Who let the dogs out?

The Gaborone City Council (GCC) is finally revising its by-laws around the ownership and protection of dogs, those animals everyone calls “man’s best friend,” but which are often ironically treated like blood enemies by some.

The new draft by-laws, from what has been provided by the city council, appear to address the desperately needed attitude shift amongst pet owners, although already there are voices saying the new rules are punitive and severe.

The draft by-laws limit dog ownership to just two pets and those needing more will have to demonstrate a high level of care and facilities before they are granted permission. Licensing of dogs has also been further clarified and made enforceable. All dogs are required to be licensed and these will only be granted when the owners can demonstrate the required standard of care and shelter. The proposed by-laws even require microchipping of dogs and that every premise within which a dog resides should have a sign warning visitors of the fact, written in both English and Setswana.

Those falling foul of the by-laws will face maximum fines of P1,000 and/or maximum imprisonment of three months or both.

The average dog in Gaborone lives a miserable life of infection and disease, endless foraging and scavenging, owner abuse and neglect and unrestrained breeding. For many owners, dogs are simply a convenience, something to bark and alert at night or chase critters away. The average dog dies from being run over, infected with any number of illnesses, starved in a culvert somewhere or beaten to death by owners who are emboldened by the trivial fines imposed for animal abuse. So brazen are some of these abusers, that they even post their violence on social media, to the cackling joy of equally callous friends.

The trouble lies in the lackadaisical manner many approach pet ownership in Gaborone and the country in general. Although local authorities do make efforts to provide regular inspections, testing and treatment campaigns, for many owners, dogs are an unimportant part of the home. Dogs are left to roam, breed and in some cases attack passersby with little or no restraint to the extent that someone’s dogs become the neighbourhood’s collective responsibility.

As Gaborone strives to transform into a Diamond City, the by-laws will by necessity have to shift citizens’ paradigms away from the village thinking of the past and towards the modern standards city dwellers in other countries take for granted.

It cannot be, that in 2017, a pack of stray dogs still roams the eastern fringes of the Main Mall, running between vendors’ stalls and frequently running up the steps to shops and other premises. Ironically, this particular pack operates a stone’s throw from the GCC where by-laws are hammered out.

We urge the GCC to stick to its guns and brave whatever backlash may be forthcoming as it endeavours to enforce the proposed by-laws.


Today’s thought 

“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” 

– Mahatma Gandhi

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