Gweru, SPCA clash over stray dogs

BY STEPHEN CHADENGA

The Gweru City Council and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) on Wednesday clashed over the local authority’s decision to shoot stray dogs to protect residents against rabies, but the SPCA felt that the council was violating animal rights.

City director of health services, Sam Sekenhamo said council had recorded an increase in the number of dog bites and to prevent a rabies outbreak the local authority had to enforce a leash order which expired last month.

“As council we had ordered residents to secure their dogs as we enforced a tie-up-order during the period April 10 to May 10,” Sekenhamo said on Wednesday at a meeting on stray animals held at Town House.

“But since you (SPCA) called us and promised to come up with other ways other than shooting the dogs we had to temporarily shelve that decision.”

SPCA inspector Simbarashe Kurumbidza, however, said shooting dogs was a violation of animal rights and urged council to provide them with material for making dog traps.

He said there was need for awareness campaigns to help dog owners secure their animals.

“As a society we have two traps and we strongly believe that if council can assist us with more traps we can trap a lot of dogs instead of
shooting them,” Kurumbidza said.

“We can also have outreach meetings to assist dog owners meet standards for securing their dogs. This process would be ongoing and we cannot put a timeline.”

But Sekenhamo said council would provide SPCA with 10 dog traps and gave the end of July as the deadline for the society to catch the
stray animals.

“After that period (up to July 31) if nothing materialises we have no option, but to shoot and where we suspect any rabid dog we will
obviously shoot them down,” he said.

“To us human life is more important than animal life and we cannot put human life at stake and besides we are only targeting stray dogs. In any case, we have been empowered by a council resolution and by-laws to shoot the dogs, but we chose to engage stakeholders, yet they
(stakeholders) seem to shift goal posts.”

According to council health reports from the period January to June this year, the local authority recorded 48 dog bites, 24 and 13
vaccinated and unvaccinated dogs, respectively, while 11 cases were unknown.

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