Chidi Oguamanam



Of stray Dogs, Humans and Social Responsibility

Posted by Chidi Oguamanam on August 19, 2014 at 2:45 PM

The three mega cities of New Delhi (India), Cairo (Egypt) and Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) have something in common: An intimidating presence of stray dogs! Many animal rights activists and municipal bureaucrats in these three cities remain ever restive to the nightmares stray dogs constitute in their midst. It is not unusual for the serenity of night sleep in the city centres to be truncated not by wayward crows of rogue roosters – those that crow out of time on occasions – but by often ceaseless barking or, more appropriately, howling of destitute dogs.


In the daytime, one beholds pitiable ubiquity of stray dogs in the cities’ nook and cranny. The dogs appear in different forms, sizes, age groups, genders and dispositions. They have diverse countenance; some are friendly, docile and laid back, others are downright rude and ferocious. Depending on which part of each city and what time of the day, some look fairly well fed, others are in dire stress rummaging through city waste and hanging around some unofficially adopted spots where food is often thrown at them. The bitches among them continuously carry on endless reproduction process, despite their palpable deficiencies, littering the streets with a cycle of the next generation of stray dogs. The situation is quite horrifying. One is left to wonder whether the goose bump inducing adverts by the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the resulting funds can ever make a difference in the remotest part of the world where animals are abused. It is unavoidable to ponder the possibility of an animal equivalent of the reputable Medicines Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in the form of Vétérinaires Sans Frontières (Veterinarians Without Borders).


The omnipresence of stray dogs provokes yet another cause for reflection on the factors that account for their prevalence. Like humans, stray animals are often products of dysfunctional homes, both of their owners and even of the pets themselves. Most of the dogs that are now members of the stray fraternity were not born stray. They had loving homes before circumstances changed. Some were conceived and born into a stray lineage though. They do not know any other life. So, the membership status of the stray fraternity of canines is not equal. Most become stray by various circumstances including personal adversity, abuse, and changes in the circumstances of their owners. It is also not uncommon that some stray dogs are products of congenital wayward behaviour that frustrate the best efforts of even the most beneficent and dedicated of owners.


The public nuisance ramifications of the stray dog menace are multi-faceted. Mostly early in the mornings, after their howling through the nights and foraging through the litter bins, stray dogs have a tendency to convene in characteristic public demonstration of promiscuity, even of admirable solidarity. Most early morning workouts have been cut short by a wall of stray dogs. That was once my experience in Cairo. In addition to their rabbis-infested bites, stray dogs are pathogenic vehicles for other forms of viruses that threaten public health.


Stray syndrome in canine societies has also some parallel in human societies. In the Lagos metropolis, I have yet to take a considered note of stray dogs. Perhaps, that is not a big issue in Lagos it has become in the three cities I have hitherto focused. If so, good of Lagos. But there are many a destitute and stray members of the society all over the world. They are called by various names and they are represented in diverse categories. In Lagos, street urchins are not born equal. They are also called by different names such as area boys, pavement dwellers, under the bridge landlords, etc. Similarly, they arrive at their unenviable status by different routes. Not the least of which are dysfunctional homes, dramatic personal circumstances, chronic waywardness, outright revolt against family and authority symbols and pathological inclination towards rebellion and prodigality. They tend to also constitute significant public health and public security threats. They remain present and existing danger to social cohesion. Stray members of human family are easy candidates for drug, sex, alcohol and other forms of abuse, radicalisation and dangerous indiscretions.


On a deep refection, societies have treated stray dogs with as much insensitivity as they treat some of the human population on the fringe. History is rich with accounts of how dogs (man’s best friends) have been betrayed and maltreated across civilisations. On a more recent note, one cannot but remember the 2013 Stray Dogs Euthanasia Bill in Romania, which was passed into law by 100 per cent parliamentary majority. How societies treat stray dogs has a corollary to how they treat their vulnerable population. In many societies, public policy provides support for sanctuaries and second chance for stray animals. Such societies insist upon holding accountable those who by their negligence abdicate their responsibilities to vulnerable dogs and other pets.


Lagos’ fringe or stray populations have been historically given correlating forms of the Romanian stray dog policy. Often, these “area boys” have been rounded up by security agencies upon flimsy excuses and subjected to gross human rights violations. Some have been “deported” even in their own country! Some of them, who are also victims of mental and other psychological afflictions have been variously re-victimised, even burnt alive through jungle justice. However, in other societies, homeless people, pavement dwellers and various members of the stray population have even been indulged through elaborate rehabilitation programmes, such as, shelters, feeding programmes, safe injection sites (for drug addicts) etc. The NGOs and municipalities are frequently the arrowheads of these humanitarian rescue missions through creative forms of public-private public interest partnerships.


It is the responsibility of the government and the citizenry at large of any decent society to seriously tackle the moral crisis of stray members of both human and animal societies on the fringe and at the brink. There are so many of those from Lagos to Addis, New Delhi and elsewhere in need of urgent and creative interventions.


This op-ed appeared in The Punch newspaper of Tuesday August 19 under the title: Of stray dogs, humans and social responsibility

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1 Comment

Reply DevonLoawn
3:08 PM on February 1, 2017 
Animal rights groups say the comparison with terror attacks is alarmist hyperbole. But in a country where courts are struggling with a chronic backlog of more than 30 million cases, it is intriguing that the top court has been grappling with the issue of stray - or free roaming dogs - and rabies.

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