When pet owners go too far, the rules must be stricter

February 20, 2023 | 04:00 pm PT
Nguyen Van Dang Expert in public administration
A father was hit so hard that he had to be hospitalized after he protected his son from a dog without a leash and the owner of the animal attacked him.

The incident happened early this month at the Saigon Riverside Complex in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) when a 34-year-old man was waiting for the elevator with his son. Another man entered the building with his dog who was not on a leash. As the dog approached the boy, the father used his leg to push the dog away. Immediately, the dog's owner assaulted the father, punching him repeatedly in the face.

The HCMC People's Committee called for punishment of the dog's owner for violating regulations regarding pets in public places and causing injury intentionally.

But even when the dog's owner was punished, it could not compensate the victim for his physical and mental distress, especially as the little boy saw his father beaten in front of him.

The incident provides yet more proof supporting the argument that pets must be banned from apartment buildings.

However, raising pets is a personal hobby. From a perspective of human rights, it is a legitimate need. If it does not cause trouble for others, raising pets should be respected and protected.

Dog owners take their pets out for a walk in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

Dog owners take their pets out for a walk in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

Existing laws do not prohibit anyone from raising pets in apartment buildings.

The management board of each building will come up with its own rules on owning pets. Like in the case of the Saigon Riverside Complex, the management board does not allow residents to release pets in common areas such as halls, lobbies, and parks.

At apartment buildings near my house, pets are sometimes annoying. The management board has to handle frequent complaints about barking dogs or cats and animal excrement. Quarrels between those wanting to ban pets and those wanting to have regulations on raising pets are quite common. However, regulations in apartment buildings cannot replace the official law. All the management board can do is to keep reminding pet owners not to cause trouble for others. Because of that, pets in apartment buildings have remained an unsolved problem not only for residents but for management boards as well.

So how can we ensure legitimate individual rights and community interests at the same time?

Apartment buildings are different from traditional houses where each family has their own space surrounded by walls and gardens, and so there are less clashes related to pets.

In apartment buildings, residents own the space inside their apartments only. The outdoor space is for everyone, such as the hall, the elevator, the sidewalk, the playground, etc. When your pets run around, defecate in public places, and make so much noise, you and the pets have invaded the interests of the community.

While individual rights should be respected, this does not means the rights of one person should trump the rights of others. Therefore, to minimize conflicts, each person should be aware of the boundaries between private and public spaces, and between individual and community interests.

The local authorities should request regulations for keeping pets in buildings with specific rules on where and when owners may take their pets.

Anyone violating those regulations should be fined progressively. This means the fine will be doubled if the pet owner breaks the rules for a second time. That would help raise pet owners' awareness and protect legitimate personal rights and interests.

For those who refuse to pay the fine, the local authorities can ban the pet from the building. However, a prohibition against legitimate ownership would only be a sign of weak management."

Therefore, before choosing a solution to ban pets, imposing fines is a way to deter bad behavior and gradually create a more civilized society.

*Nguyen Van Dang is holds a PhD in public administration and policy from Mark O.Hatfield School of Government, Portland State University, U.S. He is a lecturer at Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics.

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