I really have enjoyed my semester abroad in Samoa. It is a fascinating place, and a unique travel destination. I happily recommend it to anyone willing to get a bit “off the beaten track.” That said, this semester I feel like I would like to acknowledge something that has troubled me this semester. After all, Samoa is a real place with real problems. One of these that I wanted to touch upon is the abundance of dogs.
Dogs are a real problem in Samoa. You see them everywhere; in the countryside, in small villages, downtown Apia, and even out on the university campus. Many are strays that just roam around, but some are protective family dogs which also wander but can be aggressive if you approach the property.
Samoa is not a place for canine lovers. Though dogs are abundant in here, they are not the nice, clean cute little pooch that will curl up on your lap by the fireplace. Instead, they are dirty, often injured, and can be very aggressive. At night, some travel to and fro in packs, fighting and howling through the night. And it can be quite intimidating to be walking down the road and come across one of these dog packs.
This year Samoa held the Small Islands Development Conference, and therefore has really been cracking down on the number of vagrant dogs wandering the streets. They issued a law stating that every family must pay 30 tala to have their dog registered and have a collar for their dog. If any dog is caught without a collar they are to be euthanized. And although there are still a large number of dogs roaming the streets (more than I ever have seen), I have been assured multiple times by many people who say the dog problem is a lot better now than it had been previously.
If you come across an aggressive dog, locals have a strategy. First, they make a hissing sound (like telling someone to be quiet), a loud Shhhhhhhhhhh, followed by the Samoan word “alu!” or “go!” Than locals will bend over to pretend to pick up a rock. I will say that this is effective about 95% of the time, and the aggressive dog will usually tuck its tail and run away. Yet, on occasion, I have seen a local actually throw a rock at a dog who will not leave them alone.
Though personally I have never had an issue with dogs in Samoa, it has definitely been a challenge for me to see them here. Many do not look so well and either are sick, malnourished, or injured. And though I have never had a bad incident with a dog here, I have on occasion had to bend over as if to pick up rock to scare one or two off that was a little to interested in me. The whole experience is very off-putting, and is difficult to get used to. This has been something I really struggled here. And though not all dogs are aggressive (most of the dogs roaming the campus are fine), they nonetheless take some real getting used to.
I do not write this to dissuade anyone from coming to Samoa, but it is important to note that Samoa still is a developing country, and as such really has a few problems such as the roaming packs of dogs.