OPERATION Potcake will be an annual event from now on, Prime Minister Perry Christie has announced.
He made this pledge to a passionate speech to volunteers who came from seven countries to help the island-wide spay and neuter programme.
Mr Christie said he was so delighted with its success, and so pleased with the social implications, that he decided to make the initiative permanent.
He added that in future, Operation Potcake will go into the Family Islands as well.
Mr Christie said animal care, particularly the care of dogs, is an evolving phenomenon in the Bahamas.
When he was young, the Prime Minister said, dogs in the yard were nothing more than that; at first the relationship between his daughter Alex and her small Shi Tzu – who sleeps on her bed at night – was shocking to him.
Now, Alex has three small dogs and Mr Christie said he gradually came to appreciate the bond involved in such relationships.
The Prime Minister said he is very happy about the overwhelmingly positive response of the community to Operation Potcake, and praised the kindness and generosity of the volunteers, who travelled from seven countries, at their own expense, in order to help Bahamians get the numbers of stray and wandering dogs under control.
Operation Potcake was the product of 18 months of planning with the international organisation Animal Balance, headquartered in Oregon.
The organisation specialises in spay and neuter programmes on island nations all over the world.
All Bahamian animal groups came together to join forces and work together for a common goal.
During the course of the evening, Mr Christie announced that he will meet with Bahamas Humane Society president Kim Aranha to discuss how best to continue the good work started by Operation Potcake.
Mrs Aranha said the BHS and all the volunteer groups are very excited and feel very positive about the “wonderful remarks” of Mr Christie, and also the support shown by Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis and Minister of Agriculture Alfred Grey.
“With the strong support of the government, as Prime Minister Christie has assured us, plus the help and support of the Veterinary Board of the Bahamas and the private sector, we can make a huge difference.
“These are community improvements that will, undoubtedly, improve the day-to-day living for people living in those communities that have been targeted, in particular,” she said.
Mrs Aranha pointed out that with fewer stray dogs, there will be fewer overturned garbage bins, less night barking, less fouling of walking areas, fewer dogs run over and left to rot, and less disease.
“I applaud the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister for their very forward thinking approach to this situation.”
Emma Clifford of Animal Balance said: “I am thrilled and over the moon that Mr Christie has made this campaign a yearly event and has asked us to do the same thing in the out islands.”
Ms Clifford said all her volunteers love the Bahamas and many will be happy to come back.
Mrs Aranha added: “Soon the Bahamas will be known for its animal friendly ways. We passed the Bahamas Sea Turtle Protection Act three years ago (September 1, 2009) , and have recently passed the new Animal Control and Protection Act (March 2011; soon to be functioning), we have passed an act to protect the sharks in Bahamian waters form being commercially exploited (July 5, 2011) and now this largest-ever spay and neuter programme orchestrated.”