For more than a quarter of a century Irava
Shared by: shs19146
Irava Raki: a guardian angel to the animals of Fiji For more than a quarter of a century Irava Raki has been a guardian angel to the cats and dogs of Fiji. She has worked with the SPCA for the past 26 years and has dedicated her entire life to improving the lives of animals. How did you first become involved with the SPCA? My heart has always been focussed on animals and not anything else. After leaving school I went for job interviews with different companies, but I only wanted to work with animals. So I approached the SPCA and offered my time as a volunteer, and that was 26 years ago. At the SPCA I was offered work in the office but, because of my love for animals, any chance I got I would run to the back to work with them. In the end I was able to work both in the office and also with the animals. What makes you so passionate about animals? It must be in my nature. My heart goes out to them because they can’t tell us what they need or what is wrong. Humans can tell you ‘I want this’ or ‘I want that’ but animals can’t ask for what they need. Sometimes it is so sad when an animal is trying to tell us something but we don’t know if they are sick or in pain. All we can do is try to comfort them and work out what is wrong. You care for so much for the animals, do you also have a family to care for? Yes, I have a husband, a daughter and two sons, and they all love animals as well. My husband Supa works as a kennel hand and trapper at the SPCA. My daughter Hanisimao, who is the eldest, studies at computer school. My middle son Visannti studies at Fiji Institute of Technology and my youngest son Jason is in secondary school. How does your family feel about all the time you dedicate to your work? My family are very supportive of my work, and they don’t mind me working as long as I am happy. Once I know that the animals at the SPCA are comfortable and cared for then I go home and I am happy because they are happy. Do you have any pets of your own? Yes I have two Fiji dogs that were both adopted from the SPCA. Cindy is six years old and April is just three. What does a typical day involve? I arrive at work at around 7.30am and straight away check how the animals went during the night. I make sure that they are comfortable before opening up the SPCA. During the day I am busy with customer service, giving advice on pet care, supervising the kennels and cleaning, attending animal cruelty complaints and doing the clinic paperwork. I balance the books and go home at about 5pm. One day a week I go shopping for food for the animals and occasionally I go out in the evenings to make sure that the traps we put out for stray dogs are done correctly and that all the work is done well. What are the most challenging parts of your job? It is so difficult to see when animals are not being treated well by their owners. Some people lack awareness and education about how to treat their pets, and sometimes animals suffer terribly because their owners don’t care for them properly. I am also frustrated by Fiji’s outdated animal laws which make animal protection difficult. The existing laws need to be reviewed and enforced and this will make a big difference to the welfare of animals in this country. It is also difficult when the SPCA, which relies on community support, is not able to provide the very best care to animals and when they are forced to be kept in conditions that are not as good as they should be. What brings you the most joy? Happiness for me is seeing that animals are happy and being treated well and when I can see that their owners care for them. What changes have you seen in animal welfare in Fiji? Unfortunately the stray dog problem in Fiji is getting worse. There are a lot more strays now then there used to be. Everybody must take some responsibility for the stray dog problem and people should call the SPCA when they see stray or sick dogs. The SPCA provides a trapping service, and we can go out and get the stray and sick dogs and bring them into the SPCA for treatment and re-homing. What changes would you like to see? I want to see people in authority working together with the SPCA to control the stray dog population. Together we can create a change in legislation and have better enforcement of the law. I’d like to see more people take proper care of their animals by having them vaccinated and neutered and by keeping them safe within a fenced compound. And I want the SPCA to continue to work to improve the care that we provide to animals by making sure they are safe, comfortable and well looked after. What are the most important things pet owners should do? It is important that pet owners take full responsibility for the health and welfare of their pets. It is important to spend time with your pet and have concern for the animal’s welfare. The SPCA veterinary clinic offers a full range of veterinary services. Pet owners can bring their pet in for vaccination and neutering or just to get a check-up and professional advice on pet care. Do you think animal welfare standards in Fiji are getting better or worse? I think they are getting a little better because we see more people coming into the SPCA. Local people are becoming more aware that we are there for them and their animals. There is always room to improve this though. Can you see yourself doing anything other than caring for animals? Animals are my life. I have dedicated my life to the animals and I will care for them for as long as I possibly can.