MAN'S BEST FRIEND

Aim gun at yourself, not dogs

Dogs instinctively look for shelter from man—that there are stray dogs means humanity has failed.

In Summary

• Dogs instinctively look for shelter from man—that there are stray dogs means humanity has failed.

• That there are many stray dogs in your neighbourhood probably means that there is enough food and water in the streets.

Aim guns at yourself, not dogs
Aim guns at yourself, not dogs
Image: STAR ILLUSTRATED

The history of man isn’t complete without the mention of dogs. These friendly animals have walked beside man throughout the ages, offering unconditional companionship and security. The closeness of this relationship has culminated in the phrase—the dog is man’s best friend.

Dogs today play even more critical roles in human life. Dogs are used in medicine to sniff when epileptics are about to experience seizures. Scientists are currently studying how dogs can be used to smell cancer cells. Dogs are being used to sniff out narcotics concealed in bags in airports and bombs, subsequently saving lives.

For the love of dogs humanity has supported their perpetuation and today the world is home to millions of dogs, sadly some of them homeless. Humanity has grown less friendly to their erstwhile friend and today dogs can be found roaming in all major towns, especially in developing countries.

 

Stray dogs are treated harshly; they have evolved to be aggressive towards their earthly master. No doubt roaming dogs pose a great health challenge to the public but we must also ask the hard question—how have we as humans contributed to this?

It was reported recently that some counties have passed legislation to kill all roaming dogs? A stray dog is one not under the direct control of a person (owner) or not prevented from roaming. There are free-roaming owned dogs that are not under direct control or restriction at a particular time.

Many countries, including Kenya, already have good legislation framework that advocate registration, identification and vaccination against rabies of all dogs. If these legislations were enforced, most of the current challenges would be addressed in a humane way without abusing the welfare of dogs.

There is another category that includes free-roaming dogs with no owners. Feral dogs are domestic dogs that have reverted to the wild state and are no longer dependent upon humans. In all these categories; human behaviour is the common denominator as a root cause and that is where the guns should be fired, not at man’s best friend. Dogs instinctively look for shelter from man—that there are stray dogs means humanity has failed.

The presence of uncollected garbage is among the main factors that support the emergence of stray or roaming dogs. That there are many stray dogs in your neighbourhood probably means that there is enough food and water out there in the streets.

So the shoot-to-kill order looks like fighting a fire from the top and not at its root. It is a short-term measure that will lower competition among the residual population, hence, more reproduction and reversal of the process.

It would be better to educate the masses on responsible dog ownership and population control measures. Responsible ownership is about knowing that the dog depends on the owners in as much as the owner depends on it. It means that a dog owner is duty bound to provide shelter and food to their dogs.

Many countries, including Kenya, already have good legislation framework that advocate registration, identification and vaccination against rabies of all dogs. If these legislations were enforced, most of the current challenges would be addressed in a humane way without abusing the welfare of dogs.

 

Confinement of dogs, for example, will minimise aggression, nuisance and injuries they may pose to those in the neighbourhood. Annual vaccination of dogs against rabies by the owners can easily result in eradication of rabies from the world.

However, a recent knowledge attitudes and practices study done in Nairobi funded by the World Animal Protection shows that most dog owners aren’t aware of the existence of such methods. Good public education on responsible dog ownership can come in handy in ensuring their numbers are within habitable limits.

The World Organization for Animal Health advocates control of dog population but without causing unnecessary or avoidable subsequent suffering. The OIE vouches for the involvement of veterinary doctors to take the lead in ensuring animal welfare while carrying out dog population control and coordinating the activities of other competent public institutions and/or agencies.

The OIE notes that dog population control must be accompanied by changes in human behaviour because dog ecology is linked to human activities.

Director, World Animal Protection-Africa