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 for consideration of relevant state bodies and the public. Although the research topics are broad and varied, specific problems cannot be ignored.

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

To realize this problem in a broader sense, first of all, it is necessary to classify stray dogs in a particular order, so that people can get a whole 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 rarely (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 size and 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 a dog owner to pass the animal through a veterinary examination urgently.

Stray dogs abandoned by the owner

Animals 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 contact with wild dogs, settling in different parts of the city in search of food they gradually begin to become rough and create various problems for humans.

Wild dogs

  • Heedless that such dogs continue to exist mainly on the city’s outskirts, near rivers, and in the landfill, they wander around other parts of the city and even in the center at night. 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, they also hurt people in many instances (mainly at night). People who live in new residential areas built on the city’s outskirts are most affected by 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, which in some cases led to a lethal outcome (death).

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

  • Dogs belonging to unique and rare breeds are considered very valuable. They have a particular regime, are 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 for any activity to be carried on by various institutions.
  • Dogs that are considered mass-growing and unpretentious (not requested and mostly big) – this animals 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 government agencies and local people to clarify how they are treated and what kind of activities are carried out about dogs of the 2nd and 3rd categories in this classification.

Most of the 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, although people were provided with comfort by preventing intervention of wild dogs the in the center of the city due to their killing, the town number of feral 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 brutally500 manats 
Application of medicines, medical and technical techniques to enhance or reduce racing, sales, and other natural capabilities of animals200 manats
For unpleasant behavior, such as changing the appearance of pets or performing surgery that is not intended for the treatment, including cutting an animal’s ears, removing claws or teeth, etc.200 manats
Violation of rules for shipping animals out and in to the country100-300 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. Even though this is the right approach, other relevant measures stipulated by the Law still need to be implemented. Responsible state organizations emphasize the need for significant financial investment to comprehensively solve the problem by implementing the necessary measures. Indeed, considerable investments are made in different countries to solve this issue comprehensively. Because it is impossible to solve this problem without the required 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, sterilization, disciplining particular foods, timely provision of vitamins, taking care of them according to hygienic rules, etc. – all these require significant and lasting investment.

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

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

Since Law regulates the fight against stray and wild dogs, the structure of activities should also be changed, and a new concept should be urgently developed. The cooperation of Shaki City Municipality and HCPA in this sphere should be expanded. Animal lovers, animal rights defenders, Non-Governmental Organizations, media, and proactive society should be involved in solving 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, wander freely in the town worsens the situation in all areas daily. The case has reached such a level that some dogs have already begun injuring 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), children’s walk from school became a significant risk. Therefore, most of the population wants appropriate steps to be taken and this issue to be resolved quickly.

Of course, joining government agencies at various conventions is a commendable step. However, even in the 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 particular place (shelters, landfills), provided food supply, neutralized sick animals, vaccinated or sterilized, and other issues should be resolved. As the mentioned measures have not been implemented, we are currently facing a tense situation.

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, for example, working voluntarily, educating society, getting support from them 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 the street are detected, examined, and vaccinated by the state. To distinguish vaccinated animals from others, unique labels are attached to their ears. Local municipalities are responsible for the collection and control of stray animals.
  • In Russia and Greece, as well as in our country, hunted dogs after sterilization and vaccination are left in those areas where they have been pursued. This process does not cover all stray dogs.
  • According to the decision of the United States National Animal Care and Control Association, the free movement of dogs on city streets (without an owner) is prohibited. These dogs increase the risk of epidemics, and these animals are put down via injections (a 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, wild dogs are hunted back and placed in shelters with a ban on returning to the urban environment. If considered unpretentious, they 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. Active participation of all organizations – government bodies, NGOs, 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 particular shelter (landfill) for dogs outside the city and to start activities on other organizational issues related to it (selection of the location for the landfill, creation of appropriate conditions for the reception of animals there, formation of the personnel, etc.).
  • State bodies should be advised to end the practice of leaving hunted and vaccinated dogs in 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.
  • . Since local authorities have limited financial access to address this issue, 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 a vital breed should be prohibited, etc.

Sources:

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