American Samoa has a rapidly escalating dog population problem. The island’s Health Department states that the animals pose a risk to humans as they have in some cases become aggressive, with a bite rate of more than three times that of the mainland U.S. In fact, more than half of all reported injuries are attributed to dog bites.
In addition to public health concerns, there is a negative perception when one sees large numbers of malnourished and diseased dogs wandering the streets. Visitors who witness such suffering are less likely to return, further weakening the economy in a place where many people are already struggling.
What we’re doing
Thankfully, things are changing for the better. Under the leadership of HSI and our local partner, Alofa Mo Meaola (meaning “love for animals” in Samoan), the governor has committed to developing a taskforce to address the humane management of the island’s animals. The American Samoa Department of Agriculture, the lead agency enforcing and overseeing animal care and control activities in the territory, is also supportive of efforts to improve the situation.
In the past, intermittent locally and internationally hosted clinics were the only opportunities for doing spay/neuter; now, a full-time veterinarian will offer permanent dog sterilization services to those communities identified through an HSI study as having the greatest need (from both dog numbers and economic perspectives).
New policies for dog licensing and pet importation, along with educational outreach to tourists and students, will also help ensure long-term success in humanely reducing street dog populations.
HSI strongly supports spay/neuter campaigns not only in American Samoa, but across the region. We organize veterinary trainings and capacity-building workshops to strengthen and encourage the work that is done at a governmental level and by the non-profit sector.