After a decade from when the first animal protection bill was introduced by then-representative Stanley Torres, to the recent passing of the Animal Rights Protection Bill, introduced by Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan), in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, animal lovers on island are now hoping for Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to make history and enact the bill.
No less than Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang hopes that the governor signs it into law. “I’ve been supporting that bill since the beginning. …I want to thank the House and the Senate for passing that finally. It has been up there, back and forth, for many, many years, and I hope the governor will sign that,” he said.
The mayor said the bill was initially put together by many who had come to the CNMI years ago and condemned the cruelty that was being done against animals, especially the feral ones.
“If you have a pet, you are supposed to take care of them. Take them to the vet, make sure they’re taken care of. The old age is gone, we need to take care of these animals,” Apatang said.
Pet owner accountability
Another legislation could also be brewing, following Apatang’s disclosure that he has asked a member of the Legislature to draft a bill that would make pet owners liable for injuries or untoward incidents caused by their pets. This is in reference to a story about an individual who was bitten by a dog and reportedly died.
“I [asked] one of the members of the Legislature to see if they can come up with a bill to make pet owners be responsible and liable for things like that. Somebody has to be responsible for their pets,” Apatang said. “Right now, the law says you have to leash your dog. Get it registered. But there’s nothing in the book that says the owner is responsible. …We just have to be responsible. If you’re [going to] have a pet, take care of it.”
When asked about the Saipan Mayor’s Office’s animal shelter project, Apatang said that they are “seeing the light finally.”
Last December, Dog Control Program manager Martin Pangelinan projected that a new state-of-the art animal shelter could possibly be completed in a year’s time. The current shelter in As Perdido, which got hit by Super Typhoon Yutu, can only accommodate 60 animals.
“We have funding from [the Federal Emergency Management Agency], we have local funding to add to the shelter, but we went almost two years trying to secure an environment assessment from FEMA. After that, we have to wait for the U.S. Corps of Engineers to give us an approval on the permitting process,” he said. “We’re getting something back from Corps of Engineers and, hopefully, we can start something this year before the price starts going up.”
Apatang said he does not want to see another re-bid on the project and disclosed that the contractor that won the bid keeps raising the cost. “I want to see that thing finished. The animals need someplace where we can put them in and take care of them.”