12 December 2012

Animal welfare

Stray dogs in the street.

Spare a thought for the much maligned dogs.  In Tunisia, as it is in many other Arab countries, the word "dog" is a swear word.  People in these countries appear to tolerate and even befriend stray cats but have a distinct dislike and fear of dogs.  They try and justify this hatred by saying that dogs are dirty and can carry the rabies virus without knowing that this deadly but treatable disease has a potential to spread through a bite from many infected animals such as cats, rats, bats, foxes and raccoons to name a few.  So why is it that some people choose to single out dogs in particular and project their skewed and misinformed prejudice against them?  I do not have an answer to this question but what I do know is that every day I see stray dogs roaming the streets of Tunis in various degrees of malnourishment.  They are often injured and limping.  It is clear to see that they have been subjected to mistreatment as they are vary of humans and they often carry the visible scars of animal cruelty and can be seen walking around with imbedded collars and open wounds.  Why is it that dogs can be viewed as household pets in some countries but not in others?  It is perhaps due to ignorance and a lack of education that people view them with contempt and scorn and take their anger out on them and mistreat them.

There are of course some Tunisians who keep dogs as pets but they are in the minority.  Even then, dogs are seen as a status symbol in this country.  That is to say people have expensive pedigree dogs to show off their wealth and to impress their friends and neighbours.  These dogs are often an accoutrement to their jet-set lifestyle and have expensive collars and silk scarves tied around their fury canine necks.  One often sees a house-maid or a gardener walking these privileged dogs around the streets and it obvious that the dog does not belong to the person who is walking the dog rather it is another example of a wealthy person who has bought a dog and who cannot even be bothered to exercise the dog themselves and has delegated the responsibility of dog ownership to their household staff.

There are also some Tunisians who keep stray dogs chained up in their gardens and use them as inexpensive burglar alarms.  These poor dogs have terrible mental problems as a result of being chained up night and day.  They bark incessantly and they suffer at the hands of their owners who have no interest in their welfare.  They do not have regular meals and neither do they have easy access to fresh, clean water.

The Tunisians that are genuine dog lovers are rare.  The people that are in this category treat their dogs with love and affection.  They do not differentiate between pedigree dogs and stray dogs as they are animal lovers.

In this article about dogs, I will include a link to a BBC video clip which shows rescued dogs in New Zealand learning to drive a car.  Yes, you read correctly, dogs have been trained to drive cars.  Why is that you might ask?  Well, the trainers in New Zealand say they want more rescued dogs to be adopted and by teaching them how to drive a specially adapted car in seven weeks they want to show the general public just how intelligent dogs are  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20614593

 Dogs are also used in search and rescue work to help to find survivors following an avalanche or an earthquake.  In this BBC video clip we see rescue dogs taking part in avalanche training in the French Alps with their owners who have travelled all across the world to take part in this course.

A selection of dog related proverbs:

Dogs have so many friends because they wag their tails and not their tongues.

Let sleeping dogs lie.

Two dogs over one bone seldom agree.

It's a dog's life.

A dog that is idle barks at his fleas but a dog that is hunting feels them not.

A dog is a man's best friend.

Dogs see people as companions; cat's see people as staff.

Gone to the dogs.

Every dog has his day.
As a wolf is like a dog, so a flatterer is like a friend.

It's raining cats and dogs.

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