The Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) and the police have warned dog owners to have their pets vaccinated and restrained at all times, saying that failure to do so in order to prevent dog attacks and the spread of rabies, will result in severe legal action including the culling of dogs found straying.
The call follows a report by RAB, which indicates that at 669 people were attacked and bitten by stray dogs last year, up from 383 in 2015. The actual number is likely to be higher as the statistics relate only to cases reported by medical facilities where the injured were treated.
In the City of Kigali, stray dogs are common in Nduba, Rusororo, Gisozi and Kinyinya, prowling the neighbourhoods mainly at night in search of food or to mate.
“Stray dog are dangerous and cause insecurity in communities,” said the Gasabo district police commander, senior supt. Valens Muhabwa. “There are standards and procedures of domesticating a dog, and punitive action will be taken against those who violate this regulation.”
In some neighbourhood, residents have also complained about the noisy barking and howling.
Dr Isidore Gafarasi Mapendo, the director of Veterinary and Laboratory Services at RAB, noted that the standard procedures are detailed in the ministerial order No. 009/11.30 of 18/11/2010 on animal husbandry in its articles 4 to 10, which specify the requirements and procedures to own a dog, penalties to owners of abandoned dogs and action taken against stray dogs.
“Owners of dogs are required to vaccinate them and acquire a certificate of vaccination, which they should carry with them when walking their dogs. A dog should be held on a leash by an accountable and mature person,” Gafarasi said.
RAB estimates that last year, there were 18,117 dogs in the country, of which only 11,375 were vaccinated. 2870 stray dogs were culled in response to the increasing attacks on people.
Vaccination has however improved; in 2009, for example, the dog population was estimated at 19950 but only 4461 of them were vaccinated.
“Dog owners must ensure that their pets have a leather collar fitted with a numbered medal; immunization of a dog against rabies is compulsory, and owners must declare their dogs to local authorities with specifications,” Dr Gafarasi said.
“A dog belongs to an individual or a family, not the community, which is why owners must keep them in fenced premises or restrained,” he added.
The police in partnership with the ministries of health and agriculture have been working to ensure that the law on animal husbandry is observed and appropriate action is taken against dog owners who breach the law.