A real dog problem

By The Editorial Board 18 March 2023, 6:00AM

Dogs are said to be men’s best friends and in many cases they are. They are intelligent animals and can be trained to obey commands and make good guardians of properties and family members especially for the little ones.

However, there is an emerging problem in Samoa where people own dogs but are training them properly or keeping them on a leash so they do not attack members of the public.

The Samoa Observer team spoke with a number of people on the dog issue. Some spoke about how they have stopped talking afternoon or morning walks because they are just too scared of dogs. Little children are afraid to go to the local store because of the dogs they encounter on the route.

Owning a dog is a good thing, sometimes dogs are considered family members however the owners responsibilities does not stop at just feeding the dog. If someone owns multiple numbers of dog then they have to ensure that they have a fence around their compound.

Dogs are territorial and will attack strangers thinking that they are trespassing and in some circumstances these could be children. Police have issued a warning that unlicensed dogs would be taken to the pound and shot and if licensed dogs are captured on the streets then they would be shot if the owners do not lay claim to their so-called pets.

Some may argue that this is a really cruel method of dealing with the situation and suggestions have been made to cage the animals but this has not happened because this method is considered too costly and the facilities are not there yet.

People need to take responsibility if they wish to own dogs. They need to get their dogs vaccinated and sterilised (de-sexed) to avoid an influx in the dog population at home. That is the best solution for having one or two dogs only and keeping the stray dog numbers down as well.

Dogs can give birth every six months. You can do the math when there are strays around. Strays and even pets become a nuisance especially around the rubbish that is heaped for collection day. Children are even more at risk because sometimes to avoid dogs they run onto the road.

A study has found that in many developing nations like Samoa, dogs present a significant issue in terms of human health, safety and animal welfare. The study assessed attitudes towards dogs and their management in Samoa, using a questionnaire. It demonstrated that Samoa has one of the world's highest recorded levels of household dog ownership at 88 per cent but a comparatively low rate of vaccination (12 per cent) and sterilisation (19 per cent).

Those interviewed believe dogs were important and should be considered part of the family; however most households reported that their dogs were kept for protection (79 per cent). There was a clear skew in the sex distribution. The dog population showed a strong male bias (71 per cent) suggesting females are removed from the population.

Of those surveyed only 16 per cent had received any education about dogs and their management and overall the respondents showed a clear disparity between attitudes and behaviour such as the majority believe dogs should be vaccinated (81 per cent) yet most dogs in this sample (72 per cent) had never been to a veterinarian.

Overall, there was a willingness to manage the free-roaming dog population which was considered by many to be a nuisance, however there were few enforceable mechanisms by which this could occur and most dogs were not confined. Harm or killing of dogs was relatively commonplace with 30 per cent of households reporting they knew someone who had harmed or killed a dog and 26 per cent of respondents indicating they believed harming or killing dogs was good for Samoan society, presumably by reducing problems associated with the free-roaming population.

Dog bites were relatively frequent in Samoa and reports from two hospitals indicated a frequency of 37 new bites per annum requiring hospitalisation per 10,000 head of population. Furthermore, the study outlines strategies and further research that could be considered to improve dog welfare and reduce the need to harm or kill dogs, namely improvements in veterinary provision and dog-focused education.

Samoa needs legislative controls to deal with the issue of not only dogs but all animal ownership. The government has a role in ensuring the safety of the people and also of the animals. But above all, all dog owners need to take responsibility and start putting them on a leash if they do not have a fence for the safety of the public.

By The Editorial Board 18 March 2023, 6:00AM
Samoa Observer

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