An Antigua resort's animal rescue program gets guests involved

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Puppy play dates are a popular guest activity a Hodges Bay Resort & Spa in Antigua.
Puppy play dates are a popular guest activity a Hodges Bay Resort & Spa in Antigua. Photo Credit: Marco Bava

After sunning, swimming and sipping at Hodges Bay Resort & Spa in Antigua, guests can boogie on down to the beach for a play date with a puppy.

The canine encounters are part of a program called Flew The Coop, which launched this spring as the brainchild of resort co-owner Christopher Harding.

There are no fees for Hodges Bay guests to participate in a pooch play date: They can walk the dogs on the beach, throw a ball, take them in the water. The purpose is to help the pups get socialized to people and other dogs. And, hopefully, a guest will fall in love with a play date pal and want to adopt them.

Moved by his experiences with animal adoption, Harding founded Flew The Coop in partnership with Global Empowerment Mission, which supports local nonprofits dedicated to animal rescue and assistance for pets in crisis. Animal Haven, a New York-based shelter, and local sanctuary Dogs and Cats of Antigua also are part of the Flew The Coop initiative.

"We knew there were pets on the island in need of a good home," Harding said. "What started with donating to local shelters morphed into a more meaningful program that allows guests to be hands-on in the rescuing process. It is an incredible way for those visiting the property to give back and do good while still enjoying a luxury Caribbean vacation."

The purpose of the puppy program

Rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming more animals than ever before is the goal of Flew The Coop, according to Harding.

Guest reaction to the doggie playtime has been immediate. "They love playing with the animals on property," Harding said. "It helps with the socialization of the animals, and it's already become a highlight of the guest experience at Hodges Bay."

This is Flew The Coop's first hospitality program, but the plan is to offer it at additional properties. Hodges Bay guests are encouraged to round up their bills at checkout, with 100% of the proceeds donated to Flew The Coop to support rescue efforts with Dogs and Cats of Antigua.

Later this summer, Hodges Bay guests will be able to visit the Dogs and Cats of Antigua Rescue and Wellness Sanctuary, a facility that Flew The Coop is underwriting to provide a safe haven for rescue animals on the island.

Guests can fly pets to their forever homes

Hotel guests can also sign up to accompany an adopted pet on a flight back to the U.S.

Flew The Coop handles the logistics and payment to transport the animals, who are accompanied on flights by their travel buddies. The pets and buddies are met at the airport by a team member, who then helps each pet reach its forever home.

The first Flew The Coop Airlift saw 22 rescued dogs and two cats depart Antigua and Barbuda for their adopted homes in the U.S.

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