Man’s best friend no longer as unattended dogs cause concern in Hanoi

By Quynh Nguyen   April 16, 2022 | 05:11 pm PT
Man’s best friend no longer as unattended dogs cause concern in Hanoi
Dogs are let free at a park in Hanoi's Tay Ho District in April 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh
Duc Chung has not forgotten the time when he was almost a victim of an accident but was deemed a culprit for injuring someone's dog.

One late night at the end of last year, the 30-year-old from Hanoi’s Bac Tu Liem District was driving his motorbike down a street when a dog suddenly ran out of a house and into the middle of the street and he accidentally ran over it.

Chung fell with his vehicle and the owner of the dog and a few others rushed out hearing its howls of pain, grabbed him and demanded VND5 million ($218.38) for providing treatment for the animal.

He explained to them that it was not his fault since the dog suddenly ran out into the street and he could not avoid it, but they refused to listen and even threatened to beat him up.

Knowing he was dealing with a group of unreasonable individuals, Chung pleaded for a reduction and paid them VND2 million.

He says: "I had to pay compensation because the dog was injured, but who would be responsible if I was injured? Seeing dogs roaming freely on the streets makes me angry since then."

Mai Lan, 37, of Cau Giay District expresses similar frustration since she has also faced many issues because of unattended pet dogs.

"The area where I live is now a public toilet for dogs raised in the area," she complains to friends, referring to many families allowing their pets to urinate and defecate wherever they wanted.

Lan has to clean up piles of dog manure in front of her house every morning and wash her yard with soap water to get rid of the stench.

She has no choice since she cannot identify the dogs’ owners and tell them to stop this.

"The alley is 500m long, and there are ‘mines’ (slang for dog feces) every few meters, which is very annoying".

Both Lan and Chung wholeheartedly support Hanoi authorities’ announcement earlier this week about setting up 579 squads to capture stray dogs and cats to prevent rabies and requiring people to make pet ownership declarations.

"I will definitely file a complaint and ask them to catch all the loose dogs that frequently poop around my house," Lan says.

In the past she used to patiently knock on every dog owner’s door and offer suggestions about maintaining public cleanliness, but everyone would claim they always cleaned up after their dogs.

She would get up early in the hope of catching the dogs red-handed, but no matter how early she got up it would be in vain and all she could find would be piles of feces.

Arguments between people who have dogs and those who do not is so common that some in the alley once thought about pooling money and installing surveillance cameras.

But, Lan says, others refused to contribute claiming cameras "should only be for preventing burglaries and not monitoring dogs".

Finally the entire alley agreed that each family would clean up their own places until the culprit was found.

Lan has instructed her children to watch out for poop when walking in the alley and says she has to wash her motorbike’s tires before taking it into the house.

Letting cats and dogs run loose also creates traffic hazards, a big threat for road users and another source of anger for people.

Ha My of Hoang Mai District was a victim once.

"The owner always said 'the dog is very gentle, does not bite anyone,' but it caused me to break my bones," the 28-year-old says about an accident she had in 2020.

Her house is in a small alley off Ngoc Hoi Street, where many families let their dogs roam freely without muzzles and so she has to drive past this area quickly to avoid being chased by the animals.

But one day she was suddenly attacked by a dog more than a year ago. She and her vehicle took a tumble, and she broke bones in her left arm and leg.

The pet owner then promised to "keep a closer eye on his dog" but a few days later she again saw it roaming freely on the street.

"I am upset about the owner more than the dog. People like him blame the animal but are unaware that they are responsible for the accident".

Four-year-old Trung Quan, son of Hoang Van Thang of Hoang Mai district, was once attacked by a dog.

When Quan and his parents went to Yen So Park in Hoang Mai District in March 2021, he was attacked by a dog weighing around 25 kg and without a leash or muzzle.

A doctor at the Central Hospital for Tropical Diseases said the 15 cm wide wound was deep enough to damage muscle tissues and the boy needed to be monitored for infections.

Thang immediately filed a complaint with the ward police and demanded an investigation but the owner was never identified.

According to the Department of Animal Health, it is estimated that 400,000-500,000 people in Vietnam are bitten by dogs each year and require treatment.

Rabies transmitted by cats and dogs kills 80-100 people a year.

According to the Ho Chi Minh City Pasteur Institute, pet dogs that have not been vaccinated are the leading cause of rabies in humans (accounting for more than 96 percent), with cats accounting for the remaining 3.6 percent.

The majority of the cases involve children under the age of 15.

In the first six months of 2018 more than 6,900 people in Hanoi were treated at health facilities after being bitten by dogs. Since 2019 there has one rabies death.

When pressed, many dog owners claim their pets are very obedient and are trained not to defecate or urinate in front of people's houses.

Others say a dog is similar to a person and ask how they can bear being confined by a muzzle all day.

But this provokes ire, including among dog owners.

Minh Hoang, 30, of Thanh Xuan District who has raised dogs for many years, believes that authorities should severely punish owners instead of capturing pets.

"Animals do not deserve to be condemned by society as a whole. They are unable to open the gate to go outside or remove the muzzle. Capturing the pet does not scare it or make it promise not to do it again. That is the owner's responsibility".

Despite his support for Hanoi's decision to form dog catching squads, Chung does not believe it will bring about any major change.

He points to similar campaigns in the past that changed nothing.

Nguyen Ngoc Son, head of the city Department of Animal Health, says four inner districts, Hoan Kiem, Dong Da, Ba Dinh, and Thanh Xuan, have already set up dog squads, and the department is cooperating with the other eight inner districts to set them up by 2023.

In outer districts and towns, dog squads are currently "not feasible" since locals often let their dogs loose to protect their homes and other properties, and it would take time to convince them, he says.

While the city has yet to decide on the composition of the proposed dog catching squads, Son says there will be six to eight people in each, including militia members, veterinarians and police officers.

They will operate once or twice a week on a random schedule, and look for dogs without muzzles, urinating or defecating in public and attacking people, he adds.

Sinh believes that if the city's new plan is implemented in a timely manner, it will result in changes in awareness and actions.

Lan, on the other hand, is counting down the days for new regulations that prohibit owners from letting their dogs and cats out unattended to take effect.

"Then I won't have to ... pick up dog poop up in sadness every morning".

By 2030, Hanoi aims to manage over 90 percent of families with pets and to ensure rabies vaccination rates are at over 90 percent. There should be no more casualties due to rabies by 2030, it added.

The capital currently has around 421,000-493,000 dogs and cats. Many pet owners still let their pets go outside unmuzzled and unattended.

Owners of stray dogs could be fined up to VND800,000 ($35).

Unmuzzled dogs in public places in Hanoi. Video by VnExpress/Pham Chieu

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