On Saturday, March 13, 2021, 144 terriers from Jamaica, commonly known as mongrels, flew on a chartered flight to Canada to meet their new owners and settle in their new homes. Tammy Browne, the director of Montego Bay Animal Haven (MTAH), is the force behind Jamaica’s first international dog adoption program. Browne said that some Canadians have already adopted their dogs, while others will try things out to see if this is what they want. She has received many calls from new dog owners who say they are happy and impressed with their dogs. Browne added that Jamaican mongrels are popular with people because of their “toughness and size.”
According to Browne, people traveled from Kingston to Montego Bay to help with the preparation of the dogs for their trip overseas. She said this shows how much Jamaicans love animals. The major problem in finding homes for the dogs is that it is extremely expensive to sterilize and care for them properly. People just can’t afford it, Browne said, noting that the MTAH shelter had been home to about 300 dogs, but the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult to give them the care they need. Hotels were not donating food to the degree they had before the pandemic, and many of the dogs were just turned out into the streets. At one point, Browne thought she would have to put some of the Jamaican dogs down, but “that wasn’t an option.”
Searching for solutions, Browne reached out to the nonprofit animal rescue organization Save Our Scruff in Canada. The nonprofit welcomed her idea of bringing the mongrels to Canada, but just when it seemed things would work out, the plane flying the animals to the North American country suffered a malfunction in its landing gear, and Browne needed $15,000 to get a replacement plane. As Browne’s organization did not have that amount of money, she called the airline to plead her case, and they reduced the cost by $12,000. While $3,000 was still a lot of money, Browne managed to raise it via social media, and the trip was back on.
The 144 Royal Caribbean Terriers from Browne’s MBAH foundation in St. James were part of this “incredibly important” initiative, which was the first of its kind in the Caribbean region. Save Our Scruff is located in Toronto and focuses on rescuing dogs around the world and finding them safe, permanent homes in Canada. About half of the charity’s rescue dogs come from outside Canada’s borders, chiefly from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Texas, and Egypt. The flight from Jamaica is historic as no project of this size has been attempted before.
Save Our Scruff recognizes that there are still many dogs in Jamaica that need rescuing, and if this group of dogs does well, it may lead to new lives for more Jamaican dogs. The nonprofit has already promoted the arrival of the dogs and is accepting applications for their adoption. Dogs are paired with their new owners through a process that involves applications, questionnaires, and references. Most of the dogs are between 30 and 50 pounds, and the organization is looking for homes for dogs between five and nine years of age in particular. It is also looking for people who are willing to take three-legged dogs.
Prior to traveling to Canada, the dogs lived in a sanctuary-type setting at the Montego Bay facility, which was founded in 2009. They are kept on a large property and are familiar with staff, volunteers, and veterinarians. They all came from the streets and used to spending most of their time freely roaming the area.