ASG suspends importation of cats & dogs, not ‘fixed’
With the problem of overpopulation of stray dogs and cats in the territory, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has issued a moratorium on the importation of “unaltered cats and dogs”, meaning pets that are not spayed or neutered.
The ban, which took effect Mar. 31st, comes amid American Samoa’s ongoing efforts to control the stray dog and cat population through the Governor’s Animal Control Task Force, which includes members of the non-profit group Alofa Mo Meaola.
According to the governor, the territory has an overpopulation of stray dogs and cats which continue to cause health, safety and nuisance issues for residents and visitors, and ASG has been striving to control the overpopulation of strays.
However, the “importation of Unaltered Pets... into the Territory has been a contributing factor in increasing the population of stray cats and dogs” and therefore it’s in the “best interests of the Territory to regulate the importation of Unaltered Pets in an effort to control the population of stray animals,” Lolo wrote in the executive order.
Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Department of Agriculture’s Veterinarian Dr. Brenda Smith said the “moratorium is important for a few reasons” — first and foremost, “we have a serious dog overpopulation issue.”
“As we work towards decreasing the number of animals on the island, it is counterproductive to allow new ones to come in for the purpose of breeding more dogs,” she explained. “Even though only a small number come in every year, just two dogs and their puppies can lead to up to 67,000 dogs in six years if all live and continue to breed.”
“Second, we have an issue with vicious dogs already, and we don't need breeds known to be potentially aggressive added to our population,” Smith said. “Lastly, if we have purebreds coming to the island and being sold, it can further devalue the perception of our island dogs, who are good, strong dogs.”
She stressed that the moratorium “does not prevent people from bringing in pets when they move here, it just ensures they can't breed them and add to our overpopulation problem.”
According to the executive order, current regulations regarding the importation of animals into the Territory are outlined in a provision of the Administration Code (or the Regulations), or elsewhere in the laws, but “do not account for, and are silent on the issue of the importation of Unaltered Pets”.
"Unaltered Pets" means any breed or kind of cat and dog that do not carry any proof that they have been spayed or neutered by a licensed veterinarian, according to the order, which also states that the moratorium applies to all individuals, vessels, corporations, organizations and any other public or private entities, with no exceptions.
The EO says every every cat or dog that enters the Territory will be screened by Quarantine officers at the airport or the port. During screening, the owners must present a health certificate, or an equivalent document, from a licensed veterinarian indicating the imported cat or dog is a neutered male or a spayed female.
If the owner presents proper certification, the owner must still comply with all other duties and responsibilities set forth in the current laws and regulations regarding domestic animals.
However if the owner fails to present proper certification, the unaltered pet will be confiscated by Agriculture Department and confine the animal in its facility.
Once the pet is confined, the owner must either pay for the Unaltered Pet to be spayed or neutered by a licensed veterinarian at the Department of Agriculture, or immediately arrange to ship the Unaltered Pet out of the Territory at his or her own expense.
While the pet is confined the owner must pay a fee of $25 to Agriculture Department each and every day until the owner complies with having the pet spayed or shipped out of the territory.
And if the owner does not comply with within 30 days, the pet will be considered abandoned and its disposition will be at the discretion of the Department of Agriculture, and may include euthanasia.
Agriculture Department shall use the fees collected to maintain its animal confinement facilities and support local village spay and neuter clinics.
According to the governor, the EO will remain in effect indefinitely until the procedures of the Importation of Domestic Animals as currently set forth under the Administrative Code are further revised. When such revision takes place, the EO will expire unless the Agriculture director determines that the legal effect of this Moratorium continues to be necessary, the governor said.
Samoa News understands that this order does not pertain to dogs and cats already on island.