Have you ever wondered how AB all began?
Animal Balance was formed in 2004, under the fiscal sponsorship of Animal Fund for two years and was awarded its own 501 (C) 3 status in 2006.
Animal Balance was established to end the killing of one species to protect another, hence the name ‘animal balance’ and our logo, the yin yang paw; which is understood in every culture and language.
In 2003, Animal Balance Founder, Emma Clifford discovered that the authorities on the Galapagos Islands were killing the cats and dogs with compound 1080 as a means of population control. This rat poison was put in meat and left on the streets for the dogs and cats to eat. However, children often played in the sandy streets with the puppies and kittens and all animals: human, non-humans, native or non-native could come into contact with the poison. It was a recipe for disaster.
Throughout 2003 Clifford persistently emailed the Director of the Galapagos National Park Service requesting permission to fund and organize high-volume, high-standard sterilization campaigns in the towns to humanely reduce the cat and dog populations. In addition, Animal Balance promised to provide the necessary tools to the community. Helping them assume responsibility for their pets. Essentially, the goal was to create a sustainable and humane animal management program for the four inhabited islands that were home to cats, dogs and humans.
This was met with ridicule and disbelief by many established NGO’s on the Galapagos Islands. As far as they were concerned the cats and dogs were not native so therefore should be killed. One organization suggested shipping them all to one island and abandoning them there. We pointed out that humans are also not native to the islands and were the sole cause of the introduced cats and dogs. The reality was the cats and dogs existed and will continue to exist on the Galapagos. The question was, how can we humanely manage their populations?
At this time the international community was reducing the fishing quotas, banning shark finning and the collection of sea cucumbers; all essential activities to protect the sea creatures from over exploitation. Because the 4th generation Galapaganian’s depended upon fishing, their livelihoods were at stake and tensions rose between the Galapagos National Park Service, the Municipality and the community. There were street protests, tire fires and the Park Service Director’s house on Isabela Island was burned down. The fishermen essentially brought the islands to a standstill as they controlled the boat traffic between islands and operated the taxi’s on land. The Galapagos Islands were crippled.
The authorities needed a positive project to help mend bridges. At that time, the authorities were poisoning people’s pets and they were slowly dying in the streets from the rat poisoned meat. Clifford finally heard from Victor Carrion, the Director of the Eradication and Control of Invasive Species. Carrion gave permission for a pilot sterilization program on Isabela Island, one of the most remote and least populated islands.
We had our first team on the ground in May of 2004. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society kindly transported an entire warehouse of medical equipment and supplies from Seattle to the Galapagos Islands on their ship The Farely Mowat. We all met on Isabela Island and held our first Animal Balance clinic.
It worked! Seeing its successes, we were asked to replicate the program on the three other inhabited islands. By 2007, we had sterilized over 80% of the cats and dogs in the municipal areas on four islands. We now maintain the program in partnership with the Agencia de Regulación y Control de la Bioseguridad para Galápagos (ABG) and the Galapagos National Park Service.
Clifford wanted to fully understand and appreciate what it was like to live in a community of free roaming and intact cats and dogs so Animal Balance could better serve the island communities. In 2007, she did just that by relocating to the Dominican Republic. That year, Animal Balance successfully replicated the Galapagos model in the town of Cabrera, Dominican Republic.
Today, Animal Balance has expanded to help the communities of American Samoa, Independent Samoa, Bahamas Islands, Haiti, Cuba, Saipan, Cabo Verde, Oahu, Molokai, Maui, the Big Island and Aruba.
Our strategy continues to expand on a global scale.
Have you ever wondered how AB all began?