Property disputes are one thing, but when you are trying to save a life, what is more important?
Do we want to live on an island where people are afraid to help or turn away because it is not their concern, and not on their property?
On Saturday, April 2, my assistant and I were granted entry onto the Department of Agriculture’s property for the purpose of obtaining manure for my garden. We drove around to the goat pen with our buckets and noticed a newborn kid lying in the roadway. It was too weak to stand or cry, and had been left in the hot sun by its mother. When we approached, it appeared lifeless, and it was lying on its side in an unnatural way — not at all like a healthy animal with its legs under it. At this point I picked up the tiny kid, which could not even hold up its head. It was just skin and bones.
My heart sank. How could the Department of Agriculture allow its animals to deteriorate to such a state? I looked around and could not see any food or water troughs. I got my water bottle and a plastic spoon that I found in the car and tried to give the kid some water. It wasn’t able to take any. At this point I felt it was my duty to do something quickly to save this distressed animal. To see such a sight in Tortola’s finest agricultural environment brought tears to my eyes.
We gathered up the limp creature and looked around for help, but we saw no one on the grounds and realised that quick action was needed to save the new life that God had blessed us with.
All I could think of was getting some milk into the little guy. We needed a baby bottle and some milk right away. We rushed away and bought what we needed. It turned out that the kid wasn’t strong enough to drink from the bottle, so we used an eyedropper to feed it at first.
It wasn’t until the next day that the animal was able to drink from the bottle (and not very well at that). I called my veterinary practitioner, Dr. Khoy Smith, and he came over right away. He examined the kid and expressed his concern because he has seen a few cases like this and they don’t always make it. He gave the kid a shot of antibiotics and vitamins to help it regain its strength, and he told me to keep doing what I was doing because the kid was responding and showing signs of improvement. As the days passed, the little fellah got stronger. By Wednesday of last week, it was on its feet. It was a bit wobbly, but that was to be expected, considering what it endured. Last Thursday was another good day, and the kid seemed like the animal it was meant to be.
At this point, even though I had grown to love this tiny animal, I thought it best to try to reunite it with its mother. As you probably have figured out, I have a soft spot for innocent creatures. I have taken in cats, and I have had many years of experience caring for goats when I was growing up here in the Virgin Islands. So taking the kid back was very hard for me to do.
I returned to the Department of Agriculture, quite proud of having helped.
As we were in the process of trying to reunite the kid with its mother, a worker approached us to inquire about our interest in the kid. I told him that I found it on the road, took it into my care and had it on a bottle for about a week. Then he called a senior agriculture officer, who instructed him to lock the gate to prevent us from leaving the compound. The senior officer said the goats were wild animals. Then the police were called and the agriculture officer wanted us prosecuted as trespassers. I was surprised that the police were unconcerned for the welfare of this animal: They stated that if it dies, it dies.
I was hurt that my good deed was not only ignored, but it was being seen as a criminal offence. I respectfully requested that I be allowed to return to check on the “wild” kid to make sure the mother wouldn’t reject it, and my request was flatly denied.
I am reeling at the unprofessional manner in which this matter was handled by both the Department of Agriculture and the police. They were callous and uncaring, and stoically adhered to the laws of property and not the laws of ethics. When I tried to take the “wild” animal back into my care, I was told I was not allowed to remove it. It appears that the Department of Agriculture likes to consider “wild” animals its property as well.
I don’t understand why the department would want to sit back and watch an animal die. I didn’t ask for compensation for my expenses. I didn’t even ask for a “thank you.” I just wanted to save one of God’s creatures. Is respect for property more important than respect for a newborn life?
I was asked to write a note of apology to the Department of Agriculture, for trespassing on government property. I have done so. I only wish someone would speak for this small kid that didn’t ask to be born on that side of the fence.