Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (Dec. 27) - Guam's problem with stray cats and dogs is much more serious than a few overturned trash cans and some messy instances of road kill.

The stray dog and cat population is estimated to be somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000 animals, according to Department of Agriculture Deputy Director Joseph Torres, who heads the Animal Control Division. And that number will only continue to grow.

These animals are more likely to get and spread diseases. They are also much more likely than pets to carry fleas and ticks. Feral cats and dogs pose a danger to pets and livestock, as well as to wildlife, notably endangered species of birds authorities are trying to reintroduce to the wild.

Packs of feral dogs also pose a real and serious threat to the health and safety of students, both those who walk to school and those who wait for buses. Likewise, the health and safety of walkers, joggers, hikers and bicyclists, among others, are at risk.

A large factor in the number of strays on Guam has been a reticence by many to have their pets spayed and neutered. This leads to unwanted litters of puppies and kittens. Each one of those animals that isn't spayed or neutered exacerbates the problem.

But increasing the number of animals spayed and neutered will only help curb future growth. What our community needs is aggressive solutions to the problem, because it's obvious the current approach isn't getting the job done.

The Department of Agriculture has recently received funding to purchase about a dozen dog traps, and hopes to eventually have about 40 of the traps, according to Torres, who also said he needs double the number of Animal Control officers from three to six.

Guam needs to look at what other jurisdictions are doing to handle problems with stray dogs and cats. How can we better enforce existing laws? Are there better methods of trapping that can be implemented? Should there be special hunts to eliminate feral dog packs or feral cats? Is privatization of Animal Control an alternative worth exploring?

Guam's stray dog and cat problem must be addressed by our elected and appointed government officials now, before it becomes an even greater problem in our community.

December 28, 2004

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