Walk on any beach in Rarotonga and dogs will greet you, sit by you, and offer to play with you. If you choose not to participate, they will go about their daily routine of frolicking along the beach and in the water. Our furry friends will also visit you at various accommodation outlets, mainly self-contained.
Dogs on Rarotonga are generally agreeable. Mostly, they are well fed. Their lineage goes back hundreds of years to the Polynesian migrants who brought their dogs with them.
It’s just that they wander around like they own the place, and give the impression that they don’t belong to anyone!
Because the dogs are mostly owned and have a home, they are considered ‘wandering dogs’, rather than ‘stray dogs’. Generally, they are friendly and non aggressive, but it is always wise to be cautious of ‘visiting’ dogs, but no more than you might be at home, possibly less!
For many tourists, dogs are annoying and will just sit next to you on the beach, visit your bungalow, or try to eat your food. On the other hand, some tourists thoroughly enjoy the company of the dogs, and that feeling is often mutual.
BUT, please don’t feed the dogs of Rarotonga. Firstly, because the dog was most likely fed by its owners that morning; secondly, and importantly, whilst you may be a dog lover, the next wave of visitors who encounter that dog or dogs, may be frightened or apprehensive of dogs, or simply may not want friendly dogs following them around for food for their entire holiday.
If a dog wants to stay and play with you that is all good, but if they are sticking around mainly for food that is not good news for future visitors to the island, or for the dogs!
Whilst motoring around Rarotonga you will inevitably be unnerved when a dog (or dogs) suddenly wanders on to the road, usually without looking. Best thing is to stick to the speed limit and always keep your eyes on the road! No matter how much cursing or horn blasting, they will continue on their way unpreturbed. But notice how many three-legged dogs there are, so beware!
Dog lover or not, the dogs of Rarotonga are part of the daily scene.
The Cook Islands SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) on Rarotonga has their headquarters and shop at the Punanga Nui Market. They also have an animal shelter at Wigmore’s Waterfall.
The SPCA acknowledge there is a issue with ‘wandering’ dogs and are working with the tourism industry and the Police to find solutions, but the SPCA emphasise that visitors can play their part by simply not feeding the dogs.
If you are interested to learn more, see Cook Islands SPCA at the Pununga Nui Market, or visit them on Facebook
(FYI, there are no dogs on Aitutaki!).