August 19, 2016

The Stray Dogs: Should They be Culled?

Khin Maung Myint

Most people would agree that the stray dogs are nuisances, even if they are not rabid or do not bite anyone. They can be found almost everywhere: in markets, on the roads and streets, inside some tea shops and roadside eateries and sometimes even on the football grounds while the games are going on. I don’t think I’ll need to go on mentioning all the places they can be found, because it may not end. Most of the stray dogs are infested with lice and one kind of skin infection or the other and thus they are very disgusting that no health-conscious person would like to get in contact with them.
According to a WHO fact sheet, just a contact with them could cause the rabies virus to be transmitted to human. Our roads and streets, especially in the crowded residential areas, are swarming with stray dogs and hence dogs’ poo or feces are littered everywhere. Thus, their presence among the human, especially at the markets and eateries are undesirable and unacceptable, as they can cause health problems.
Another bothersome problem is, their barking, howling and whining during the nights, especially during the late hours of the night and the early hours before the dawn. For light sleepers and those who are suffering from insomnia and sick people, they are not only very annoying, but also have serious effects on their health. Those who stay in the crowded residential wards, like me, will agree with my statement.
Aside from the annoyances caused by these stray dogs another problem, which is the worst, is to be bitten by them. The victim of a dog bite must try to get immediate treatment with a preventive injection as soon as possible. The injections are sometimes not readily available and are quite expensive too. One would be lucky if that dog didn’t die in a few days after biting, otherwise one would be headed for big trouble, which could cost him his life.
The WHO had reported a few months ago that a very high per-centage, about seventy or so, if I remember correctly, of the stray dogs in Yangon are rabid and Myanmar is also classified as a high rabies endemic country. Although there are other animals such as , rodents, bats and cats, etc, which also carry rabies viruses, the causes of deaths due to rabies were mostly caused by dog bites. According to a news item in the 9 June 2016 issue of The Global New Light of Myanmar, there were over 60,000 recorded cases, out of which over 1000 succumbed to rabies in the whole country last year. I wonder how many stray dogs are there in the whole country.
In the past, the Yangon Municipality authorities periodically culled the stray dogs by poisoning them. However, as the times had changed and many dog lovers opposed such actions, they are no more seen to be carried out. Recently, there are arguments on the social media concerning the eradication of the stray dogs. While the general populace want the stray dogs to be eradicated, the dog lovers are ardently against it. Today, what we are experiencing in our residential ward is: if someone tried to protect oneself from a charging stray dog by throwing stones at the dog or kicking or hitting it with something, someone would appear and give a tongue-lashing. Such confrontations not only end up in abuses and curses, but they sometimes got out of control that led to blows and even to murders. However, if someone had been bitten by that same dog, you wouldn’t be able to find the owner.
In my opinion, the street dogs or stray dogs should be cleared from the roads and streets of the city, for good, by one way or the other. By thus saying, I don’t mean that they must be culled. There are many ways and means to do that. In most foreign countries they catch the stray dogs and impound them in shelters after immunizing them. Dog lovers who want to adopt them can go to those places to choose the ones they want to adopt.Those that are not adopted are sterilized and have to remain in the pound until their deaths.
However, the method to offer for adoption wouldn’t be applicable to our country, as most street dogs are of multi mix breeds and most are rabid, no one would care to take them into their homes as pets. Thus, to get rid of the stray dogs from our streets, the only option is to terminate them. Again, I’m not suggesting that they should be culled. One method is to catch them and impound them in shelters until they passed away in the natural way. However, that could be difficult due to high expenses involved. Thus, the next option would be to immunize them and at the same time sterilize them and just leave them to roam the streets until their deaths. This method would only partially solve the problem, because although they may not cause deaths due to rabies to human, they would still be bothersome to the populace for quite awhile before they totally disappeared.
Although when the stray street dogs disappeared there would still remain the pets of the dog lovers. Thus strict regulations should be in place to control the dogs and cats kept as pets. They should be properly registered and issued permits or licenses, which are subjected to renewal regularly after the pets are vaccinated to immunize them against rabies. Pets should have collars to indicate that they are properly registered and immunized. Pet owners should also be instructed as to the DO and DON’Ts, while taking their pets out for walks. They should have leashes on at all times so that it would be easy to control their dogs. They should not let their pets to pee or poo in the streets indiscriminately. Its their duty not to litter the neighbourhood with animal feces.
Here, I would like to share a very interesting experience with the readers. I once noticed a Korean expatriate walking his dog, inside the Kandawgyi Bogyoke Park, early one morning. The dog had a leash on and at one place his dog pulled him away off the footpath and the man just went along, then the dog released himself. After the dog had finished, the Korean pulled out a plastic bag from his pant pocket and scooped away the dog’s poo and took it away. From what I witnessed, I understood straight away that it must be compulsory in their country to take care not to litter the public places with animal feces. It’s a good practice that should be introduced in our country and insist, or rather, strictly enforce the dog lovers to observe.
Before concluding, I would like to mention an excerpt from the WHO fact sheet ( updated March 2916), which is as follows:—

l      Rabies is a vaccine-preventable viral disease, which occurs in more than 150 countries and territories.
l      Dogs are the source of the vast  majority of human rabies deaths, contributing up to 99% of all rabies transmissions to humans.
l      Rabies elimination is feasible by vaccinating dogs.
l      Infections cause tens of thousands of deaths per year, mostly in Asia and Africa.
l      40% of people who are bitten by suspect rabid animals are children under 15 years of age.
l     Immediate wound cleansing with soap and water after contact with a suspect rabid  animal can be life-saving.
l      Every year, more than 15 million people would receive a post-bite vaccination. This is estimated to prevent hundreds of thousands of rabies deaths annually.

Finally, I would like to advice the public to take great care not to be bitten by dogs, whether they are pets or pests. I had came across many dog owners, who are reluctant to spend money to immunize their pets. So, if you are bitten by a dog, take proper treatment from a specialized hospital for rabies prevention, even if the dog happens to be a pet. Pet owners too, should take great care to immunize their pets regularly for the safety of their family members and others in the community. Dog owners should realize that dogs may be pets for some but they pests for others.


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