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SPAW animal welfare clinics treat hundreds of needy animals

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

By Lynley Tulloch

“Whiskey” attends SPAW Clinic at Tokomololo, 9 May 2019

Teams of veterinarians from New Zealand and Australia have treated hundreds of animals and performed dozens of surgeries during visits to Vava‘u in April and again in Tongatapu this week.

At the Tokomololo Clinic in Tongatapu, a team of four vets and four vet nurses have treated many animals, giving them health checks and treatments, including a goat who had a leg amputated, a piglet called Love with a skin ailment, and lots of puppies, dogs and cats for desexing and parasite control.

The clinics are provided free of charge for the community by the South Pacific Animal Welfare (SPAW), an organisation that has been doing much needed veterinary care in Tonga. SPAW provides desexing services (spaying and neutering), general health checkups, parvovirus vaccines and parasite control. Donations help to fund the visits by the SPAW volunteers, with each clinic providing free services that are worth an estimated NZD$50,000.


A team of three veterinarians and two vet nurses from SPAW spent a week, 8-12 April, in Neiafu, Vava’u, where they treated 167 animals, including many cats and dogs, some pigs and a chicken, providing 90 consultations and 77 surgeries.

Veterinarian Cathy Pollok said they had been really busy. “The turnout has been wonderful...It’s been great and we would really like to come back and do it again”.

The Host-a-Vet Vava‘u Committee was set up three years ago and partners with SPAW for annual visits to the clinic in Vava‘u. SPAW funds the medicinal supplies, equipment and recruits the volunteers. Host-a-Vet assists by raising funds to cover the team’s internal flights from Tongatapu to Vava’u, accommodation in Neiafu. They aim in future to raise enough funds for a twice-yearly visit from SPAW.

SPAW Vet Cathy Pollok in Neiafu, Vava'u. April 2019

Tongatapu and Nomuka

In Tongatapu Angela Glover, of Happy Sailor Tattoo, helps with SPAW clinics, and arranged a cake stall to raise funds.

SPAW’s goals are to see an end to neglect of animals in Tonga; to increase awareness to the needs of all animals; and to see fewer roaming dogs. There are an estimated 17,000 dogs on Tonga, where the majority of animals are not desexed. SPAW has a long-term commitment to serve Tonga and is planning to visit Nomuka for the first time at the end of this year.

A lot of love, hard work and community spirit  have led to the outstanding success of the clinics.

This year one little piglet called Love stole everyone’s hearts. Veterinarian Catherine Robinson treated Love for a mange infection after school teacher, Lovely Kolomalu, brought her in for treatment. Love is hand-reared and bottle fed by Lovely who said her previous piglet Soa was stolen. This time she is determined that her pet pig will not share the same fate. “I named her after me so no one will eat her,” she said.

Lovely and her pig “Love” with vet nurse Iris, at SPAW Clinic, Tokomololo, 9 May 2019

Lutui Fituafe was also grateful. He brought in his three dogs for desexing and parasite control. All dogs are affectionately called ‘puppy’. Fituafe learned about SPAW from their Facebook page.

Raina has a dog called Kafu, who was the only one of a litter of five puppies to survive, after all the puppies caught parvovirus. Kafu was lucky to receive the care and attention that saved his life.

Nato Mafu came to the clinic with “Lonely” who was another dog that was the sole survivor of a litter.

Nato Mafu with “Lonely” SPAW Clinic, Tokomololo, Tongatapu, 9 May 2019.