It is often the case in Zimbabwe that when one considers acquiring a dog in their home, it has nothing whatsoever to do with companionship.
In most homes, keeping a dog or two around has more to do with securing the household property in the face of widespread thievery than anything else. In such instances, the dog(s) is expected to ever be vigilent and on the look-out, as would be expected of a hired security guard.
Putting mustard on the tongue of a dog is believed to be an effective way to make the dog more aggressive and alert. But the Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe (VAWS) say it is painful and unnecessary with no effect whatsoever. They even challenge those with that habit to put a little mustard on their own tongues and see how they would like it.
Tail chopping is another common practice which is fast becoming unacceptable and illegal the world over as tails have been seen to be there for very good reason, like giving the dogs perfect balance.
In such cases, when a dog is deemed too relaxed it is quickly pronounced “useless” and as a result met with dire consequences, often in the form of constant beatings and deprivation, mostly of food and care.
More often than not, such neglected dogs are left with little choice but to go around the neighbourhoods scavenging for bits of leftover food and no doubt being a nuisance while they are at it.
It is mostly after they stray that most dogs become susceptible to sexually transmitted venereal tumours (TVT) and other such ailments.
Of late however, dogs have moved from being just “security guards” to being potential money makers as breeding dogs for financial gain is fast becoming seen as a lucrative business venture.
There was a story in the Business Week newspaper recently about 30-year-old Brian Alfandika from Kambuzuma who was described as, “the youth who hails from the ghetto earning a decent living through dog breeding”.
This “enterprising” man from Kambuzuma says each Maltese dog (the rare breed he mostly breeds) fetches an average of US$500.
Alfandika is just one of the many Zimbabweans that have suddenly come to realise dog breeding can be a source of livelihood during a time when the country is facing a serious unemployment problem.
While many of us might see the dog breeders as nothing more than people trying to earn an honest living, what do animal welfare organisations have to say about this?
“People should stop seeing dog breeding as a lucrative business. We currently have far too many puppies on the streets and the SPCA often has the ineviable task of putting most of them to sleep,” said Meryl Harrison, chief inspector for VAWS.
Harrison said most of the breeders had no idea how to take care of puppies.
In most cases VAWS discovers dogs living under very harsh conditions prompting the organisation to confiscate them and take them to the SPCA where many often have to be put to sleep as they would be infected with various infections, some of which, like TVTs, would be incurable.
She suggested those interested in purchasing dogs visit the SPCA where they are assured of healthy dogs that would have been sprayed, vaccinated, dipped and put through all the necessary procedures.
Laura Maclean, surgery manager at the SPCA, was equally aggrieved and had this to say: “It is illegal, selfish and irresponsible and to us it is an act of cruelty that needs to be investigated. People keep dogs that they cannot feed and care for and we end up with a lot of dogs on the streets with rabies and other infections. Unfortunately the whole system is falling out of control and laws are not being followed.”
She also urged people that wanted dogs to get them from SPCA as they would be healthy and cost between US$50 and US$70.
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What the law says about dog breeding
Harare (Dog Licensing and Control) By-Laws 1993 in terms of section 11 (1) states that it is against the law to have an unsprayed bitch or breed puppies within the city limits unless one is a licensed breeder.
Additionally, breeders are required to be registered with the Zimbabwe Kennel Club, among other requirements. It is however unclear whether many of the dog breeders cropping up are fully aware of these dog breeding requirements.