Comprehensive stray pet control bill gets support

The number of stray animals on island is on the rise. (PNC file photo)

The Legislature held a public hearing Wednesday morning on a bill that addresses the growing stray animal population on Guam.

Senator Clynt Ridgell introduced Bill 135, which amends current statutes and updates fees on impoundment, spay and neutering, veterinarian requirements, and pet licensure requirements. The bill also mandates microchipping for licensed pets.

The bill is part of a comprehensive stray and pet control program introduced by Ridgell and other senators.

The bill also seeks to assist the Department of Agriculture in its role of regulating Guam’s pet population with the agency acknowledging its limitations when it comes to enforcing the current laws.

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“The bill discourages the import of non-sterilized pets by adding a fee to keep these animals intact ..with less intact pets coming into Guam ..we could prevent these pets from mating and increasing the stray pet population. It also mandates microchipping so that all pets can be found in a database by animal control officers, thereby easing the return of any lost pet to its owner. Lastly, the bill amends current volunteer vet laws in order to allow more spay neuter vets to offer their services on Guam and allow the Department of Agriculture more discretion in the amount of spay and neuter projects to do in a year,” Ridgell said.

For her pasrt, Agriculture Director Chelsa Muna-Brecht says the department has been struggling for decades to enforce the laws and regulations regarding feral strays and pets. She says the bill will help their agency address the island’s stray pet population.

Muna Brecht also spoke about the bill’s provision on microchipping and pet registration.

“Microchipping is something that allows us to identify pet owners easily and cannot be lost when a pet escapes from an owner’s property. Additionally, requiring that veterinarians confirm registration of the pet in the microchip in a controlled database allows access to anyone who can scan the microchip to easily identify the pet and the pet owner. And this will help with also addressing the issue of pets being abandoned when families move off island,” she said.

Meanwhile, Cyrus Luhr who is the president of the board of directors of GAIN, says he also fully supports the bill, saying the bill is strong and its provisions comprehensive in addressing recurring stray animal issues.

“We have a really significant stray animal dog problem. In 2014, GAIN, in collaboration with Humane Society International, did an islandwide survey of the dog problem on Guam. At the time we measured, there were 24,500 stray dogs on Guam and 61,000 cumulatively for both owned and stray. Since at that time we worked with a military veterinarian who has a background in population statistics, we are fairly confident that that number is growing by 3 percent a year,” Luhr said.

Luhr says that this problem has been growing for a long time. In comparison, he says a Department of Defense study on the rabies outbreak in 1967 indicated that the stray dog population at that time was just below 2,000. Now the population is closer to 70,000.

He says the only way to control the stray animal population on Guam is through spaying and neutering