Stray dogs bites - Western Region records 11 deaths
Residents of some parts of the Western Region are getting alarmed by the sudden increase in the number of stray dogs in their neighbourhoods
situation has resulted in many dog bites which have equally led to about a dozen deaths in the past few months.
In most of the districts, residents say it is increasingly becoming difficult to take early morning and evening walks without aggressive dogs launching attacks on them.
During a tour of the region with the Health Minister, the Western Regional Health Directorate appealed for support to procure free vaccines to help curb the situation, which is now assuming alarming proportions.
It said the stray dogs were supposed to receive one intramuscular dose (vaccine) annually. However, there was no protective vaccine in health facilities for emergencies.
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It said from late last year till now, there had been 12 cases of dog bites, out of which 11 of the victims died, with only one survivor.
Tarkwa-Nsuaem recorded four deaths, Ellembele had two cases, Ahanta West and Prestea Huni-Valley had a case each, while Sekondi/Takoradi had three.
Population of dogs
A walk through the twin-city of Sekondi/Takoradi and adjoining peri-urban areas by this reporter revealed a lot more dogs roaming about freely on the streets.
The situation has become a nuisance, as various food vendors and bar operators have to be alert to stop the rude intrusion of these stray dogs who go in aggressively in search of food.
The Western Regional Director of Health, Dr Jacob Y. called for collaboration and urged the various assemblies to procure vaccines for the dogs before it was too late.
He said it was unfortunate that people had to die from dog bites.
“What we need now are anti-rabies vaccines to enable us to have these dogs so that in case of attacks, we can only talk about lacerations and the victims will survive,” he said.
A veterinary officer, Dr Simon Gbene, explained that some dog owners were not aware that there were laws pertaining to failure to care for their pets.
Risk of rabies
“We have also been educating dog owners that the best way to prevent fatalities is to vaccinate the dogs. However, owners in most cases disown their pets when it is time to pay for the vaccination,” Mr Gbene noted.
A dog exposed to rabid wildlife, he said, easily returned home carrying the rabies virus, putting humans in the communities at risk, with dog owners being more at risk.
He said interestingly when one took 100 reported cases, about 90 per cent of victims were the owners who had initially disowned the dogs.
“With the current situation, people have to be prosecuted, and if found guilty, dog owners have to be jailed six months or more, as stipulated by the law,” he stated.
“Last month, there was a case in Bibiani where one dog attacked about eight people. In the whole there was no vaccine and people had to rush to Kumasi to search for some,” he recalled.
Dr Gbene said of the preventive vaccine in most cases was due to the fact that the vaccine was supposed to be free, “but where something is free, you can never have it in abundance when you are faced with other needs”.
He said when people reported cases to health facilities and there were no vaccines and the hospital had to go and buy, the people still expected to get free.
Keeping pets and the law
Dr Gbene said “people should know that their refusal to vaccinate their pets is cruelty to the animals and punishable by law. Here in Takoradi and other areas dogs run around freely and this unacceptable.
“The law says that you cannot have a dog and allow it to roam the streets without a chain, a muzzle covering the mouth or any identity of a dog with a responsible owner.
“What we want to do now is hold landlords responsible because when you go to some houses, the veterinary officer is welcomed, yet when it is time for medication and payment, everybody says they don’t know the owner of the dog,” he noted.