‘The animal shelter was constantly on my mind’

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Super Typhoon Yutu’s ferocious winds, clocked at 180 miles and per hour and with gusts that topped 200 mph, did catastrophic damage not just to people’s homes and properties but also to animal shelters.

At the height of the storm, with the constant shriek of the winds and ear-splitting roar of properties being damaged, the fate of the animal shelter was at the forefront of the mind of Spencer Camacho-Merchadesch, the Saipan Mayor’s Office Dog Control Program manager.

“The situation of animals during a typhoon is so dire that it makes them extra vulnerable,” he said.

The animal shelter had a total of 139 animals composed of adult dogs, cats, and puppies.

“The morning after the storm, I prepared myself to go to the shelter, cleared debris and assessed my home real quick, waited for the winds to calm down and went straight to the shelter and I was just speechless with what I saw,” he said.

Driving toward the south side of Saipan where the animal shelter is located made clear in his mind the extent of the damage.

“I saw the damage in the neighborhood around me and thought I have to get to the shelter. The kind of damage that the shelter might have incurred was unfolding around me as I saw houses and building without roofs,” he said.

When he finally made it to the shelter, it was in total destruction. “The perimeter fence was gone, trees were uprooted, the roofs on the kennels were gone and there were so many dogs outside.”

Camacho-Marchadesch and his team went to work right away. “Since there were many dogs out of the kennel and loitering around the compound, our goal was to make sure there was food and water available for them… We temporarily repaired the perimeter fence last Sunday and we were able to lure the dogs back into the kennel… There are still dogs roaming within the compound but we will get them back to safety,” he said.

“We are taking it day by day. The first day was overwhelming for me and to my staff but the second day we…are doing good as the morale is good,” he added.

The animals at the Saipan Mayor’s Office Dog Control Program are ready for adoption and the program is also accepting food and water donations and encourage volunteers to help rebuild the animal shelter. You can call Camacho-Marchadesch at (670) 783-4743.

Over at the Saipan Cares for Animals clinic in Koblerville, SCFA president Beth Pliscou said a total of 35 dogs that includes 12 puppies were in their care during Yutu.

She said no animals were harmed inside their shelter, but the destruction around the clinic was problematic.

“Our perimeter fence went down and it was something that needed to be put up right away because our neighbors are not tolerant of dogs stepping out of our property. The outdoor shelter of the cats, which we call the ‘catio,’ was also destroyed so we called volunteers on our Facebook page to help us and many came,” she said.

“Everyone here at the clinic is good because this house is strong. It has survived Soudelor and now Yutu…Currently, the fence is up so what we need now are the staples—food, paper towels, bleach, water so we can try to keep the animals and the clinic clean,’ she added.

In anticipation of the storm, Pliscou brought 14 dogs and a number of kittens home. Sadly, her home took a beating from Yutu. “We lost our roof and windows… I managed to put the dogs in the yard…but now there are fallen trees and sheet metal that are kind of wrapping around the fence,” she said.

“[We] had to fix the gate so they can get out… I can get water and food for those 14 dogs and the cats in the house go out the broken windows but I can feed them inside… We had cats fostered out and they are under good care with the families that sheltered them,” she added.

At the height of the storm, Pliscou was thinking of the animals and people. “I couldn’t imagine anyone getting through losing roofs like that. Where could you go? I was really concerned about people. Animals are really good at hiding and I knew that the animals in the clinic were going to be alright because the house is strong but one can’t help but be concerned for other people,” Pliscou said.

“After the typhoon, we have been taking care of the dogs in the clinic but there has been emergencies so I just tell people to come in the evening and I help them out of my car—my little ambulance—where I can help their dogs with different problems right on the spot,” she added.

Saipan Cares for Animals is a non-profit organization making donations and volunteer work welcome. Please call Pliscou at (670) 285-5448 or email epliscou@att.net .

Bea Cabrera
Bea Cabrera, who holds a law degree, also has a bachelor's degree in mass communications. She has been exposed to multiple aspects of mass media, doing sales, marketing, copywriting, and photography.

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