IF THE Mayors Council of Guam is going to take over the functions of the Department of Agriculture’s Animal Control Unit, they’ll be taking on a big job. Because contrary to some public statements made late last year, the division keeps its four employees pretty busy responding to thousands of complaints every year, trapping hundreds of strays and picking up nearly 3,000 carcasses of animals killed by cars on our roads.
At one time, the animal control function was handled by the Department of Public Health and Social Services with as many as 17 employees. The division was moved to agriculture, but the budget was slashed, with only enough money to hire four people and keep two pickup trucks in operation. There is not enough to transfer very much to the mayors.
The government of Guam actually gets a pretty good bang for its animal control buck. In 2011, they delivered 1,440 animals to the animal shelter in Yigo operated by Guam Animals In Need. That was a little less than half of all the animals handled by the shelter, since most are brought in by owners and surrendered.
In addition, the officers responded to more than 4,800 complaints or requests for assistance, investigated more than 940 cruelty allegations, and wrote 13 citations. The four animal control officers, or ACOs, also completed 1,870 educational demonstrations or issued warnings. And, in what is undoubtedly the least pleasant part of their job, they collected more than 2,800 dead animals from the roads and took them to the landfill for disposal.
In many other jurisdictions, the functions of animal control are handled by police officers, who are authorized to enter private property and are armed. Government of Guam ACOs are not peace officers, so they do not carry guns. They actually only spend about 10 percent of their time trapping dogs – a small part of their overall responsibilities.
And ironically, the mayors have long had the authority to trap dogs and issue citations to owners who do not leash or confine their dogs as required by law. We wonder how many citations they have actually issued in the last 20 years, because that might give a clue as to how well they might handle the job if they are given complete authority for animal control.
Basically it will all come down to money. Four animal control officers operating two pickup trucks handle the job for the entire island now.
The mayors will need at least as much as is presently budgeted, and probably more to do the job better than it is now being done.