Howick & Pakuranga Times
Vet’s Life-Changing Experience on Niue
By Daniel Silverton Tuesday 27 January 2015
THE team from Pakuranga Vet Clinic is setting up a more permanent relationship with Niue to champion care of the Pacific island’s animals, under the banner of South Pacific Animal Welfare (SPAW).
Three vets and two nurses spent a week on Niue late last year to provide free veterinary care to the country’s domestic and wild cats, dogs and pigs.
The trip was supported by SPAW, which provided the medicine, vaccines and surgical material.
The Pakuranga Vet Clinic members had to fundraise to cover the costs, which included flights, accommodation, freight, insurance and other expenses.
“We all donated our time, the team took annual leave to be able to go,” says owner Sasha Nowell.
“We did 105 de-sexing surgeries and 80 consultations.
“We didn’t turn anything away.
“There were queues of animals lining up to be treated, with up to three surgeries at once.”
The conditions were a lot different to what they are used to working in.
Instead of the high-end technology they normally perform procedures with, operations had to be done with just a tube in the animal’s airway while under anaesthetic.
“Our steriliser was a pressure cooker heated with a gas bottle,” says Mrs Nowell.
“A lot of the animals just eat fish and coconuts so they are quite protein deficient.
“They bleed a lot because their blood doesn’t clot as well, so the surgeries are more challenging.”
Despite this, the crew saved a number of animals’ lives, and didn’t lose any.
“One dog came in to be spayed and the owner didn’t realise she had a fractured skull and wrist.
“A cat from one of the resorts was attacked by dogs and had disappeared for three weeks.
“They thought she had died.
“On the first day we were there she showed up at the resort, so they raced her straight down to the clinic.
“We had to amputate its leg, but she’s doing really well.
“A police dog was run over by a car and we fixed up his foot.
“His owner sent us a really nice note.”
The expedition has inspired Mrs Nowell and her colleagues to become the ongoing source of vet care for the island.
“What we’ve proposed to SPAW is we’ll work on a five to 10-year plan and take Niue off their hands, but still work under their banner and guidelines.
“We’ll go up there once or twice a year, provide the staff, drugs and equipment and work on the fundraising, so there is familiarity and consistency in care.
“We’re just so passionate about Niue, we loved it there and it was life-changing.
“The police, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, High Commission, Customs, and islanders were all so appreciative and we’re very excited to head back.
“We’re going to return in May with the same vets, and the nurses who missed out last time are really keen.”
Pakuranga Vet Clinic is grateful to those who supported their fundraising efforts, especially Pakuranga College, which donated the proceeds of its mufti day and raised a significant amount of money to help with the cause.
“The generosity of the community totally blew us away,” says Mrs Nowell.