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Mixed reactions from pet owners on new veterinarian

A women with her dog at a free spay neuter clinic in American Samoa

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Samoa News received several phone calls last week, from local pet owners, airing out their frustrations over what they call the 'unprofessional' and 'unreliable' services of the new Dept. of Agriculture veterinarian, Dr. Kenneth Lameta.

Samoa News understands that the new vet is not US trained, neither is he US certified.

One pet owner claims that her dog died and was buried after the new vet failed to render the required services, which was a surgical procedure.

Earlier this year in January, DOA director Filifaatali Mike Fuiava told Samoa News that he was entertaining two applications for the job. One was from Malaysia; the other from Samoa.

Dr. Lameta is from Samoa, a graduate of the School of Agriculture at Alafua, where he also taught. His veterinarian studies also took him to a university in the Philippines.

There has been no confirmation yet on whether the new vet has obtained a license from the Health Regulatory Board. Samoa News was unable to obtain comments from Filifaatali over the weekend but in an initial interview, the DOA director said the low annual salary of $50,000 makes it hard to attract qualified veterinarians to work in American Samoa.

He called the salary "too low" and added that there are current DOA staff members who have had ample on-the-job training, and therefore, are able to perform surgeries and other services requested by pet owners.

He did say that while the applicant from Samoa is a doctor, he is not U.S. certified, meaning he cannot order prescription drugs for cats and dogs from the US mainland. According to Filifaatali, there is an agreement in place between DOA and LBJ, whereby the Medical Center can order the prescription drugs and DOA picks them up from them.

The other option, said Filifaatali, is to have the vet order the meds from New Zealand and Australia, as he is certified to do so.

The race to hire a new vet came after former veterinarian Kirsten Jensen's contract ended earlier this year in January. A renewal negotiation was not possible, as Jensen had family matters in the U.S. that required her attention. She departed the territory Jan. 28.