There have been many complaints about stray dogs in Lusaka, just like in other major cities around the globe, yet the problem still remains unsolved.
Some people are scared of being beaten by dogs and do not like them freely roaming the streets. Others feel the dogs lead to the deterioration of hygiene standards in the environment because they defecate anywhere and sometimes the owners do not care about cleaning up the fecal matter.
Stray dogs obviously have many negative impacts on city environment and human health. Other than the feces garbage, they cause noise pollution and sometimes traffic accidents.
Truly to complaints, haphazard urban planning and human overpopulation have resulted in a correspondingly huge population of street dogs in our townships sometimes resulting in problems such as rabies, dog bites, noise due to barking and howling.
The complainants are, of course, right and the people have rights too to be protected from the dangers posed by stray dogs. Something must obviously be done to ensure their fears are relieved.
But when the local authorities attempts to respond to the people’s demands to rid the communities of stray and unvaccinated dogs, they face resistance from animal lovers who accuse them of torturing the animals.
The animal lovers are also right, because the dogs may sometimes be killed in a rather ruthless manner. We humans do not grant the dogs lives, so do we actually have the right to take it away from them?
One thing is true though, that dogs have been living amon human beings peacefully, but when they are shot and killed ‘mercilessly’, like man eaters, or injected with overdosed vaccines so they die immediately, it will obviously infuriate the owners and animal lovers.
Humans and dogs are both living beings, and some people are of the view that, one cannot be deemed more important than the other. But when discussions over finding a solution to the problem of stray dogs reach a futile point, as in most cases, we need to question whether the priority must be on dogs or humans. We need to sit down, think thoroughly and solve this problem in a humane way.
In our view, our proposition to Lusaka City Council (LCC), and other local authorities, in dealing with stray dogs, is as follows:
First, the local authority needs to establish a sound system of monitoring stray dogs. Secondly, the local authority, working with the Veterinary Department, should provide ongoing vaccination for stray dogs so they do not pose any danger of disease to the public.
Thirdly, there must be increased collaboration between the local authorities, the animal rights organizations and other animal protection organisations so that whatever programmes are implemented, have the support and input of all the concerned parties, and are professionally implanted.
Lastly, the council and partners need to develop and implement long lasting measures to monitor and control stray dogs in the city, so that curing them is not just a one off affair, which raises criticism and antagonism between government and animal rights activists.
The city council has recently announced it will soon start killing stray dogs in compounds in order to reduce on their number and promote the people’s safety and environmental hygiene.
The Public Relations Manager, George Sichimba has appealed to residents and animal rights activists to support the programme, to be carried out by the council in combination with the police, to ensure the problems of rabies, in particular, are eliminated in the city.
He said that the local authority, through the Public Health Department, carried out a door-to-door dog registration and vaccination sensitization exercise around Lusaka with the hope of enhancing compliance with dog vaccination and registration.
He said that, according to the Control of Dogs Act, Cap 247 of the Laws of Zambia, households are only permitted to keep two dogs which should be secured during day time and only freed at night but within the owners’ premises. Keeping more dogs requires permission from the local authority.
We totally agree though, that the issue of stray dogs around Lusaka’s compounds and other places around the nation, is a real problem which requires solving. However, this must be done through a rather civilized and reasonable manner.