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SOCIAL DIALOGUE

By Nadira Gunatilleke

 

‘Responsible pet ownership’ - an acceptable and recognised practice

The Healthcare and Nutrition Ministry has made arrangements to bring a new bill ‘Responsible Pet Ownership’ in order to prevent rabies without destroying (killing) stray dogs. The Ministry says the dogs will not be killed under this new Act.

Since a large number of people expressed their support towards this new Bill, and certain number of persons and NGOs who are working for the rights of the animals and their welfare have expressed their opposition, it is worth talking about this issue openly considering all aspects.

In one hand rabies is a deadly disease and needy people suffer in several ways when a stray dog bites them, when they don’t have financial strength to afford relevant medication while innocent stray dogs suffer without required care, protection and unlimited breeding.

Both humans and dogs have the right to live. No one can kill dogs or let people die from rabies.

First of all we have to put aside our personal agendas, private ‘projects’ and hidden intentions before starting


Give us a chance to live

 to discuss this issue. We should be objective, which is the most important thing. The issue is all about people, religions, ethics, dogs and rabies. Let’s get into facts and figures first.

According to Healthcare and Nutrition Ministry statistics, 29 persons have already died from rabies up to August. The ministry sources say it spends millions of rupees per year only for treatments for dog bites because when a stray dog bites a person, it is compulsory to receive relevant injections even the dog is not affected with rabies.

This injection (for one patient) costs over Rs.30,000 for the State and in private sector the patients have to bear it.

There are 2000 dog bites per day and there are 2.5 million dogs (both stray and domestic) in Sri Lanka at the moment. According to WHO statistics, rabies is a significant public health problem in many countries in Asia and Africa.

Out of the 55,000 deaths reported annually from rabies around the world the majority occur in Asia and Africa and most of the victims are children under the age of 15.

All have to understand the suffering of needy people who cannot afford a Rs.30,000 rabies injection and the suffering of a person about to die from rabies and his/her family. How can one live with the virus knowing that there is a possibility of dying from rabies at any moment? According to medical science the symptoms can arise at any time within two years from the infection.

Poor street children who are exposed to rabies live without getting the expensive injection. No organisation takes care of them or at least offers the injection. No organisation can vaccinate all stray dogs in the country all the time but they can very easily offer financial assistance or the vaccine itself (for human beings) to needy families, especially for the children when required.

When a stray dog bites, the patient has to catch the dog and monitor it for a certain period of time but this is another impossible task specially when it happens in a dark road. The problem at the moment is, the people who ill-treat dogs/cats and put them in the streets only get punished by nature or karma.

They transport their unwanted pets, especially female puppies and kittens (pure gender discrimination !) in Inter-coolers at night, and get rid of them. The culprits should be caught, fined and severely punished but at the moment no adequate laws are there to handle this issue.

There is another section of people who really love their pets and are willing to die for them. Sometimes they (especially females) get very badly insulted by men because of their unconditional love towards dogs !

Some people think that it is rich and educated urban people who have love and care for dogs but it is villagers who really care for their pets. Beggars do not abandon their pets even when a tsunami is about to hit.

Under this new act, it is expected to sterilise dogs and this method will be used as the main technique to control the increasing stray dog population. There will be no restrictions to keep pets and anyone can keep any pet/pets with them.

The new Act will hold the owner responsible for the safety and well-being of the pet, which is completely acceptable and an internationally recognised practice.

What we require is `Responsible Pet Ownership’. Who want crazy stray dogs on the roads and who doesn’t? Who gets bankrupt and who benefits when there are no stray dogs in the country?

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