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Stateless man appalled about treatment of animals

Alerted animal rights group
fili@samoanews.com

Mikhail Sebastian, the stateless man stuck in American Samoa for 14 months and finally allowed back into the U.S. last month, had early this year alerted an animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), about what he says is an “outrage in regards to the treatment of animals — namely dogs — in the U.S. territory of American Samoa.”
 
“I have witnessed numerous inhumane treatment of dogs wandering around the whole island. There is no animal shelter or special animal protection unit therefore the island is occupied by stray dogs trying to find something to eat. Locals in possession of guns at home use these weapons to shoot dogs or maim them,” he wrote in an e-mail letter in January.
 
“It is really painful to see such brutality towards animals on this island that is our territory. A lot of cats are unattended, too, and along with dogs reproduce perpetually which leads to starvation as locals do not care for animals whatsoever,” he wrote.
 
Additionally, most dogs and cats carry disease, which requires immediate medical attention, such as skin rash, hair loss, and wounds on their body due to weapon use.
 
“I implore you to do something and find a way to stop this disgraceful treatment of animals and perhaps send a special envoy from your organization to witness it for themselves. These animals need care and attention or special housing where they could be provided for. Such brutality cannot happen on our own American soil in the 21st century,” he added.
 
Early last week, Mega Vasiles with the PETA Foundation responded via email letter telling Sebastian that the best way to end cruelty to animals is to encourage the local people themselves to work against it ― hold public demonstrations, take their case to the media, and use any political clout at their disposal.
 
“We fight for animals in many countries, but without the invaluable support of local people fearlessly denouncing cruelty, we can only offer animals so much,” said Vasiles, who recommended that Sebastian contact animal advocacy groups in this part of the world.
 
“For them, the problem is local, and they will be your best source of information about local laws and other relevant matters,” said Vasiles, who provided website address [www.worldanimalnet.org] to find animal rights groups in a particular area.
 
Sebastian, who is now living in Los Angeles, provided to news organizations including Samoa News his e-mail to PETA as well as the response from PETA.
 
The website does not show a local organization, but does have one in Samoa, called Animal Protection Society of Samoa.  Also provided in the response are the internet addresses for World Society for the Protection of Animals and the Humane Society International — both organizations are dedicated to fighting animal abuse internationally, said Vasiles.
 
“Ultimately, great courage and strength will be required to fight against injustice and cruelty. It is vital that local activists enlist as many influential people, as well as ‘people on the street’, as they can to support their cause by writing to the papers, talking to the media, and encouraging those in power to help effect change,” she added. [www.PETA.org]
 
BACKGROUND
 
There is an active American Samoa Humane Society (ASHS) locally, but it is vastly underfunded. It has, however, been able to team up with some international organizations to conduct health and volume sterilization clinics in the territory. The last such group was Animal Balance, which visited the island last year in April. It was done with the assistance of ASG Department of Agriculture (DOA) American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA), Humane Society International (HSI) and the Animal Protection Society (APS) in Apia.
 
Animal Balance is a global group of volunteer veterinarians and technicians that organize high volume community-based sterilization campaigns to combat the over population of cats and dogs by conducting spay and neuter clinics in remote and underserved areas.
 
The goal, said founder Emma Clifford, was to spay and neuter 400 animals during this clinic.
 
This was the third trip to the territory for the group. According to Clifford, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Summerlee Foundation and the Edith Goode Trust generously provided grants to fund the medicines and supplies, which the Animal Balance team was able to bring for the two-week outreach.
 
Ten Animal Balance volunteers also personally financed their own transportation from the mainland and donated their time, professional experience and compassion for the animals of American Samoa.
 
Working at the ASPA compound in Tafuna during the first week, and at the DOA compound in the Industrial Park during the second week, the ASHS volunteers worked alongside the visiting team to make it possible for the vets and para vets to accomplish their goal, which did exceed the 400 mark, according to one of the clinic coordinators, Kelly Anderson Tagarino.
 
The vast majority of animals cared for were dogs, but a good number of cats also received treatment in the final tally. The clinic was also taken out to the villages, and was considered highly successful.
 
Unfortunately, since last year's clinic, little has been heard of further 'public' clinics happening, and the DOA shut their veterinarian clinic down last year — Samoa News understands lack of funding was the reason.



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