Knowing pet's lineage is owner's responsibility

April 1, 2024 | 03:23 pm PT
Nguyen Hanh Journalist
I have traveled to many parts of the country to report on rabies prevention and control.

Once, in a mountain district, I witnessed health officials visiting homes to vaccinate dogs, but the owners could not catch hold of their dogs for the shot.

Another time I was haunted by the story of a boy in Phu Tho who developed rabies and died a few months after being bitten by a dog.

So, when I read about how so many people complied with a government regulation and registered their pet dogs and cats with authorities, I was both surprised and pleased.

It seems the deaths have had a wake-up effect.

More than 890 people have died of rabies since 2013, and over five million have had to undergo preventive treatment for the disease.

Rabies almost always leads in the number of deaths from infectious diseases. In just the first three months of 2024 there were 26 deaths from this preventable disease.

According to a proposal by the HCMC Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, people wanting to own dogs and cats must register with the local commune People's Committee.

Pet owners are encouraged to implant chips in their animals, helping manage their breeding, vaccination, quarantine and other information.

Declarations must be made twice a year and additionally within three days of acquiring a new pet or on authorities’ request.

Dogs and cats showing unusual symptoms that are suspected to be of contagious diseases must be quarantined, monitored, and reported immediately to the veterinary authority or local government.

Owners must vaccinate their dogs and cats.

When taking dogs to public places, owners must carry waste disposal tools, muzzle dogs and keep them on a leash.

These regulations are not new; they are already part of many existing legal documents. However, the community tends to be lenient (or forced to be so) towards dog owners, and authorities seem to sometimes "forget" about the regulations.

Occasionally, a dog attack causes momentary public panic.

Most recently, 14 students and a teacher in Dam Ha District, Quang Ninh, were attacked by a dog at school.

Immediately they had to receive rabies vaccines and prophylactics. The province instructed the district to immediately vaccinate all dogs and cats against rabies.

Teams were quickly formed to capture stray dogs.

In the capital’s Thong Nhat Park in Hai Ba Trung District, one can see signs at the entrance saying VND600,000-800,000 ($24.20-32.27) for not muzzling dogs, not keeping them on a leash, not having a person to lead them in public places, and not vaccinating against rabies.

Owners can be fined VND100,000-1 million for letting dogs roam free and causing harm to others.

Unaccompanied dogs will be captured and euthanized after 72 hours if no one claims them.

But despite all that, unmuzzled dogs still roam freely and pedestrians have to hurriedly make way for them.

A friend of mine said that while running in the park he fears being chased by dogs.

Therefore, a regulation requiring dogs and cats to be registered with the authorities is very important. This will allow localities to know the exact number of dogs and cats, to not miss any during vaccination, and to easily trace them back to their owners when they decide to attack people.

An expert from the Vietnam Purebred Dog Breeders Association told me that when one buys a dog they must know for certain its "family history." In other words, one needs to know their dog’s lineage well for up to three generations for Vietnamese dogs and even eleven generations for foreign breeds. This is the basis for breeding selection and is very important for choosing dogs with stable demeanors and which are not prone to aggression or biting.

Some countries have very strict regulations on owning aggressive dogs. To own such dogs, owners must undergo training and be certified; they must meet requirements regarding physical infrastructure, and commit to ensuring the safety of others.

If a dog bites someone, the owner can be criminally prosecuted.

The challenge for such regulations in Vietnam lies in implementing them, especially in mountainous and remote areas, where some owners cannot even catch hold of their dogs for vaccination.

But I also know that some wards in HCMC and the northern province of Hai Duong have "dog tracking notes," which include information like their date of purchase, fur color, breed, peculiarities, and vaccination history.

Wherever dog management is done well, that place is a lot safer from rabies.

As long as authorities can impose strict penalties on owners who do not register their dogs, let them roam free or do not vaccinate them, I believe such regulations will gradually become a way of life.

And if you consider dogs and cats as family members, then making them a "birth certificate" is also an expression of care and love.

*Nguyen Hanh is a Vietnamese journalist.

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