A place that stray animals can call home

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Posted on Oct 20 2020
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Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang, sixth from left, poses with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, fourth from left, and with other guests after the groundbreaking ceremony for the new animal shelter building at the Department of Lands and Natural Resources agricultural station in As Perdido yesterday. (Justine Nauta)

After four years of planning for an animal shelter, the Saipan Mayor’s Office and the Legislature finally broke ground yesterday on a multifunctional animal shelter building that will be built at the Department of Lands and Natural Resources agricultural station in As Perdido.

The new animal shelter is projected to officially open in April 2021, which gives the project a 180-day timeline from ribbon-cutting to opening. The 5,000-square-meter animal shelter will have two separate sections on one large floor area, with one section for the kennel and the other section for offices, animal examination rooms, clinics, restrooms, a two-vehicle indoor garage, 18-vehicle parking stalls, and a laundry room.

The semi-concrete kennel will have 40 animal holding stalls. The shelter will have its own wastewater and sewer system, as the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. wastewater sewerline system is not available in the area. The total project cost is over $500,000, which is partially funded by disaster assistance awards, capital improvement funds, and local delegation appropriation.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres thanked Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang and his staff as well as the rest of the CNMI leadership for their hard work and dedication in finally getting to yesterday’s point.

The CNMI already had an animal shelter in Lower Base but it was damaged when Typhoon Soudelor hit the CNMI in 2015 and was later condemned because it had become structurally unsound. Apatang said that repairing the shelter would have cost more because it was in a flood zone and required a new floor for the shelter to be elevated at least 6 feet above the existing floor grade. It was then agreed in 2016 that the animal shelter would be moved to the DLNR agricultural station in As Perdido—a move supported by late DLNR secretary Richard Seman and current DLNR Secretary Anthony Benavente.

The Saipan Mayor’s Office asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help with funding and, with the assistance of the governor’s authorized representative, Vicky Villagomez, FEMA approved the request for an improved animal shelter.

According to Apatang, the architectural and engineering design, finding and getting additional funding sources, local federal historic preservation, and environmental compliance reviews and permitting were all part of the long and difficult process.

Apatang noted that there is a lot of work ahead for his team but, once the new shelter is completed, the facility will be able to care for not only residential pets but animals that the office is tasked to remove from streets, neighborhoods, parks, and school grounds. Apatang stated that the shelter will also offer residents place to bring their pets for veterinary care. Also, the shelter will have a clinic where the state and visiting veterinarians will offer animal health care.

The operation of the new shelter will help them catch up with their work of controlling the population of dogs and cats on the island, Apatang said, since the Lower Base animal shelter was shut down in late 2015.

R3A General Services LLC is the contractor for this project, represented by Ariel Villanueva, who said he and his team of 10 to 14 people, along with several other subcontractors, will work hard to get the project done as early as they can.

Justine Nauta
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.
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