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‘I can’t believe the indifference of the People’

By Moneth Deposa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, July 29, 2009) - A tourist is appealing to the Marianas Visitors Authority to immediately address what she describes as outrageous and inhumane conditions stray animals are subjected to on Saipan.

Vanja Ivanova-Hathcock and her family took a seven-day vacation on Saipan earlier this month and it may very well be their last visit on the island.

From day one, Ivanova-Hathcock and her family were surrounded by starving stray dogs that she, out of pity, fed during the duration of their stay in the CNMI capital.

She added that she felt robbed of US$2,000 during her seven-day trip to Saipan, which was promoted in brochures with beautiful beaches and places without mention of the depressing stray animals’ situation that exists on island.

In a letter to MVA managing director Perry Tenorio, Ivanova-Hathcock emphasized the importance of having an animal shelter and veterinarian on island, saying that these are basic necessities that every state and city must have.

"I am devastated that Saipan does not provide any basic humanitarian services for these poor creatures that are the result of irresponsible behavior on [the] part of Saipan’s citizens," she told Tenorio.

Ivanova-Hathcock, who lives in Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, said she regretted that her family chose Saipan over invitations to go to Palau.

"I cried my whole vacation. I cannot believe the indifference of the people of Saipan for these animals. I am not sure why people don’t understand that tourism is their survival and it is in their best interest to take care of their pets," she said.

The visitor added that the problem of stray animals is key on Saipan’s success as a tourist destination.

She also batted for the building of an animal shelter on Saipan. Ivanova-Hathcock said kennels will save the public from paying excessive fees for animal care.

Tenorio, in his response to Ivanova-Hathcock’s complaint, referred the matter to concerned agencies asking for immediate resolution such as the Saipan Mayor’s Office, the Department of Commerce, and other agencies.

The MVA chief said Saipan Mayor Juan B. Tudela is currently in the process of building an animal shelter to address the concern.

"We hope that we can address your concerns in a timely manner. Upon doing so, I hope that the CNMI will have the chance to welcome you back in the future," he told the visitor.

In an interview yesterday, Saipan Mayor Juan B. Tudela expressed sadness on the tourist’s concern.

"This [problem] has been in existence for many years but was not addressed by my office because of lack of full support to the program. It’s sad that we need to wait for this situation to happen before we finally act on it," he told Saipan Tribune.

It was way back in 2002 when Tudela initiated the Saipan Dog Control program. Though a public law was established, only US$75,000 was appropriated for the program-an amount not enough to even start construction of dog kennels.

On top of this, the site for the dog kennel also became a major sticking point. From the original As Perdido location, the program was transferred to Lower Base where a kennel enough only to accommodate 10 dogs is temporarily being constructed.

Tudela said a permanent site for the dog program was identified in Kagman.

"Until now we’re still in the permitting process." the mayor said, adding that he hopes to see the realization of the dog control program before he leaves office in 2010.

The mayor said that uncontrolled stray dogs pose a very serious health threat to people, as dogs oftentimes viciously chase pedestrians and in many occasions attack and bite them.

He estimated the number of stray animals on island in the thousands.

Ivanova-Hathcock said she will share her Saipan experience to her friends back home.

Tourists, she said, want to get the best for their money and currently they are not getting it on Saipan.

She added that besides the problem of stray animals, the rundown urban development and massage parlors on Saipan irritated her during her stroll of downtown Garapan.

She was also annoyed by hustlers who kept trying to a hawk her a boat ride.

"I wanted to call police several times on them. If I wanted a boat, jet ski, or any other services from them I can ask. [But] I don’t need them to stalk me," she said and suggested to Tenorio to outright ban the practice.

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