HOPE AND SHELTER FOR JAMAICA’S ANIMALS
hanks to the big heart and kindness of Maureen Sheridan, countless abandoned animals have been given a second chance at The Animal House, one of only two animal shelters on the island. Founded in 1996, the sanctuary currently gives refuge and love to 141 homeless dogs, cats and horses. Ignited and powered by Maureen’s love for animals and concern for their survival, The Animal House team rescues, cares for and finds new homes for as many abandoned animals as possible.
Maureen and one of her rescued pups Foxy Brown. (Photo: Heidi Zech)
Leah with Vida at Bamboo Village in Trelawny shortly before leaving Jamaica. (Photo: contributed by Leah MacDonald)
After years of working as a successful writer and producer in the fastpaced music industry, Maureen Sheridan became convinced the animal population of Jamaica needed her as their spokesperson. In 1996 the entrepreneur, who has worked with Jamaican Reggae greats such as Third World, Sly and Robbie and wind instrument virtuoso Dean Fraser, turned the idea into reality and founded The Animal House, which was formally registered as a charity in May 2003. Located on a ‘hidden-away’ property in the beautiful, St. Ann countryside of Lydford, half an hour drive from Ocho Rios, the shelter currently houses 94 resident dogs and puppies, 45 cats and 2 horses. Their needs are attended to by Maureen, live-in caretaker Patrick Smith and shelter supervisor Orville Reynolds. After being greeted with a heart and eardrum breaking concert of eager barking, we visited with a few of The Animal House residents. Dwellers include the 17 year old cancer survivor Liza, a Jamaican Brown, the half Pomeranian Foxy Brown and Jacques, a couch potato with his own old sofa believed to be an unidentifiable mix of Labrador and Shepherd. Another occupant with an interesting story includes Shaggy, formerly known as ‘tour guide’ at Dunn’s River Falls. Malnourished and homeless, the Golden Retriever was spending her time guiding visitors to the top of falls, until a kind cruise ship passenger from Miami reported her to The Animal House. Today, Shaggy lives a healthy and happy life at the refuge. Explains Maureen; “She thinks she owns the shelter”, pointing to the Golden Retriever, who is watching Orville feed her fellow shelter residents through the window. Once an animal is reported to The Animal House, Maureen personally rescues the injured, neglected or abused animal and provides food, shelter and medical care. Maureen has been very successful in finding permanent homes for many of the animals that she has saved, both in Jamaica and overseas. Shelter supervisor Orville feeding some of the 141 residents. (Photo: Heidi Zech)
JAMAICA TOURIST 16
We talked to two owners, who both adopted abandoned pets from The Animal House. Lesley Ferrier from Toronto found Marley at a Jamaican hotel while vacationing with friends 5 years ago, and began feeding the stray dog daily. On her last night on the island, the pitiful Labrador mix came limping by to look for her and Lesley was heartbroken when she had to leave the dog behind. After finding The Animal House online, Lesley called the shelter to explain the situation and after 5 nights of trying to catch the dog, Maureen was finally able to call Lesley and tell her the good news. Shaggy oversees the yard of ‘her shelter’. Lesley’s new pet was soon on his way to his new homeland thanks to (Photo: Heidi Zech) the generosity of Sky Services and Air Canada and arriving in Toronto, Marley was received like a celebrity with welcome sign and gift bags. A local newspaper was waiting at the airport to cover the story, which aired on TV and radio stations nationwide. After overcoming heartworm, Marley eventually got used to the new environment and the ‘lucky dog’ now enjoys the cold winters in Canada!
Vida is another Canadian emigrant. Tiny and starving, the mutt was found at a craft market in Trelawny by Leah and Steven MacDonald. Again, The Animal House was contacted and Maureen put all her efforts into rescuing the little creature. Today Vida, a one year old puppy of undetermined whippet ancestry, is happy and healthy living in Ottawa.
Marley loves the snow! (Photo: Lesley Ferrier)
“In Jamaica, I personally deliver all adopted animals and ensure that the environment is suitable”, explained Maureen, who emphasizes that adoptive owners have to be caring animal lovers. “I have only once had to recover a placed dog due to inadequate care once,” adds Maureen.
Dogs that are not matched with suitable new owners are guaranteed a home for life at The Animal House where they receive daily care and lots of love. However, help is always much needed and gratefully received. “Apart from monetary donations, we need volunteers to play with the dogs and lavish some attention on them”, says Orville, who left his job at a hotel in the Blue Mountains to work at The Animal House. Explains Maureen, who personally has spent all her savings and much of her regular income on The Animal House; “Generous individuals sometimes drop off bags of food or medicine. Chris Blackwell, Couples Resorts, Sandals and the Four Seasons Hotel have been of great help.” But even when cash donations are added, it is not enough for the organization to survive. With veterinary tech training, Maureen and Orville are able to perform some medical care, but they are hoping that local vets will be willing to donate their services on an ad-hoc basis some day to help keep The Animal House going. Behind the great mission of The Animal House, lies an even deeper hope. “We want to educate young children to treat animals with love and compassion and plant a seed that will grow and flourish through them in the future.” Help is desperately needed at The Animal House. Money can be donated via Paypal on www.theanimalhousejamaica.org Call (876) 801-8386.