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Animals considered a 'nuisance' are the product of human neglect

reporters@samoanews.com

Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 is World Spay Day, and the Veterinary Clinic at ASG’s Dept. of Agriculture is hoping to raise public awareness about the importance of spaying and neutering our dogs and cats. They also have a plan in place to reduce and control the animal population in American Samoa.
 
The dog overpopulation is not just an issue in American Samoa, but common in many countries where access to veterinary care and spay and neuter surgery is limited.
 
World Spay Day is just one day of heightened awareness — but the effort is carried on every day of the year.
 
Some well known (and not so well known) facts about animal overpopulation:
 
*            Animal over-population leads to sick, homeless, sometimes vicious and un-socialized, dogs and cats;
 
*            these animals are considered a 'nuisance' by the general public but in reality are the product of human neglect and misunderstanding — as we have domesticated animals, we have made them reliant on humans for their welfare;
 
*            as such, humans are responsible for ensuring that they are not suffering, and have basic necessities to live such as nutritious food, clean water, and a safe place to rest;
 
*            animal overpopulation, neglect, and suffering is the fault of humans, not the animals;
 
*            by spaying and neutering dogs and cats we ensure they do not reproduce unwanted and uncared for puppies and kittens; and
 
*            one of the biggest reasons for our stray dog problem here in American Samoa is the desire to have or bring home puppies, but then not care for them after they become adult dogs.
 
The drive to spay and neuter our cats and dogs is supported by Humane Society International, the ASPCA, and other national non-profit animal advocacy groups like Soul Dog, Animal Balance, Pet Smart Charities and our own Alofa Mo Meaola.
 
SPAY DAY ACTIVITIES
 
Spay Day in American Samoa will be held at the Fagatogo Pavilion from 8a.m. to 3p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 25.
 
Fagatogo village will be targeted for the special day, as the town area is the first focus in the plan to humanely solve our problems of animal overpopulation and stray dogs. Animal owners should contact the Veterinary Clinic to schedule their dogs and cats.
 
-            The first 25 animals signed up will be done on Feb. 25.
 
-            The rest will be put on a wait-list for the next Fagatogo village surgery clinic, tentatively scheduled for Feb. 27.
 
-            Animals should not be fed after 8p.m. the night before, or the morning of surgery. Access to fresh water is fine and is recommended.
 
-            Animals should be brought on leashes or in cages
 
It should be noted that more spay and neuter clinics will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the year. After concentrating on the town area, the Vet Clinic staff will be able to reach out to other villages as well.
 
The Office of Samoan Affairs has elected to be in charge — via the Pulenu'u — of notifying the village and coordinating the venue, power and water for each village clinic. The pulenu'u will also be responsible for signing up the villagers’ animals. If you wish to help organize a clinic in your village, please contact your pulenu’u. The Vet Clinic can then be contacted at 699-9445 for further information and to be added to the schedule.
 
According to Dr. Brenda Smith, American Samoa’s resident Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, spaying and neutering is only one aspect of the plan to humanely reduce the animal overpopulation on the island. The other three parts include education to help our citizens be better able to care for the animals through their entire life, legislation to change some of our island’s outdated (1955) policies, and the elimination of suffering or unwanted dogs by using humane euthanasia. 
 
In the past, culling procedures have been done with large numbers of dogs trapped and euthanized. As most residents of our island may have noticed, it only helped for a short period of time. More puppies survive, yet it seems that as soon as they become adult dogs they are often no longer wanted or cared for, and the overpopulation quickly becomes an issue again.
 
The goal of the Veterinary Clinic and Alofa mo Meaola is to prevent this vicious and sad cycle.
 
PREPARING YOUR DOGS AND CATS FOR SURGERY
 
In order to be eligible for surgery —
 
*            dogs should be at least 8 weeks old and weigh at least 5 pounds
 
*            cats should be at least 10 weeks old and weigh at least 3 pounds
 
*            if the dog or cat is sick or wounded it cannot have surgery (the Veterinarian will do her best to provide medicine to help the dog or cat)
 
*            dogs and cats who have puppies or kittens still nursing from the mothers cannot be spayed until the babies are at least two months old and eating solid food
 
*            dogs and cats will be spayed/neutered, dewormed, and vaccinated to protect against Parvovirus and Leptospirosis.  Each animal will receive an ear tattoo of their license number, and a license tag may be purchased for $5 for dogs.
 
LIONS PARK PROJECT
 
Beginning the week of February 10, the Dept. of Agriculture will also begin trapping dogs in the Lions Park and surrounding government land areas. 
 
Since Lions Park is now added as a target area, spay and neuter surgeries will be done at the Vet Clinic at no charge for residents. Previously targeted areas whose animals have been part of this ongoing (no charge) plan include Utulei, Fagatogo, and Pago Pago.
 
For animal owners living in Lions Park and surrounding areas, please call the Vet Clinic to schedule. Generally you bring your dog or cat into the Veterinary Clinic between 7:30 - 8:30 am (drop off) and pick up those animals by 3p.m. that same day.
 
The trapped dogs will either be euthanized if they are vicious or unhealthy or be spayed, neutered and vaccinated if they are in good condition and appear to be cared for by a family. At this time, DOA does not have an adequate animal holding facility. Once one is constructed, the trapped animals will be held for 48 hours before euthanasia to give owners a chance to reclaim the animals. They do not wish to euthanize any pets, and a 2005 study showed that 95% of our free-roaming dogs actually do have caregivers, creating a challenging situation.
 
Please contact the Veterinary Clinic at 699-9445 for more information on the Fagatogo or other Village Clinics, the Lions Park effort, or any other concerns related to our feline and canine population.



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