NATION

From Pups to Strays: A Fresh Perspective

People need to take responsibility for their animals from desexing to rehoming, another issue is who will house trapped dogs
25 Jun 2019 17:34
From Pups to Strays: A Fresh Perspective
Vet Essentials Fiji Animal doctors at the centre in Lami (front, from left) Dr Leo Borja and Dr Elva Borja, Dr Beverly Balume, Etchel Del Pilar, Vilimaina Rauqeuqe, (back, from left) Anasa Waqa and Suluveni Turagaicei Photo: Simione Haravanua

Six-month-old Ranger peeks from under the table. His tail is tucked between his legs and there is fear in his eyes.

He was picked up by a good Samaritan and brought to Vet Essentials Animal Doctors so he could be treated and found a new home. Human affection is an alien concept to this puppy. According to Dr Elva Borja, Ranger is a classic example of a pup born to stray parents.

“There is zero human contact in the sense that there is no love and affection shown to these dogs. They fear humans because that is what the behaviour from people has been towards these dogs,” Dr Borja said.

“He was injured and needed hospital care. As you can see now, he is recovering but he is traumatised. He hides in the corner under the table when he sees us or any of the staff. His behaviour is not like a pup who has had human interaction from birth.

“We have his little toy. A stuffed toy. He plays with it when no one is watching.”

As Dr Borja gave the toy to Ranger, a slight wagging can be noticed, but he doesn’t leave his safety zone.

Dr Borja said a single dog can produce up to 35 puppies in a year.

“This is a fact. The biggest question here is the responsibility of people towards their pets,” she said.

“We have found that over the years, the attitude towards animals have changed but a lot needs to be done.”

Dr Elva said Ranger was too scared to show any aggression, but sometimes when dogs are cornered, they tend to fight rather than submit.

She said dogs are also territorial, even stray dogs.

Dr Leo and Dr Elva Borja came to Fiji from the Philippines in 2007 where Dr Elva was working with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and Dr Leo was with Ministry of Agriculture.

During this time, the couple realised the need for a medical facility that will provide the best services for pets and perhaps farm animals.

They have just opened the doors of their new hospital equipped with operating rooms, medical equipment including X-ray machines and scans and even wards for recovering animals.

They have also realised the need for Fijians to realise their responsibility towards animals they own.

Dr Leo was part of the team that met officials of the Ministry of Agriculture before the eight-week dog trapping campaign started.

“The trapping of dogs only presents us with a temporary solution. This will reduce the numbers in the short term. What will happen is that pets will be able to breed again and the unwanted litter will be left at nature’s mercy,” he said.

“One of the main factors to consider for strays is their food source. Strays will linger around food and shelter. That is why have this problem of garbage bags being stripped open by dogs on some streets. And any place that provides shelter against rain and sun is where they spend most of the day.

“Dogs breed fast and if dogs remain unsterile then their numbers will grow exponentially. This is why we have been seeing an influx in the stray dog population.”

Dr Leo said research and trials in Fiji proved that trapping would never be able to resolve the stray dog issue.

He said in Fiji dog owners had the tendency of letting dogs out of their yards, mostly because most compounds were not fenced.

He suggested that dog owners look at desexing their dogs.

“Most owners in Fiji do not desex their dogs because it is an extra cost. This is where the ministry and the vets can work together to provide a desexing campaign. One is about to happen soon,” Dr Leo said.

“The Charles Sturt University team will start their campaign soon and I am hoping that people in Fiji understand the need to desex their dogs. This will control stray dog numbers. But there is a need for education.”

Dr Leo and Dr Elva have consensus that only a handful of people are responsible pet owners. They said through the years they have seen the change happen, but there was a need for more to be done.

“Three years ago, we started an initiative where we provided curriculum to a primary school in Suva. It was a colouring book and covered the five basic rights of animals,” Dr Elva said.

“We started it, but we are hoping to meet officials from the Ministry of Education so we can perhaps push it as part of school curriculum. Once we are able to do this, we will have a future that knows how to look after their pets.”

Ministry of Agriculture Permanent Secretary David Kolitagane said the ministry was now looking at a long-term solution to this problem.

He said desexing was definitely part of it and they would embark on an awareness programme hoping to make people realise the importance of responsible dog ownership.

He said if people want to have dogs, then they should be ready to accept the responsibility of their litter.

The stray dog issue came to light after an attack on two-year-old Amari Whippy in Nadi.

Subsequently, more people have come forward to tell their stories of dog attacks, which included an attack on a five-year-old.

There is a rehoming programme after dogs have been desexed, but there is also the issue of which charity organisation or government body can house the ever-growing number of dogs after trapping.

The Ministry of Agriculture under the law has the authority to euthanise the dogs, but this is being done after consultation with medical officials.

For now, it is time people start taking responsibility.

If you want a dog, get it, but do not start neglecting it. And above all, if you cannot take the responsibility of its puppies, then get the dog desexed.

The stray dog problem is a problem only because people have not been doing what they are supposed to do. So, let’s not blame the dogs, but look toward solving something that is within our grasp.

Edited by Epineri Vula

Feedback: shalveen.chand@fijisun.com.fj

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