Animal Welfare is the Word
Amy Sparks, veterinarian at APS in 2013 and 2014.
There are many animal welfare related issues affecting dogs and cats in Samoa. Currently there is no legislation governing animal welfare and thus no penalties exist for people who compromise the welfare of animals. Therefore it is up to the individual and the community to ensure our animals are treated well.
Animal welfare refers to how an animal is coping with the conditions in which it lives. The “five freedoms” are used as a guideline for ensuring good animal welfare:
1. Freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition
2. Freedom from fear and distress
3. Freedom from physical and thermal discomfort
4. Freedom from pain, injury and disease
5. Freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour.
There are some specific animal welfare issues that are particularly relevant to Samoa. Cats and dogs do not always have access to adequate food or clean drinking water. Another issue is the drowning or disposal of unwanted puppies and kittens. Throwing rocks at dogs and malicious machete woundings are also not uncommon, as is deliberate poisoning of dogs with the herbicide paraquat, which inevitably leads to a slow and painful death. Finally many dogs are left with untreated wounds or diseases. All these issues lead to the suffering of dogs and cats.
Fortunately all of these issues are preventable. You can ensure good animal welfare for your dogs and cats by doing several key things. Desexing your pet is very important, as it results in less dog fights, less unwanted puppies, less wandering dogs, and therefore less incentive to poison or wound animals. Providing food and clean water every day is essential, and given Samoa’s extreme weather conditions, shelter from sun, rain and wind is also required. Treating pets for fleas and worms and bringing them to the vet when they are sick will also keep your pet happy and healthy.
The Animal Protection Society of Samoa actively promotes good animal welfare. The veterinary service diagnoses and treats diseases and provides advice on husbandry and feeding of pets. We can perform humane euthanasia to relieve suffering in very sick animals. We also provide free outreach desexing clinics to villages. The APS education program provides interactive presentations for schools and families to teach the five freedoms. Finally we support and advocate the development of animal welfare legislation in Samoa.
The importance of de-sexing/sterilizing your dog
A spay surgery prevents female dogs from getting pregnant by removing both the ovaries and the uterus. Un-spayed female dogs go into heat about once every eight months and it lasts for as long as three weeks each time. And they don’t go into menopause. They regularly go into heat for their entire lives–unless they’re spayed. One female dog can have over 100 puppies in her lifetime if she isn’t spayed.
A neuter surgery for male dogs, is a much simpler procedure, but is just as important, as one male dog can father thousands of puppies. The surgery involves removing the male dog’s testicles.
De-sexing your male and female dogs has many benefits:
• It reduces the population of unwanted dogs. Thousands of dogs are put down in Samoa every year by Dog Management Unit (over 5000 in 2015) because they are roaming the streets, hungry and diseased, some even aggressive.
• The one-time cost of spaying or neutering is far lower than the expense involved in rounding up strays, feeding and/or housing abandoned animals, and putting down those for whom homes can’t be found.
• It saves you from dealing with male dogs that are wildly attracted to your female dog in heat. Dogs will jump gates, bolt through doors, dig under fences, and jump out of cars to mate.
• Spaying eliminates the stress and discomfort that females endure during heat periods, eliminates the risk of uterine cancer, and greatly reduces the risk of mammary cancer.
Neutering male dogs makes them far less likely to roam or fight, prevents testicular cancer, and reduces the risk of prostate cancer.
Spay-and-Neuter Frequently Asked Questions
Will my dog’s personality change after spaying or neutering?
Spaying and neutering will only reduce or eliminate the behaviours that you don’t want, such as aggression and urine marking. Neutered males are less likely to roam, fight, or mark their territory with urine, and spayed females experience less hormone-related moodiness. In exchange, your companions will likely become more interested in you (rather than finding a mate) and will still protect your family.
Why should I have my male cat or dog neutered?
Male animals contribute to the companion animal overpopulation crisis even more than females do. Just one unsterilized male dog can impregnate dozens of females, creating dozens upon dozens of unwanted offspring. Neutering also eliminates male animals’ risk of testicular cancer and reduces unwanted behaviours such as biting.
Should I let my female animal have one litter before having her spayed?
There’s absolutely no truth to the myth that it’s best to let a female dog give birth to a litter before getting her spayed. It’s best to spay your dog before she reaches sexual maturity in order to reap the full health benefits. Spaying your female dog before her first heat cycle means she will have one-seventh the risk of developing mammary cancer. Spaying also eliminates their risk of diseases and cancers of the ovaries and uterus, which are often life-threatening and require expensive surgery and treatment.
How can I teach my children about the ‘miracle of birth’?
Allowing your animal to reproduce only teaches your children irresponsibility. Every year, many unwanted animals are killed, and many more are roaming the streets, most because they have no homes. Used books and videos are available to help you teach your children about reproduction responsibly.
Is de-sexing safe?
Spay and neuter surgeries are the most commonly performed animal surgeries. Most animals experience relatively little discomfort (anaesthesia is used during surgery, and pain medication is generally given afterward) and they are back to their normal activities within a day or two.
When is the best time to spay your dog?
A female dog can be spayed any time after 6 months of age, and preferably before her first heat for the best health benefits.
In Australia and throughout much of the world it is currently recommended that male dogs are neutered at around 5-7 months of age and older.
Preparing your dog for surgery
Follow the vet’s advice but generally speaking the dog should not eat for at least eight hours before the surgery, because the anaesthesia can cause nausea. Some veterinarians ask you to stop all food starting at midnight the night before the surgery. Drinking water beforehand is fine, however.
Where can you take your dog for a de-sexing surgery?
Spaying and neutering are routine, affordable surgeries. The Animal Protection Society of Samoa (APS) has a low-cost spay-and-neuter clinic that make it easy for everyone to do the right thing and have their animals de-sexed.
Phone 22403 to make an appointment now.
APS is a not-for-profit animal welfare clinic, based at Vailima in the Ministry of Agriculture APHD compound. The clinic is normally open Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 3 pm. For after-hours emergencies only, call 777-7277.
If you are interested in donating to APS to help with the purchase of vet drugs and supplies, please phone 22403. We are grateful for any donations that help us towards our goal of promoting animal welfare in Samoa.
“While our world consists of interests outside our pets, we are their ENTIRE world and they depend on us exclusively for their socialization and well-being”