Monday, April 2, 2007

Getting a Tinian Shelter Started

Below, please find an update from Dr. Thomas Arkle of Tinian. In an effort to reduce the number of stray dogs on Tinian, Dr. Arkle has been working diligently for the Tinian Mayor's Office to open an animal shelter.

Sounds like they have encountered a couple of speedbumps along the way, but no one said it was going to be easy in the beginning!

"I guess by now you've seen the article in todays trib. It was supposed to be in the variety too, but maybe on Monday.

Anyway, this has been a real struggle at every step. We have found that such a program is not just 1,2,3. There has been a million details that keep coming up almost daily - and each one has to be dealt with - usually on the spot.

But we have learned a lot - and are still learning, every day.

There has been a lot of problems just catching the strays. All those dogs one sees just running playfully around (loose) - are not so playful. MOST of them, when trapped or approached, are quite vicious. Many had to be eliminated on the spot - TWO grown men, most of the time, could not control them even with the humane "catch-all" device. These dogs are actually so vicious that they bloody themselves trying to get at their captors. They're FINE as long as they"re LOOSE. But now we know why so many people were being threatened by these dogs as they became hungier or the economy declined. The dogs were getting to the point of being really dangerous - and for the most part, we had not been fully aware of it - until we caught some of them.

One of our biggest problems has been public acceptance and participation. Apparently the many voices that have been crying for us to eliminate the problem are being overshadowed by the SILENT ones who have tried to subvert the program - or simply not participate. We did get that initial rush of people to register pets - but only about 35 or so. Then - nothing. We began personal door to door visits and found nearly everyone had a dog or two or four or six. Most "promised" to register - none did.

In many cases, our traps were tampered with, set off without dog, doors jammed, etc. In some cases, caught dogs were removed before we could get to them - presumably by the owner. Also, traps near schools or areas where kids congregate resulted in some trapped dogs being tortured by the kids. We also had a problem with "other" animals being caught - mainly cats - they were after the bait.

We also had to work out how to transfer the dogs from the traps to the kennel - the traps were too heavy or bulky to move themselves - so we designed a lightweight "transfer" cage and made a "door-to-door" transfer without having to actually handle the dog. This worked quite well. The traps had to be monitored at LEAST twice a day.

On two instances, some one, probably the pet owner entered our kennel facility in the middle of the night and simply took back their impounded dog. The first one, we found the next day, comfortably relaxing at its owners house. The owner admitted taking the dog back but said we couldn't do anything because we didn't witness the act. he was right, but he didn't figure that we had the authority to impose a $100.00 citation on the spot because his dog had not yet been registered. The second one was taken the night our public notice appeared announcing the euthansia. We haven't seen that one yet as its owner is probably hidinbg the animal - but we will and the citation will be written without further notice.

Once our new "traffic ticket like" citations became available and authorized for use, we began an intensive program of "threats." We went back door to door to those we had earlier visited and gave them an on the spot choice, Register the dog on the spot, surrender the dog on the spot, or we would write the citation - on the spot. In less than one week alone we generated 60 registrations and 5 or 6 surrendered dogs. We are looking at that many if not more next week.

We haven't yet had a "test" citation go to the courts because everybody so faced has elected to avoid it - but it won't be long till we get to test the CNMI system with a first of a kind municipal citation prosecuted at the state level. That's never been tried before -but the AG did approve the regs, so they must know about it. Hopefully, the judiciary will accept it too.

We have found that it was a good thing our regs were written as detailed as possible - some people still try to come up with loopholes - none have succeeded yet. I guess it pays to have a twewnty page regulation instead of a one or two pager.

well, that's some of what we have found so far. The euthanasia went very well and fairly rapidly. We will be better set up next time (in about two weeks) so it will be even more efficient.

At first we were being given the run around by DEQ over digging a burial pit and when they said it would be OK but the permit never came, we just went ahead and did it anyway -and claimed we were using an old DLNR permit which was true.

Oh,m almost forgot, loose dogs are hard to trap or catch. Dogs in a particular area will not enter the trap once they know a couple of their fellow dogs have been caught, so the traps must be moved frequently. We also tried a net approach - we designed a 6 foot diamter rope net with a re-bar around the rim to make a large circular net we could throw over a dog along the road as we tossed it from the truck. - didn't work! it seems like the dogs on Tinian learned that our truck was bad news and they would run away before we could gete anywhere near them - even though they stayed put as other cars and trucks passed! Incredible!

It's realtively slow progress, but we have made a significant difference so far and if we keep at it, I believe in 6 months or so, it will be a much better place. When we issue that first citation, we plan on making a PR release - just to leet the public know we really mean business - this time.

I've probably left something out, but if I think of anything else important, I'll let you know - feel free to use this anyway you want.

Tom Arkle"

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