All stray dogs should be shot on sight

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Dogs are truly man’s best companion for when they are properly trained, they can do almost anything around the house.

We have read about dogs that have called emergency numbers when the owner had collapsed.

I also read about a dog that took a baby out of the house when the house caught fire and also dogs that can deliver parcels at neighbours’ homes.

I, however, find it so difficult to understand why we have so many stray dogs in our residential areas. Some of the dogs are so vicious they have bitten passersby for no apparent reason.

What is also disturbing is the high number of these dogs that get hit by moving traffic especially at night.
But who are the owners of these dogs?

It is difficult to tell what kind of people own dogs, but the majority I am acquainted to, are just ordinary working class people.

Although these dogs keep watch over our properties both day and night, I have noticed they are not well-fed and generally eat leftovers from the dining table.

One family left their dog to starve when they went away over the festive season. It managed to jump over the fence and started roaming around a neighbourhood for food. A report was made to some animal organisation that took it away.

Recently, a newspaper report mentioned that rabies was on the rise in Harare and it is imperative for authorities to take action against people who leave their dogs straying.

Rabies is a deadly virus that attacks the CNS (central nervous system) and causes acute encephalitis. It is transmitted from animals to humans (zoonotic), most commonly by animal bites although there have been cases of humans becoming infected in bat caves after breathing in the air.

Rabies infection is nearly always fatal unless prompt treatment is administered before symptoms begin.

Infected people who do not receive post-exposure prophylaxis (preventative treatment after being exposed to the virus) will experience fever, myalgia (muscle pains) and headache, which eventually progresses to brain inflammation, seizures, confusion, paralysis, coma and death.

This stark reality about rabies seems not to deter dog owners from visiting the veterinary clinic and only learn the hard way when their rabid dogs have bitten an innocent person across the street.

A man in Warren Park has six dogs at a 200-square-metre property, a situation that has irked his wife.

“The dogs sit in the lounge and sleep in the kitchen. Imagine the smell they emit because they are never bathed. I do not remember the last time they were vaccinated,” said the wife of the dog owner.

The woman said the dogs are so vicious and that they have bitten mostly cyclists that pass by their house.

The property has a low fence and this makes it impossible to keep them in because they get too excited and jump over.

“Our property is too small for such a big number of dogs. What should we do? These dogs attack people and I think they have to be put down so that many lives are protected. I have never seen these dogs being taken for vaccinations and yet they are now five years old. We may be keeping rabid dogs.”

Although I don’t have statistics for rabies in Zimbabwe, Pakistan loses 500 000 people annually to rabies. Statistics for India are even higher.

In Zambia, stray dogs are shot on sight by municipal authorities and the bodies taken away in an open truck for disposal. This may seem a harsh measure, but how best can you control stray dogs?
This measure will no doubt control the stray dog population.

Some of the dogs would have developed visible signs of rabies like salivating from the mouth.

Zambia is one country that takes rabies seriously where authorities demand rabies vaccination certificates from house to house.

When dogs stray, they would be running away from hunger sometimes.

Not many families cook food for these animals and when there are no leftovers, the dog starves and hence sneaks out at the best opportunity.

I used to have a dog from the neighbourhood that kept following me after I had given it food. The dog eventually started sleeping at my gate and became my watchdog for it would be there all day and night. But I don’t see it anymore
. . . probably strayed to another area.

Dogs need love so that they too can take care of their owners. Dog owners need to buy kennels so that they also have a place to sleep comfortably. A properly-fed dog will never stray.

E-how explains that when your dog is in your backyard, make it a fun place to be.

“Every day, spend time playing with your dog in your yard. Contrary to popular belief, dogs don’t get enough exercise simply because they are put outside. Dogs that are confined to a yard still need to go for walks and enjoy playing fetch and hide-and-seek games with you.”

Domestic animals like dogs, cats and horses are the most important factors for the spread and transmission of rabies.

According PetEducation.Com, there is no treatment for rabies. Once the disease develops in humans, death is almost certain. Only a handful of people have survived rabies after extremely intensive medical care.

There have been several reported cases of dogs surviving the infection, but they are very rare.

Vaccination is the best way to prevent infection and properly- vaccinated animals stand very little chance of contracting the disease. While rabies vaccination for dogs is mandatory for most countries, it is estimated that up to half of all dogs are not vaccinated.

So next time you come across a stray dog, know that this animal could be a possible carrier of rabies.

Feed back: rmapimhidze@newsday.co.zw