Rwanda National Police (RNP) and Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) have called on dog owners to have the domestic animals vaccinated and stop them from roaming the streets or neighbourhoods.
They say these measures are meant to prevent dog attacks on people and livestock, which often spreads rabies, and warned that failure to observe these preventive measures will lead to severe legal action, including culling stray dogs.
The call comes in the wake of growing cases of stray dogs in different parts of the country, with some attacking and biting people.
A recent report by RAB shows that at least 669 people were attacked and bitten by stray dogs last year, up from 383 in 2015.
RAB says it gathered its data from different medical facilities across the country where the injured were treated.
In the City of Kigali, stray dogs are a commonplace in several suburbs, including Nduba, Rusororo, Gisozi and Kinyinya.
Besides being dangerous to children as well as adult humans, barking packs of stray dogs prowl some neighbourhoods, often mainly at night in search of what to eat or a mate.
“Stray dogs are dangerous and constitute a security menace. There are procedures of domesticating a dog and punitive action will be taken against those who violate the rules, especially those putting people’s lives in danger,” said the Gasabo District Police Commander Senior Supt. Valens Muhabwa.
According to Dr Isidore Gafarasi Mapendo, the Director of Veterinary and Laboratory Services at RAB, the standard procedures are detailed in the Ministerial order No. 009/11.30 of 18/11/2010 on animal husbandry in articles 4 to 10. The provisions concern the requirements and procedures to own a dog, penalties meted on owners of abandoned dogs and action taken against stray dogs.
“Owners of dogs are required to vaccinate them and get a certificate of vaccination and while when one is walking with their dog on the street or in the neighbourhood they are required to use a leash to control them and to move with the certificate,” Dr Gafarasi said, adding that only adults are allowed to walk around with dogs.
RAB says there were 18,117 dogs in Rwanda last year. However, only 11,375 dogs had been vaccinated.
The agency also says that a total of 2870 stray dogs were culled last year to avert possible attacks on humans and attendant consequences.
Dog culling is a planned mass killing of particularly stray dogs, a common practice used to eliminate the menace of stray dogs, which has nonetheless been challenged by activists in many countries.
Dog population is said to have peaked in Rwanda in 2009 (19950), according RAB.
The same report indicates that the highest vaccination record was recorded in 2013 when some 12,860 dogs were immunised but this dropped to 9750 the following year, while 8,072 dogs were vaccinated in 2015.
However, in 2016, vaccination, covering some 11, 375 dogs, thanks to a mass awareness campaign.
2012 is the year when a national record of 4,002 dogs were culled, while mass culling of dogs dropped significantly, to 2197, in 2015.
“Dog owners must ensure that their pets have leather collar fitted with a numbered medal,” said Dr Gafarasi. “Immunisation of dogs against rabies is also compulsory and owners must declare their dogs to local authorities with specifications of their dogs.”
He added: “A dog belongs to an individual or a family, but not a community, that’s why owners must keep them within fenced premised or restrained.”
In some neighbourhoods of Kigali, many residents have complained barking and howling dogs.
For stray dogs, officials say that there will be a continuous effort to identify owners with view to have them get the animals back home but in the event that that’s not possible they will have no option but to have the dogs culled.