Sunday, March 18, 2007

Volunteering For the Humane Society

Last week I (Jessi) volunteered for the Humane Society. I know that may surprise many of you because I am not an animal/pet person. I do love animals- but not in my lap. I guess you could say I was a lover of animals from a distance. I decided to volunteer because: 1. I believe in the cause; 2. My good friend Kim was in charge of finding volunteers; and 3. It makes me sad to see so many injured and diseased stray dogs here. The main problem is that we don't have a veterinarian on the island. So for 3 weeks, we had 30 veterinarians come here to help the animals. The amazing thing is that these vets are not only not getting paid for all their work, but they all paid their own way to come here because they love animals, love to serve others, and they want to make a difference around the world. They worked on about 1000 animals (mostly doing spay and neuter surgeries to cut down on our stray dog problem) free of charge for the local islanders. It was awesome to hang out with them and get to know them. The organization is called "Vet Ventures," and the vets came from all over the U.S., but mostly the west coast.

I worked at the front desk doing paperwork, checking people in, and explaining procedures to them. One of my quirks is that I love to organize things, so it was fun for me to keep the files in order and have a system. The first picture is of me and Stephanie (sister to one of the vets) at our front desk. Stephanie showed me how to do the paperwork before she left the island, and she was great to work with.

We mostly worked on cats and dogs, but one lady brought in a set of land turtles. Fortunately, one of the vets was a turtle specialist.

(From Sean): For a little perspective on our dog problem; here's some pretty funny quotes from High Court case Savage v. Gov't of Am. Samoa, 1 A.S.R.2d 102 (1983):

"There are few places on this earth which suffer more than American Samoa from an oversupply of man's so-called friend, the dog. Untold thousands of dogs roam the territory. Some are strays, some have a vague claim to ownership by a human being, a tiny fraction are actually licensed and registered. Almost without exception they are mongrels--scrawny, emaciated, mangy, in-bred, flea-bitten, diseased. Sophisticated world travelers usually refer to the dogs of Mexico and China as the worst looking dogs in the world. Compared to the dogs of American Samoa, the dogs of Mexico and China could qualify as best of their class at Madison Square Garden.

The territory has no leash law. It has a singularly ineffective and widely ignored license law (sections 25.1607 & 27.0243 ASCA) and a peculiar stray dog control law (section 25.0301, et seq. American Samoa Administrative Code) of which more later. As a result, large numbers of dogs, usually in groups or packs, roam the territory at will, fighting, frolicking, fornicating, barking, snarling, and during a full moon, howling either in unison or singly. All of this, standing by itself, is a nuisance. However, a more ominous result of this bulging canine population is an awesome number of attacks by dogs on human beings, usually small children. For example, during the fiscal year 1982, 215 dog bites were recorded at the LBJ Tropical Medical Center. Such a number of bites is shocking considering that the territory only has a population of 32,000. That is almost one dog bite for every 150 people. Obviously this statistic is but a tip of the iceberg as only severe bites would ordinarily require medical attention.

In other words, the dog situation in American Samoa is a disgrace."

So what is the dog situation like in Tafuna where we live? Savage talks about that as well:

"Whatever the effectiveness of the commission may be as to individual villages it affords no protection to the inhabitants of the public housing enclave at Tafuna which is not a part of any village. Insofar as the inhabitants of Tafuna are concerned, dog bite reports simply become useless pieces of paper reposing in the respective offices of the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Samoan Affairs. Nothing is done.

As a direct result of this complete lack of animal control, Tafuna is simply saturated with stray dogs. Tafuna's dog count must be mind boggling although no effective canine census exists. They travel singly or in packs as large as eight to ten."

Savage was written in 1983. Would you be shocked if I told you that in 2007, not much has changed? I didn't think so.

Hence the volunteers from the Humane Society. God bless them!