunday journey. Their trip carried them from the Caribbean island of Anguilla — where they almost certainly would have been destroyed — to safe haven inside Newport Animal Hospital.
There, thanks to Jamestown resident Dr. Jack Civic, the eight-week old puppies will stay until adopted.
Civic, who also operates the Jamestown Animal Clinic, said the Anguillan adventure started about four years ago because of another islander, Madeline Kelly.
“I didn’t even know where Anguilla was,” Civic said, until Kelly, whose dogs Civic had treated for years, suggested the veterinarian and his wife should take a winter vacation. Kelly had two homes in Anguilla, and the first year, Civic and his wife stayed as her guests.
One day, they stopped over to visit her, and Kelly showed them a pen full of Anguillan puppies. She had found the mother by the road. The mother was “emaciated,” Civic said, but Kelly saved her and saved the pups, too.
Later, over dinner, she asked if Civic would take the puppies back to Newport. Anguilla, an island east of Puerto Rico, is a small, poor British territory with a big pet overpopulation problem. If the dogs stayed on the island, they would certainly have to be euthanized because no one would want to adopt them, Civic said.
“It’s sad to see a healthy puppy put down,” he said.
Civic agreed to rescue the litter and when he was leaving Anguilla, Kelly met him at the airport with a crate full of the puppies.
That started the special puppy rescue.
Civic said he did use the trip to rest and relax. For example, he didn’t bring his computer and he and his wife didn’t watch any television. But they always try to do “one good thing” when they take a vacation, so they were happy to help.
“It’s a win-win-win situation,” he said. The puppies are saved and go on to new homes, the shelter receives contributions and new members, the new owners are overjoyed, and the hospital staff loves the new arrivals. So Civic has kept the connection going, although moving puppies to the U.S. is no easy task.
“It’s quite a bit of effort,” he said. This time, he brought five puppies — four females and one male, named Madeline, Susie, Joanie, Lisa and Frank, respectively. Three of the pups are tan with black noses, typical of the Anguilla dog. The other two pups come from a different litter. Civic calls them Cocoanut Retrievers.
Because the crates proved too large to fit in an island-hopper plane, Civic had to take them on a 35-minute ferry ride before they could board a plane to Miami. Then they had to go through customs and Homeland Security.
But first, Civic and wife Sarah had to give the puppies a break from the crate, feed them and clean them. They used their luggage to barricade the puppies in a safe area, then put down newspapers and let them take care of business. While the puppies are exploring their little corral, the couple washes down the crates, and then it’s time to head for the plane.
Customs and Homeland Security officials have usually been helpful, he said.
“It’s a huge ordeal, though,” he said. They made it back to Jamestown around 3:30 a.m. Both had to go to work the next morning.
The puppies, which are all mixed-breed, will stay at the Newport Animal Hospital for about two weeks, he said, while the staff tries to match them with prospective new homes and gets them dewormed and inoculated.
Meanwhile, the pups play and sleep behind a picture window inside the hospital, and everyone who comes to the hospital enjoys their antics.
“Just sitting and watching puppies will make a bad day into a good day,” he said.
Adopting fees cost $125, he said, with $50 going to pay for the transport, while $75 goes back to the shelter — the Anguilla Animal Rescue Foundation — as a contribution.
That money goes a long way in Anguilla, he said, where the shelter is overwhelmed with unwanted puppies.
Kelly alerted him about the shelter, and Civic spends some time on his vacations talking over best practices with the vets. He hopes to teach them how to spay and neuter animals, which are being adopted, so they will not add to the pet overpopulation problem.