In a bid to lower incidences of dog bites in the capital, council has put forward a new resolution that all stray dogs will be gunned down.
The decision was announced on June 29 after it was realized that there had been a sharp upsurge in the number of dog bites from stray dogs, currently estimated at around 900 reports since the beginning of this year. In addition to preventing stray dog attacks, the move is also expected to reduce the spread of rabies.
Elaborating on council’s new policy, Environment Management Committee chairperson, Councillor Herbert Gomba told Harare News, “We will use guns specially designed for shooting stray dogs. Our men are professionally skilled to avoid any accidents occurring.”
In light of this, spokesperson for Harare City Council, Michael Chideme, urged residents to secure their yards to avoid losing their pets.
“We are advising residents to ensure the safety of their pets as well as other residents. Make use of leashes when moving around with your dogs. Dogs must also be regularly vaccinated to avoid fatalities in the case of rabid dog bites.” said Chideme
Council’s decision was not well-received by most residents however, who felt that this action was too drastic. Several pet owners lamented the fact that there were no effective vaccination laws in place which should be the first step to curb rabies.
“If there were animal laws in place to enforce vaccination, there would be no rabies to talk about,” says Cary Reeds, a resident of Ashdown Park.
Another resident questioned council’s ability to safely and effectively carry out this project. “Considering the fact that council misses commuter omnibuses with their spikes and end up injuring innocent motorists, they might just shoot passers-bye.” said one man who identified himself as Chitero.
Councillor Gomba emphasized that pet owners are mandated to secure their dogs, and that as long as a dog is outside of the owner’s premises, it will be gunned down.
“By law, dogs must be secured. In the event a dog has a labelled collar, effort will be made to contact the owner provided the dog is not vicious. But this is not guaranteed. The bottom line is that strays will be gunned down and their carcasses incinerated,” he said.
The Veterinary for Animal Welfare in Zimbabwe (VAWZ) animal welfare officer Mel Hood, says they are strongly against this move, but also advised residents to ensure their pets are enclosed in their yards.
“We are concerned about this but legally council is allowed to do so. Harare by-laws are actually good but lack enforcement. Residents are ignorant of such by-laws and there is need to adhere to them. What I can say is that this should be done in the most humane way possible and not just gunning down any dog they see. There is a high rate of rabies and we cannot value animal life over human life.” she said.
Rabies is an infectious viral disease mainly spread by dogs that is almost always fatal. A rabid dog can spread rabies to people through bites or scratches when saliva gets into the victim’s blood. Vaccinating your dog is the most cost-effective strategy for preventing rabies.
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