MIKE MUGALA, Lusaka
THOUGH a dog has been considered man’s best friend, man is apparently unaware that a dog has rights.
But to Janet Kasela, a dog is God’s creation and it must be given care and support, just like a human being.
Kasela, who has always loved dogs, believes the mammals, just like human beings, have their own weaknesses and strengths which must be respected.
“I have lived with my Jack rascal for 10 years and it has become part of me. It notices when I am happy or sad, I love my dog to an extent that I feel like crying when it is unwell. It is a very intelligent dog and I am able to communicate with it without challenges,” she said
Kasela is of the view that most people mistreat their dogs because of lack of love and compassion.
Andrew Nyirongo on the other hand finds comfort in walking with his father’s white fluffy dog in his hand saying it gives him comfort and a sense pride.
His father has kept the fluffy dog for five years and according to Andrew it has become part of the family.
During the course of our conversation, he expressed ignorance and smiles when asked about dog rights.
“I am not aware that dogs also have rights, I only know that my father and my young brother Jayson take the dog for vaccinations against rabbies. The only thing I know is that a dog must be taken for vaccination, but here, we treat our dog just like a member of our family,” he said.
Jayson takes the dog for injections, bathes it and gives it food but just like his brother, he is unaware that dogs have rights.
He said he has never heard of dog rights even at the veterinary clinic where he takes it for injections.
And Mary Zulu, a Lusaka resident believes her dog Jude is there to provide security for her family in the night.
She rarely takes the dog for vaccination due to financial constraints and just like the others, she is unware of the animal’s rights.
“We have kept our dog for more than ten years and it has now become part of us, I have never heard of dog rights and I am shocked that they exist,” Mary said.
Zambia is a member of state of the world Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) which is an agency of the United Nations and therefore, bound by regulations and guidelines issued by the organisation.
The agency provides that animals, including dogs, have five rights or freedoms which must not be violated.
Animal owners should give their animals’ food and water to keep them healthy.
Freedom from discomfort entails that animals need to have ways of avoiding the hot sun, rain, extreme cold, and they need a comfortable resting place.
Owners of animals must also ensure they take their animals to a veterinarian for treatment if they are ill or injured.
Pets should be vaccinated against rabies at the age of three months, and then taken after six months and there after once every year. This is to protect them and make sure they do not infect other animals or people with rabies.
All animals must have the freedom to express normal behaviour, by allowing them to walk, run and play. This will keep them alert and active and make sure they are not bored.
It is also important to note that animals should not be kept tied up for long periods of time so that they are free from fear and distress.
In addition, animals should not be threatened or hurt, whether intentionally or not.
They also must not be confined for long periods of time alone, as this will cause them distress.
Zambian laws provide for humane handling and prohibit the cruelty against animals.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act CAP 245 provides that any person found causing harm or hurt to an animal is liable to imprisonment of up to one year or pay a fine of K 2,000 or both.
Acting pest control superintendent under the public health department at Lusaka City Council Christopher Mulenga notes that there has been less sensitisation on dog rights.
He said the police, government departments and key stakeholders should educate the general public in order to change society’s mind-set towards animals.
“When everyone understands how to treat animals properly, pets and humans will be safer from danger. Like humans, animals have their own needs. “It is, therefore the duty of every one of us to protect animals,” Mr Mulenga said.