SAIPAN – The Dog Control Program under the Office of the Mayor of Saipan within the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands welcomed back members of its team this week after a year of being furloughed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

From having a three-person team during the past year, the program is now back to its full staff of eight members, including Martin Pangelinan Jr., who leads the team.

All employees of the Saipan mayor’s office, Pangelinan noted, are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, including recalled employees.

At the height of the pandemic, of the more than 60 employees at the Saipan mayor’s office, 38 lost their jobs, including five staff members with the dog control program.

Due to the pandemic affecting the local and global economies, government agencies, including the Saipan mayor’s office, had to furlough or terminate some of their employees.

“We were struggling this past year with manpower, but, ... due to the federal funding, we are getting (our employees) back. It’s going to be a really big ‘plus’ for us,” said Pangelinan.

He said that the mission and objective of the program remain the same: to reduce the stray dog population and keep the streets safe for children and other community members.

Asked whether the manpower the program currently has is sufficient for the tasks at hand, Pangelinan said, “It’s never enough. This stray population is just too much, so the more (employees), the better for the program.”

He added that, in the near future, the program will be looking into hiring more employees.

As of Tuesday, Pangelinan said, there were 40 dogs being held in the animal shelter.

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