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A Closer Look at Noah's Ark: Cayman Brac's Hurricane Shelter for Animals (Part 1 of 3)

Published on Thursday, December 10, 2009 Email To Friend    Print Version

Karen Fraser at the entrance of Noah’s Ark shelter for animals on Cayman Brac

This is the first of three parts of yet another amazing story of the resilience of how the people of Cayman Brac, the middle-sized Sister of the trio of Islands which make up the Cayman Islands, take matters into their own hands to make the community work for all who live, work and love the Brac.

A long time ago, a man named Noah built an ark to house animals during a raging storm. Today, the Humane Society in Cayman Brac is doing the same thing with its animal hurricane shelter for dogs, cats, and birds. The shelter is big enough to house up to 60 dogs, 40 cats, and several birds. The animals are offered food, water, and shelter during hurricanes at no charge to their owners.

It was long-time Humane Society member Mrs Carol Busby that first came up with the idea to call the shelter ‘Noah’s Ark’ after its functional resemblance to the original Biblical ark. In the past, some Cayman Brac residents have made the decision to stay in their homes and endure the area’s worst hurricanes rather than abandon their household pets to the fury of a storm. Noah’s Arc now offers a safe haven to pets while their owners seek safety themselves.

The shelter is located at the Agriculture Grounds on the Bluff on land donated by the Government. A generous donation of $10,000 from an anonymous benefactor made it possible for the construction of Noah’s Ark to begin.

Most of the funding for the project, however, came from the Miller family of Montana, in the US. The family had visited the Brac on several vacations. In 2006, Christopher (C.W.) Wagner Miller, the couple’s 21-year old son, died in a tragic car crash. His family wanted to do something to honour the memory of their son.

The Miller family had always been animal lovers and during their visits to Cayman Brac they would never fail to drop some change into the little Dog House Banks they came across in their travels. They decided to donate funds in C.W.’s memory to the Brac branch of the Cayman Islands Humane Society. Their relatives and friends from across the United States also sent in donation contributions which funded the bulk of the Noah’s Ark project.

Reverend King was among the first to assist the Humane Society with the construction of the building for Noah’s Ark in June 2006. After he retired and left the Island, Jeff Jaeger took up the torch and saw the construction through to its completion in 2007.

The Humane Society has also received generous financial support for the project from many other donors, including The Rotary Club, The Athletic Association (SASI) and Mr. Burke Ryan.

Karen Fraser, Chairperson of the Brac Branch of the Humane Society, recalls meeting a woman from Mississippi who was vacationing on the Island. “When I told her about our project, Noah’s Ark, and about our struggles, she promised to make a great donation to us as soon as she went back home. I thought she was just being nice and that I would never hear from her again. It was a big surprise when pallets of animal crates, worth approximately $20 000, were made available for us from a company in Mississippi shortly after she went home!”

After its completion, the shelter went unnoticed for a time until Cayman Brackers were faced with the ferocious Hurricane Gustav. During the storm Noah’s Ark sheltered dozens of dogs and cats, a few parrots and even a one-legged chicken.

Bonnie and Gene Edwards, Cayman Brac residents and ardent pet lovers, were the brave individuals who volunteered to stay behind and care for the animals during the storm. Many pet owners were grateful to the couple and to the Humane Society for keeping their pets well-fed and safe in the midst of the hurricane’s fury.

Look for part two of this feature next week Thursday in the Sister Islands section of Net News.
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