Long-time residents who dedicated 12 years of their lives to helping Antigua’s animals – including founding and running the country’s sole dog shelter – have retired and handed over the reins to a new team.
Nora and Bill Nedden have found homes for more than 1,500 stray dogs since taking over charity PAAWS in 2004.
The couple, who have lived in Antigua since the 1980s, launched school education programmes aimed at teaching youngsters how to care for pets, public awareness campaigns, spay and neuter schemes – and shipped animals to loving homes as far away as the US, UK and Australia.
It evolved out of a fostering programme set up by PAAWS founder Jenny Meston. The kind-hearted Neddens – who already had 13 rescued pups of their own by the time PAAWS was in need of a new president – volunteered to take up the mantle and establish a purpose-built facility.
“We found a cheap piece of land to rent, Bill built the first few pens – and we have never stopped since,” Mrs Nedden, originally from Holland, said.
A major focus of PAAWS’ work has been attempting to overturn negative perceptions of dogs and cats. “Some people’s instinct is to try and get away if a dog comes towards them. I tell them it’s natural for them to have a sniff because they rely on their sense of smell to interpret the world around them and everyone smells different. A dog’s smell can detect cancer, varying sugar levels, even an epileptic fit half an hour before it happens,” Mrs Nedden said.
“And having a purring cat on your lap is a wonderful stress reliever. Once people start looking at animals’ good points, appreciate their value and realise that dogs are such loving creatures that like to bond with humans and protect them, they may start to love them.”
Mrs Nedden continued that she was delighted to entrust the organisation into the hands of a new dedicated team. “I always wanted to set up PAAWS to have a future on a solid basis and PAAWS has a future now. It’s got its own land, trained staff and now a wonderful new committee to take it to the next stage,” Mrs Nedden said.
She added that competing pressures of running an ongoing school education programme, called ‘Courage to Care’, had forced her to step aside for the benefit of the shelter’s scores of four-legged residents.
Meanwhile PAAWS board members expressed gratitude to the couple’s years of indefatigable work.
Charlie Sawka said: “It has been such a privilege to work with Nora and Bill for all these years. They had the vision and the fortitude to transform a humble shelter for a few strays into the fantastic facility that we enjoy today. Their love and dedication to the animals is second to none.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Rachel Fuller who said: “Nora and Bill Nedden have worked selflessly and tirelessly for the last 12 years for the welfare of all animals in Antigua. Animals subjected to cruelty and abuse do not have a voice. Bill and Nora have been that voice.”
Incoming president Jo Sandeman-Allen said she was “thrilled and excited” to take over the position.
“We all know how hard Nora has worked for the last 12 years and we are so very grateful for everything she has done for the benefit of animals in Antigua,” she said. “I want to continue her good work at the shelter, giving many abused and stray dogs and cats a safe place to live. I am lucky enough to be taking over a great team of staff at the shelter who all work very hard to ensure the wellbeing of all who live there.”
Mrs Sandeman-Allen urged fellow animal lovers interested in donating their time to come forward. “We will be looking to build a strong team of volunteers to fundraise so that we can ensure the financial stability of the charity in the long-term. We also have plans to upgrade the facilities at the shelter,” she said.
Mrs Sandeman-Allen continued: “I want to work closely with all of the animal welfare organisations in Antigua to find new and better solutions to the problems here. We need to be able to rehome dogs and cats more quickly so that we can create space to take in more animals from the streets that need our help.”
She added that PAAWS was already forging links with a shelter in Toronto, Canada, with a view to sending some animals there for rehoming.
Anyone interested in joining the team of volunteers is asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org.