Saipan’s stray dog problem, which unofficial estimates say number anywhere between 10,000 and 20,000, can negatively affect the recovering tourism industry of the island, according to The Humane Society of the United States Hawaii State director Inga Gibson.
“It’s not just about animal welfare; it’s also about public health and public safety. When you have animals on the road—whether they are free-roaming animals or if you have animals deceased on the side of the road—that’s not something anyone wants to see. From our research and other’s research, tourists and visitors are less likely to return to places where there are these free-roaming dog populations. This translates to millions of dollars of lost revenue potentially for Saipan,” said Gibson, who recently visited Saipan to hold a seminar for the staff of the Saipan Mayor’s Office’s Dog Control Program.
She said that tourists simply correlate the treatment—or maltreatment of animals—to the condition of the destination.
“Tourists don’t want to see animals suffering. They don’t want to see deceased animals on the side of the road. They don’t want to see puppies or cats that are in distress. We know there’s a direct negative economic impact when you have these large free-roaming [animal] populations,” she said.
Gibson likens Saipan’s current stray dog problem to that of another U.S. insular territory, Puerto Rico, and how it relates to the tourism industry.
“Puerto Rico also has a large stray dog population problem and they’ve actually calculated the loss in the millions of dollars to their tourism industry because when people come and they see animals that are suffering, they say ‘Not only am I not coming back to spend my money here, but I’m gonna tell 10 people never to go there.’ So the impacts are exponential when it comes to impacts to the tourism industry. …The word gets out—they usually say ‘don’t go to this place because the animals are not being cared for.’ People care about animals and they don’t want to see animals suffering.”