Problems with stray dogs: complications and ways to solve it

“Uluchay ” SEIC, as a think tank,  continues its research on social, economic, ecological and other areas of our region and submits its proposals and recommendations to consideration of relevant state bodies and the public. Although the research topics are broad and varied, there are specific problems that cannot be ignored.

One of such problems are the negative cases and complications caused by stray and wild animals (mainly stray dogs) not only in the city where we live, but also in most parts of our country. Given the right dissatisfaction of the residents of Shaki with this problem, we considered it reasonable to conduct a short research. Although this issue is specific, the research revealed that the approaches of most of the relevant government agencies and the population are different in addressing this problem.

In order to realize this problem in a broader sense, first of all, it is necessary to classify stray dogs in a certain order, so that people can get a full idea of it and find even more humane solutions to the problem:

Dogs that are owned but remain uncontrolled

These dogs appear on the streets very rare (as a result of coincidence, for example, when the door of the house or yard remains open, etc.). Most of these animals are small in sizes, as well as special breed dogs, and they do not pose a threat to humans. Such animals are quickly found by their owners and returned home, and there is no need to take any measures related to dogs of this category. The only danger may be that these dogs can become carriers of certain infections (mainly, rabies) due to contact with other wild dogs. In such cases, it is enough for dog owner to urgently pass the animal through veterinary examination.

Stray dogs abandoned by the owner

Animals that were previously owned and subsequently abandoned by their owners for various reasons. Although dogs of this category do not pose a threat to humans for the first little while, later as a result of lack of human care and attention, as well as a contact with wild dogs, settling in different parts of the city in search of food they gradually begin to become wild and create various problems for humans.

Wild dogs

  • Heedless of the fact that such dogs continue to exist mainly on the outskirts of the city, near rivers and in the landfill, at night they wander around other parts of the city and even in the center. Most of these dogs are never owned, in most cases they have the same breeds and are considered unpretentious (not required). They often stay away from settlements, however in a number of cases (mainly at night) they also hurt people. People who live in new residential areas built in the outskirts of the city are mostly affected to the attack of these dogs.

According to statistics:

  • In 2018, more than 20,000 people across the country were attacked by dogs.
  • In the first three months of 2019, 5,000 people were bitten by dogs and in some cases it led to a lethal outcome (death).

Moreover, it is very important to allocate animals (dogs) according to their degree of significance in order to properly build an action strategy in this sphere.

  • Dogs belonging to special and rare breeds – these dogs are considered very valuable, they have a special regime and carefully fed in homes and have all the necessary medical and culinary services. Special rules are followed when these dogs are taken for a walk. These dogs have owners and there is no need in any activity to be carried on by various institutions.
  • Dogs that are considered to be mass-growing and unpretentious (not requested and mostly big) – these animals are partially belong to the 2nd and totally to the 3rd category we have mentioned above. All activities carried out are attributed to animals of this category.

We tried to know the attitude of both government agencies and local people to clarify how they are treated and what kind of activities are carried out with regard to dogs of the 2nd and 3rd categories in this classification.

Most part of population, as it was in the past, offers to kill (shoot) stray and wild dogs wandering around the different parts of the city. In the past, notwithstanding with the fact that people were provided with comfort by preventing intervention of wild dogs in the center of the city due to their killing, however the number of wild dogs declined very little. However, this sphere was always under control.

As a result of discussions, it became clear that people of this opinion are not aware of the fact that Azerbaijan joined the central bodies of the Council of Europe, European Convention on Animal Protection in Strasbourg in 1997, and, accordingly, that the law “On the protection of animals” was adopted in our country in 2007.

At the same time, most of the population is unaware that according to Article 129 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, various fines are imposed on peopler for their acts towards animals that can be considered cruel (non-humane):

Persons who kill animals or treat and cripple them brutally 500 manats

 

Application of medicines, medical and technical techniques to enhance or reduce racing, sales and other natural capabilities of animals 200 manats
For unpleasant behavior, such as changing the appearance of pets or performing surgery that is not intended for treatment, including cutting animal’s ears, removing claws or teeth, etc. 200 manats
Violation of rules for shipping animals out and in to the country 100-300 manats

Note: Currently, works on drafting a new law for further humanization of the fight against stray animals are continued.

State bodies responsible for this sphere do not support the application of this method, which prohibits the physical destruction of wild dogs by Law. Despite the fact that this is the right approach, other relevant measures stipulated by the Law are not implemented. Responsible state organizations emphasize the need for large financial investment for comprehensive solution of the problem by implementing the necessary measures. Indeed, for a comprehensive solution of this issue, large investments are made in different countries. Because it is impossible to solve this problem without necessary funds. The point is that taking care of dogs is not so simple. Creation of shelters (landfills) for stray dogs, frequent bathing with medication, vaccination and sterilization, disciplining to special foods, timely provision of vitamins, taking care of them according to hygienic rules, etc. – all these require large and lasting investment.

The activity on cleaning and subsequent destinies of the city from stray and wild dogs is carried out by Department of fight against stray animals of Shaki Housing and Communal Production Association (the activity of Shaki HCPA is regulated by the Department of economy of Shaki Executive power and a significant part of its budget is formed by this institution. At the same time, this institution gets normal funds on the basis of identified rate based on health care, culture, education, private sector and the service provided to the local population).

It is impossible to get an access to information about the activities of Shaki City Municipality in this sphere, while in other countries this sphere is regulated by local municipalities (the cost of maintaining the Shaki City Municipality’s apparatus is 53,9%, housing and communal services and other costs are 33,1% of budget incomes).

Since the form of fight against stray and wild dogs is regulated by Law, the form of activities should be also changed and a new concept should be developed urgently. Cooperation of Shaki City Municipality and HCPA in this sphere should be expanded, as well as animal lovers, animal rights defenders, Non-Governmental Organizations, media and proactive society should be involved in solution of this problem. Because the number of stray and wild dogs is constantly growing, they have already begun to group in central parts of the city. The fact that these dogs, many of whom are unpretentious and continue to grow in mass, wandering freely in the city, worsens the situation in all areas day by day. The situation has reached such a level that some of these dogs have already begun to injure people (mainly underage children). They also aggravate the epidemic situation by destroying the garbage on the streets. In the evenings (in winter it darkens quickly) the walk of children from school became a big risk. Therefore, most of the population wants appropriate steps to be taken and this issue to be resolved quickly.

Of course, joining of government agencies to various conventions is a commendable step. However, even in case of joining the convention, letting issues run their course ultimately leads to additional problems. Thus, before applying penalties, these stray dogs should be collected in a certain place (shelters, landfills), should be provided food supply, neutralization of sick animals, vaccination or sterilization and other issues had to be resolved. As the mentioned measures have not been implemented, there appeared such a tense situation we are currently facing.

Representatives of the relevant state bodies note, that to the extent possible, they collect and vaccinate stray dogs and leave them on the streets again. Activities of Veterinary Administration and IDEA (mainly in Baku city) in this direction are particularly noticeable.

The approach of animal rights defenders to this issue is different. Most of them believe that they are the people who make street dogs aggressive. Moreover, it should be noted that those who defend the rights of animals do not take any exact steps to change the situation for the better. We cannot see their activity in our city, as for example, working on a voluntary basis, educating the society, getting support from them both financially and organizationally, and in other areas.

Let’s consider the experience of different countries in order to understand the issue more clearly and determine the direction of activities:

  • In Turkey, all stray animals on street are detected, examined and vaccinated by the state. In order to distinguish vaccinated animals from others, special labels are attached to their ears. Local municipalities are responsible for collection and control over stray animals.
  • In Russia, Greece, as well as in our country, hunted dogs after sterilization and vaccination are left to those areas where they have been hunted. This process does not cover all stray dogs.
  • According to the decision of United States National Animal Care and Control Association, free movement of dogs on city streets (without owner) is prohibited. In accordance with them, these dogs increase the risk of epidemics, and these animals are put down via the injections (humane way of killing). In 2013, 2.7 million dogs and cats were put down in the United States.
  • In most Western countries, uncontrolled, abandoned and wild dogs are hunted back and placed in shelters with a ban on return to the urban environment, and if considered an unpretentious are put down via injections.

Suggestions and recommendations:

  • Extensive awareness campaigns should be conducted among the population about the Law “On Animals Protection” adopted in 2007 and the provisions arising from this Law. An active participation of all organizations – government bodies, NGO’s, mass media and the intelligentsia should be ensured in this process.
  • Public hearings and discussions should be held on this issue.
  • It’s necessary to organize a special shelter (landfill) for dogs outside the city and to start activities on other organizational issues related to it (selection of the location for landfill, creation of appropriate conditions for the reception of animals there, formation of the personnel, etc.).
  • State bodies should be advised to put an end to the practice of leaving hunted and vaccinated dogs to the areas where they were hunted, and to keep these animals in shelters. So, if those animals are returned to their places again, they remain a source of danger to humans.
  • In order to keep the public away from radical steps, broad educational campaigns should be conducted. Since local authorities have limited access to address this issue financially, as in many foreign countries, financial and organizational support should be sought from the public, wealthy people and the private sector.
  • Animal lovers and animal rights defenders should be more active in this sphere.
  • Non-governmental organizations and mass media should strengthen their activities in this direction.
  • Street dogs considered to be mass-growing and unpretentious should be sterilized.
  • Reproduction of dogs kept in houses and not belonging to an important breed should be prohibited, etc.

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