Even with the creation of the Dog Control Program under the Saipan Mayor’s Office four years ago, the island continues to struggle with a very large free-roaming dog population. An official of The Humane Society of the United States estimates Saipan’s stray dog population to be between 10,000 and 20,000.
HSUS Hawaii State director Inga Gibson’s estimate was corroborated by Dog Control Program manager Spencer Marchadesch, who said the figure doesn’t even include the island’s stray cats.
Gibson, who spoke to the Saipan Tribune during a break in their meeting with Dog Control Program staff on Saturday, said that Saipan is not alone when it comes to having a large feral dog population.
She said Guam has an estimated 40,000 stray dogs, with Puerto Rico many times that number. American Samoa and Rota also have the same problem, she said.
Gibson said her group wants to launch a humane animal population management program on Saipan.
“That would entail the spay/neuter, community outreach and education, helping the officers with the enforcement of the animal care laws, and also helping if we need new laws in getting the support of the Legislature and the community if we need to enact any other animal protection laws.”
However, Gibson said a survey of the free-roaming animal population on Saipan should first be conducted. She said the 10,000 to 20,000 estimate for Saipan and the 40,000 estimate for Guam are unconfirmed figures.
“What we’re preparing to do in Guam—which should be the next step here—is conduct a survey because without knowing how many dogs and what the greatest challenges are, we can’t go in and make recommendations. We need to know the scope of the problem.”
The HSUS official also championed community and government involvement in finding a solution to the island’s stray dog problem.
“We need to go out to the villages and talk to pet owners and community members and get data on the number of animals. We also need to ask whether their pets are spay/neutered and why not. On Saipan, it’s probably because there’s not enough resources, not enough veterinarians. We want to hear from the community since the success of a program depends on the support of the community and government agencies.”
An improved shelter for animals, she said, is the key for better community involvement because it could lead to more people adopting animals or being involved in other areas.
“The hope is for more people to start adopting. If they cannot adopt then maybe they can volunteer. If they can’t volunteer, then they can donate. We’re really excited to continue to work with the mayor because we think he really sets a model for the community and setting up the shelter, a place to actually take these animals for owners to claims them and available for adoptions.”