CAY HILL–Former and current volunteer drivers of St. Maarten Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) Animal Ambulance recently celebrated the familiar grey van’s 20th anniversary with St. Maarten Veterinary Hospital staff.
The van is not the first ambulance used by the Foundation, said Inez Folkers, AWF board member who was instrumental in the acquiring of funds to launch the programme.
In 1996, an animal charity in the Netherlands – Stichting Buitenlandse Aiselen – funded a green van that ran until 2005. It was the now defunct Dutch Co-Financing Fund AMFO that provided funds for the current one.
For the five years prior to 1997, foundation members transported residents’ pets in their personal cars, but not as a regularly scheduled service. That changed with the acquisition of the ambulance.
There were 30 volunteer drivers at the start of the animal ambulance – a handful still live on the island, although most are now retired. Over the years as a group, their work has enabled the sterilization of thousands of pets, the adoption of thousands more, and, with the emergence of oral mange medication, the treatment of hundreds of afflicted dogs every year.
One of the drivers’ most important tasks is as a true ambulance team: carrying injured animals to vet clinics, plus transporting pets for treatment and vaccinations if residents are without a vehicle.
The one thing the animal ambulance does not do, emphasized Folkers, is go around grabbing up animals off the streets.
While the team collects animals that owners give away, strays must have the caller or a neighbour sign a statement that to their knowledge the animal has been abandoned.
AWF said the animal ambulance has been an important part of the overall improvement of the roadsides on St. Maarten, a fact ambulance drivers past and present are very proud of.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/68531-volunteers-mark-20-years-of-animal-ambulance-service