Vet corner: Caring for your dogs

The author says that it is when people, each person has a role to play, are more responsible in their behaviour towards dogs, that the problem will disappear, even if it does so slowly. Picture: WWW.OMELET.US

WHO owns dogs? Anyone who feeds, harbours, is caretaker or calls themselves the owner. An owner has acquired an animal and provides for the needs of that animal – by extension, anyone who feeds or otherwise provides care for that dog would be under the umbrella term of owner.

What is the problem? Wandering dogs. On the streets, villages and countryside.

Wandering dogs that contribute to unsanitary habits: get into trash/attracted by trash left by irresponsible people, toilet as they move around on the footpath if they happen to be there; or following natural behaviour which has been left unchecked by people.

Where is the problem? In our homes and on farms. On streets and in communities When? All night listening to the pack of intact male dogs trailing after a female in heat; all day watching the malnourished hunt for food or the well-fed just roaming around.

Why? Irresponsible and unenlightened behaviour of humans. Each and every one who tosses a bit of garbage on the street is responsible for the great ocean garbage patch — a shameful example of human disdain. The same irresponsible and unenlightened behaviour has led to an ever-growing and unchecked dog problem here in Fiji.

Responsibility as a dog owner/caretaker/community/government and solutions. We are not in the early stages of domestication, los amigos. We have changed a lot since sitting around a fire with wild dogs lurking in the background, waiting for a bit of food as bribery to stick around.

Our dogs are long since domesticated, conditioned and dependent. However, that being said most dogs carry the genes for survival which in some takes little to reactivate — that genetic material instigates reversion to a wild state — scavenging, travelling in a group and finding your own shelter as well as attacking human or animal.

These behaviours are suppressed, conditioned (classical and otherwise), and reformed into the “good neighbour dog”. This is the result from following the basic tenets of being a good dog neighbour (see one example here

These are:

  • Feed your dog;
  • Teach basic commands;
  • Keep your dog home on your property;
  • Clean up after your dog;
  • Provide for adequate exercise and bonding with caretakers; and
  • Be mindful (not everyone likes dogs, not everyone likes your dog — especially when it is wandering the street or running out of the yard lunging at you, or roaming around threatening your livestock).

A good neighbour dog:

  • Has been neutered unless the dog is purposely used for breeding in which case care is different and the value of the dog genetically and behaviourally has been astutely valued;
  • Does not bark continuously for prolonged periods of time;
  • Does not use footpath for toilet; 8 Is not out rummaging in the trash
  • Is not roaming the streets and fields looking for trouble; and
  • Does not wantonly attack, injure or kill

Responsible owners and caretakers will minimise the responsibility of communities.

But there will always be those people who don’t care, don’t know, don’t care to know or just blatantly do the opposite — these people drive without valid driver licences, and toss trash on the ground, for example. Which is where government, with aid of various stakeholders, needs to step in.

Some of what governments can do is population and ownership census, providing properly trained animal control personnel in each community or region animals are kept, ensuring neutering (desexing, spaying, castration) of all dogs with basic licence or ID fee, ensuring a much higher fee for intact (not neutered) dogs along with a higher fine for those dogs caught wandering and policy making that is well thought out and well supported by the veterinarian community.

Emotion is great for identifying problems, but often not great at coming up with doable solutions. Conversely lack of emotion
often ignores problems, but equally is not great with the doable solutions. Case in point — dog poison campaigns are at best
a temporary (and usually cruel) solution — since at least the 1950s here in Fiji.

Albert Einstein had a term for doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result We do need to stop dogs biting humans and injuring or killing other animals. We do not need more front page photos of small kids in a hospital bed with bites.

And we certainly do not need any more photos of wanton death and injury to livestock. And we certainly do not need more photos of animal and human death and injury along roadways. This is a people problem.

Each person has to do their part — learn not to throw the trash on the ground, pick up trash left irresponsibly by others, join education campaigns and the ocean garbage patch will disappear.

By the same token — learn about dogs, take care of them properly, pitch in with the community, and encourage government
action. The dog problems will slowly, but surely disappear.

  • JO OLVER is a doctor of
    veterinary medicine. The views
    expressed are those of the
    author and do not reflect the
    views of this newspaper.

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