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By La Poasa

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Sept. 14) - Eighteen stray dogs have been put to sleep since the American Samoa government's Stray Dog Task Force began setting up traps at Lions Park last week in its effort to eliminate strays.

Territorial veterinarian Leoleoga Leituala said their goal is to make sure unwanted dogs, which are usually sick and are the carrier for diseases such as leptospirosis, are removed from public places to prevent diseases from spreading to humans.

The program began last Tuesday and will run until Friday, Sept. 16 at the Lions Park area. Leituala said after the Lions Park, the Task Force will continue to other parks, government compounds and school campuses.

Residents of the FAA and Government Housing at the Lions Park were notified by the Department of Agriculture about the program via a notice that stated that the program was to implement an executive order from the Governor. They were told to make sure their pets carry their licenses on their collar. "All animals found without a license will be put to sleep right away," said DOA acting director Peter Gurr in the notice. "Any animal found with a license will be in-bound for 48 hours for its owner to claim. After two days if the animal is still in-bound without an owner claiming the dog, it will be put to sleep."

Leituala said they haven't run into a problem where the dogs they catch have licenses, but reiterated that those with a license will be kept for two days before any decision is made by the Task Force. Those residents with pets missing within the time period that the program is in effect can visit the Veterinary Clinic at the Department of Agriculture in Tafuna or contact 699-9445.

American Samoa Humane Society interim chair and secretary of the Stray Dog Task Force Cheryl Morales-Polataivao said she is in support of the decision made by the Task Force to begin a population control program by targeting stray, sick and/or vicious dogs.

"Our next step will be to support a massive spay/neuter campaign working with the Department of Agriculture veterinarian and his staff," said Morales- Polataivao. "On behalf of the Humane Society, I urge the community to have their pets spayed and/or neutered, licensed, and to keep them close to home at all times."

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