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Mayors focusing on stray animals

by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - The island's mayors have been there, done that. "I remember back in the year 2000 when we had this problem," said Mayor Bob Lizama of Yigo. A problem that has ballooned today to an estimated 40,000 stray dogs roaming the island and testing the patience of village mayors.

Mayor Paul McDonald, mayor of Agana Heights, added, "I've got kids that have gotten bitten." And the Department of Agriculture's Animal Control Team of just four people who deal with more than just the island's stray animal population. "Now we're dealing with pigs cows, caribous, there has to be an eradication method first before there is a control method," an onlooker added.

Eradication that the territorial vet and animal control officers believe should involve the use of firearms when they come across dangerous dogs. "It's the only way we see we're going to pull ourselves out of this problem," noted one of the officers.

Today's roundtable meeting brought together various sectors of the island's community to discuss ways to control the island's stray animal population. Many mayors alluded to past programs that were successful like in 1992 when Barrigada mayor Jessie Palican was in charge of the Canine Feline Control Committee. "And at the end we had about a 30% increase in catching stray dogs and cats," he said.

According to Mayor Palican, all village mayors were involved, local veterinarians, Guam Animals in Need and the Department of Public Health, which at the time was in charge of animal control, roundups were conducted in each village during which stray dogs and cats were picked up.

Today it's a much different story. "The problem I have now is we don't have follow-ups," Palican said.

And a part of the reason why, there's just not enough people in animal control to eradicate stray dogs and cats or enforce leash laws for domestic pets. DOA director Marquita Taitague said, "For us to take care from Malesso to Andersen AFB when there's a problem it's a little difficult so that's the problem that exists within the Department of Agriculture."

And with so little manpower dedicated to which mayors describe as an epidemic. Everyday that goes by, the problem only gets worse. "Guys," announced Mayor McDonald, "we're dealing with a time bomb there's more dogs today than there were five years ago."

Another meeting on the stray animal population is scheduled for next month.

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