It’s a dog’s life

By Mathias Huckert ,

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HELPING OUT SAMOA’S DOG WORLD: Miriama Mati of the Animal Protection Society and Veterinarian Andrew Philip Postles take a coffee break from their busy day.

HELPING OUT SAMOA’S DOG WORLD: Miriama Mati of the Animal Protection Society and Veterinarian Andrew Philip Postles take a coffee break from their busy day.

“The situation of dogs in Samoa can be described as a pretty feral one, concerning the way they live within the society. But an estimation like that always depends on the culture,” explains Andrew Postles of Samoa’s Animal Protection Society (A.P.S.). 

The veterinarian from New Zealand has served in Samoa for two and a half years with the Volunteer Service Abroad.

The main aim that A.P.S. tries to accomplish is that there is a more regulated and organised treatment of the animals in Samoa. 

“The dogs here live their lives in a wild kind of way, but at the same time, they also belong to certain villages or people, because they tend to be adopted as puppies by children or animal loving adults.

Of course it is a nice thing to take such a vulnerable creature home to cuddle it and provide shelter for a puppy. But when they’re all grown up, they pretty much lead a life of security guards for the people.”

As a solution, A.P.S. is providing the most obvious treatment for the dogs. 

“The best thing to do here is to desex the males but also to reduce the breeding potential by desexing females, because when they’re roaming around like that, it is hard to control the population in any other kind of sense.”

According to Mr Postles, their way of life does not quite match the living conditions for dogs in other parts of the world.

“This dealing generally does not afford typical international welfare standard care, so that’s one part of the situation”. 

Along with this missing care for the dogs, there is also a problem with nutrition for the domestic animals. 

“The dogs often do not have access to the right kind of food or even food in general, and it is the same with water.”

Even though this situation is deeply rooted in the country’s very own history with dogs, the problem nowadays is a vast one. That is why A.P.S. does their best to improve the situation in Samoa. 

“The situation here still persists, but for the last 25 years, there have been many veterinarians from Australia, New Zealand and America who have been helping to keep A.P.S. functioning, but ever since, we sort of limped along because of minimal resources and lots of donated instruments, money and drugs,”Andrew Postles stated in the non-government organisation’s office in Vailima. 

That is also the reason why A.P.S. is still not able to afford its own veterinarian and therefore has to rely on volunteers from overseas, just like Andrew Postles. 

“We also have some volunteers mediated by Projects Abroad from time to time, who help out a lot, but the main goal would certainly be in the next couple of years to take the step and have a paid and preferably Samoan vet, then this would become a much more sustainable business. But somehow I get the impression that it keeps getting harder and harder to ensure aid in our situation.”

What the Animal Protection Society is hoping for, is a better way of funding provided by the Samoan government in the future. The government recently had introduced a special Dog Management Unit, but according to Mr Postles, there is more to be done to face the current problem on the streets of Samoa. 

“There should be much more self-help, and this should also be funded by the government, but if you ask me, they’re five years behind the situation. A.P.S. works closely together with the police’s Dog Management Unit, especially in the area of registering the dogs.”

This support has helped to solve the ongoing problem to a certain extent, but only around the area of Apia. However, the growing population of dogs is still significant in other parts of the country. 

“There are still areas in which they seem to sort of bounce back. That clearly is the problem of these dog control approaches. They’re only focusing on Apia and are not going any further”.

But the controlling of the dog’s population is also in the hands of their owners. 

“It is important for the people to learn about proper dog control. They need to know that for instance you should have your dogs tied up when you’re not walking them on a lead in public, just to make sure they do not threat people”. 

Because of that, A.P.S. is endeavouring to provide education on the matter. With regular visits to Samoa’s primary schools, they try to teach responsible attitudes towards dogs to the society’s youngest and possible pet owners. 

“With our veterinary service here, we try to sort of wave the flag to show people that animals can get treatment and they can lead better lives than they have been used to because of cultural reasons in the past,” Andrew Postles told Samoa Observer. The mentioned veterinary service provided by the Animal Protection Service can be reached under 22403 for emergency cases as well as after hours under 7777277.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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