Cynics may think that it is idle talk to care about stray animals when there are thousands of human beings that lack basic means to subsist. There are others who have a lot to say about the subject of animal care. I do not know what cynics will say when they find out a non governmental organization that shelters and cares for unwanted animals has been functioning in Addis Abeba for the past three years. You cannot blame the cynics for thinking in a poor light when thousands of homeless children in the streets have no one to look after them.

Caring for stray animals, however, is not only good for the animals themselves but for the protection of humans from contagious disease too. We have been reading and writing about all sorts of problems caused by stray animals, including physical injuries and mental upsets sustained from stray biting dogs or frightened bulls on the loose.

It is pleasing to know that at long last an organization known as Homeless Animals protection Society (HAPS) has been founded this founded in this stray dog-infested capital of ours. HAPS was established at the end of October 2001 to work throughout Ethiopia to help unwanted animals. It may seem a bit alien and luxurious to indulge in such ideas at the expense of the poor people that have neither shelter nor means of subsistence apart from lying at street corners and begging. Like football games, it may not be a priority on which we should waste time and money when we have to mitigate other socio-economic problems.

The Homeless Animals Protection Society is the first of its kind as far as I know. It always baffles me to understand why, animal-loving society as we are, we seem to have a misguided outlook towards wild animals in general and stray dogs in particular. If a humble looking animal suddenly turns wild and starts frolicking outside the herd, we tend to chase it and throw everything at it in our excitement. Sometimes this state of affairs transcends normalcy and we may even pick up weapons to restrain the poor animal, which will pay dearly for its jovial frolicking.

I have often encountered an innocent and sheepish looking ploughing ox suddenly turning wild and beastly, causing traffic turmoil in the streets of the capital. Frightened bulls usually lose their temper at the sight of noisily rolling vehicles and run wild, often attacking cornered people. Some say there are certain hooligans who loaf around abattoirs pricking passing animals with a needle to excite them to go mad. Sometimes it is the donkey that seems to be enjoying the frolicking and kicking, unlike stray dogs whose lives are full of wars and battle.

Dogs are supposed to be the best friends of mankind. Stray dogs, however, are considered Enemy Number one by human beings without reason. Everybody tries to chase away stray dogs throwing everything in hand. Is it the animal that chooses between being a pet dog and being a stray? Who is to be blame for any hazard caused by stray animals?

Some years back I remember reading about rabies that claimed the lives of many of the country’s valuable Red Foxes living in the mountains of Bale in Oromia. It was tragic to know that domestic dogs carrying the disease had affairs with their Red Fox darlings and in the process transmitted the deadly virus. It is from that tragic event that the founders of HAPS are said to have taken the initiative to found a society. The society aims to protect unwanted animals in general and endemic animals in particular with the help of Animal People USA and other international societies and friends of animals.

  

It is historical irony that street children are the best friends of stray dogs. Maybe they have a mutual interest to keep company with one another. The children share their food with the stray dogs. For their part, the animals keep the children warm, sleeping nearby and watching guard. When humans exhaust their need and want to get rid of the dogs, they have no options at their disposals. Before HAPS came to be, there were no adoption centers or shelters where you could take your pet animals.

 

If there is nothing one can do to help a sick stray animal, one should at least see to it that the animal gets euthanasia and endure a painless death. We have to be able to control the birth rate of the growing population of stray animals through some kind of vaccination or birth control mechanism like spaying or removing the reproduction organs of female dogs.

 

The society is engaged in awareness building to guide the opinions of people towards animals and their problems. The society has undertaken educational programs around Bale Mountains and other places. It also controls the accelerated growth population of diseased animals through vaccination and medical treatment. The society tries to promote adoption programs also. Protecting animals and caring for pet animals is generally a practice that should be inculcated in the minds of school children.

 

In most families, children are brought up to be scared of imaginary hyenas and barking dogs, who might come and bite them if the child does not keep quite even if their crying is a language to request food of comfort. So we grow hating dogs and wild animals in general. Ethiopian hunters in general pick up arms not to hunt animals for the sake of sport but to extinguish the prey altogether.

 

A few months back my daughter was here with her toddler of two and half years old. She was particular that the child not be exposed to animals or fowls being slain. I had to use all my psychological power to make the child believe that I was only taking off the gown of the sheep when in actual fact I was skinning the poor sheep hanging down from a loop knot.

 

It is sad to note that of all the conferences and seminars screened on ETV, not a single one of them pertains to animals in general and stray dogs in particular, considering the fact we live together. I am not forgetting the donkey case, which is an exception rather than the rule.

 

How much do we know about cats? I had once participated in a Trade Fare Exhibition held in Washington. By some coincidence there was another exhibition held by American Animal Lovers Societies in the next hall. I sneaked away to see the exhibition, which was exclusively meant for showing varieties of cats. I was thrilled to see a full audience when there was not a single American visiting our exhibition except one man sent from the US Commerce Department. What I am trying to say is that we should give due accord and show friendly gesture to animals.

 

‘Fortune’ weekly news paper Vol. 7, No. 321 June 25, 2006
VIEW FROM ARADA
By Girma Feyissa

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