From the Barnyard to the Bedroom: A Cultural Divide

7/16/15 – This guest blog post is the second written by The Humane Business Developers, a Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA student start-up that seeks to create unique business models for the animal shelter industry. The Humane Business Developers are conducting their summer field work with the Humane Society of Grand Bahama. You can read their first post here.

This summer our business, Humane Business Developers, has taken us to the island of Grand Bahama to work with the Humane Society of Grand Bahama. While in the field we have learned many things, but perhaps none is more important than learning cultural differences when it comes to the treatment and perceptions associated with dogs and cats. In the United States, the transition from barn yard to bedroom occurs very often with our furry friends. When we planned our pilot here in the Bahamas, we knew we would not encounter the same situation as the United States, but we underestimated the cultural differences that are linked with raising companion animals.

GSSE Student Julia Hebard educating youth at the Potcake Pals summer camp

GSSE Student Julia Hebard educating youth at the Potcake Pals summer camp

After several weeks of working at the shelter it became evident that the treatment of animals is ingrained deeply into cultural history. The island dogs are mixed breeds, and are commonly referred to as “Potcakes” because they used to eat the scraps that are caked onto pots after cooking. The large dogs are referred to as “yard dogs,” while the smaller breeds are “house dogs.” It has also been a commonplace misconception here that dogs are wild and can survive in the wilderness, and that neutering an animal takes away its masculinity. Cats are not even regarded as pets on this island, but more as pests that come around for food every once in a while.

Due to these perceptions, we have realized the importance of education regarding the proper care and treatment of animals. We have been fortunate enough to work with the Humane Society during their annual Kids Camp entitled “Potcake Pals”. The Kids Camp is an opportunity for children ages 4 to 12 to learn proper care for animals and to interact with the shelter animals. Getting young children involved with animal welfare is a necessity when it comes to creating long term cultural change.

HSGB Educational Posters Spay & Neuter

HSGB Educational Posters Spay & Neuter

In addition to hands-on education, we have been working with the Humane Society to create new advertisements, campaigns, and public service announcements to spread animal education throughout the island. By designing ads that appeal to locals, we believe that we can have an impactful and long lasting effect on the perception of dogs and cats on the island. The Humane Society is not only a shelter, it must also act as a school. Of course, overcoming cultural differences via an education campaign is a long-term approach, but one that hundreds of future pets are very eagerly depending upon.

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