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Sunday, April 20, 2014

‘Spay, neuter program key to solving stray dog problem’

The key to helping solve Saipan’s age-old problem of stray dogs is by implementing an effective spay/neuter program locally, according to Inga Gibson, state director of the Humane Society of the United States Hawaii.

“Spaying and neutering is a key component of any animal control program. There’s no way that animal control officers can continue to take in the dogs in numbers. There’s just no way to keep up with the rate of reproduction. So spay/neuter is a major component,” Gibson told Saipan Tribune during a break in Saturday’s training with staff of the Dog Control Program of the Saipan Mayor’s Office.

Aside from helping decrease the number of the free-roaming animal population, spaying and neutering also has other benefits, she said.

“Spaying and neutering is a very simple procedure. The animals live longer, they’re healthier, they’re less likely to bite, they’re less likely to roam, and they’re less likely to be perceived as nuisances. The benefits of spay/neuter are tremendous. They’re not just for the individual animal but for the entire community.”

Unfortunately, implementing an effective spay/neuter program on Saipan is limited by the lack of resources on island. Gibson pointed out that Saipan is home to only one veterinarian.

“Right now on Saipan there are no adequate resources to spay/neuter. You need more veterinarians involved and engaged in doing the spay/neuter,” she said.

Educating the community on how to care for animals is also important.

“We also need education. The community needs to get involved. The community needs to be responsible for their animals. So they need to license their animals, they need to be responsible for keeping their animals in their property so they’re not free roaming. If their own pets are not sterilized and they’re reproducing, they’re contributing to the problem.”

Gibson also reminded pet owners the significance of having their animals licensed and generally how to become a responsible pet owner.

“If they have a dog collar or a license, if somebody picks him or her up that’s his or her ticket back home. Be a responsible pet owner, keep the animal in your property and don’t let your animal become somebody else’s problem. Report animal concerns, too. If you see a neighbor abusing animals or see an animal get hit by a car, we want you to report it to the mayor because we all need to work together.”

During Saturday morning’s training at the mayor’s office in Oleai, Gibson and consultant Ann Graves also shared the latest techniques in the humane capture and handling of animals. They also demonstrated how to use the most up-to-date equipment in their field and gave recommendations on how to improve the animal shelter in Lower Base.

Gibson also took the opportunity to thank Saipan Mayor Donald P. Flores for inviting them to Saipan and for his work in animal welfare.

“We can’t say enough of Mayor Flores. He’s been tremendous. Since he took office he made this a priority. He’s passionate about animals. He’s concerned about animal welfare and recognizes that animal issues are people issues. This is not only about protecting animals. This is also about protecting communities. We really commend Mayor Flores for creating his animal care unit and getting staff out there talking to the community.”

The Humane Society of the United States, based in Washington, D.C., is the largest nonprofit organization advocating animal rights in the world.

The HSUS works on a broad range of animal protection issues, including those affecting companion animals, wildlife, farm animals, horses and other equines, and animals used in research, testing and education. It claims more than 11 million Americans among its members and supporters.

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