From Fiji Times Online (9 June 2010)

A soft spot for animals

by Geraldine Panapasa

Pride of Fiji

Irava Raki
Irava Raki at the SPCA's Walu Bay kennels yesterday

IRAVA Raki has always had a soft spot for stray and rejected animals even while growing up in Motusa on Rotuma as a little girl.

For the past 30 years, she has been working at the Fiji Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter caring for abandoned and stray dogs, puppies, cats and kittens.

"I was brought up with pets on the island and I had about four pets," said the kennel manager.

"I don't find anything challenging about looking after these animals.

"They're all creatures of God and I always feel for these animals.

"I think to love these creatures or to even think about looking after them, you have to have the heart to take them in and give them a home.

"At the moment, I have 28 cats in Rotuma and they're all stray cats. They are looked after by my uncle.

"I just don't feel right putting them to sleep."

Ms Raki, 51, said taming wild animals that were brought to the shelter was not as difficult as most people thought.

She said a gentle approach and mere kindness were two important factors to befriend a stray animal.

"With dogs, you have to make sure that you are not scared of them," she said.

"These animals know very well which people are afraid of them.

"When they are brought to SPCA, we feel them well and pat them gently. Sooner or later, they turn out to be very good dogs and animals.

"These creatures are a blessing. Another thing that keeps me going is faith. My faith is what encourages me to look after these animals.

"I don't expect anything in return by looking after these animals.

"I just do what is right and God provides the rest through kind donations and contributions of people who care for and love animals."

Ms Raki said her line of work was more of a calling rather than a challenge.

She said people who adopted animals from the shelter are given a set of leaflets with tips on how to properly care for their pet.

The SPCA also provides other services like neutering, surgeries and sells collars and leashes. It also cares for sick pets.