- Kuwait Times Extra
KUWAIT: A controversial program of leaving poison in public places as part of animal and pest control efforts will now be scrapped. In its place, the Public Authority for Agriculture Affairs and Fish Resources (PAAAFR) will now work with the UK-based WSPCA and local animal non-profits organizations to learn alternative animal control methods. Pest and animal control in Kuwait has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks after news broke that the Municipality was leaving packets of rat poison in public spaces – including beaches, parks, walkways and the Cornice.
The PAAAFR has tackled the issue of stray dogs in Kuwait since the 1960s. Initially the animals were shot outright but this policy changed following the Iraqi invasion. “After the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, the Interior Ministry banned the use of weapons for animal control. So we started leaving out poison to kill the stray dogs,” said Nabeela Al- Ali, Assisting Undersecretary for the Animal Welfare Affairs.
Stray dogs have long been a problem in Kuwait but have grown in numbers in recent years, especially in the industrial and newer residential areas. “Stray dogs live mostly in the empty desert spaces on the edges of industrial or residential areas. These animals cause great danger to humans as they may transfer diseases if they got in contact with them such as rabies, mange, fungus, and different kinds of parasites. If a dog bites a person this is painful and also they cause fear for the children. Then they also may attack the domestic animals of the people, as the stray dogs usually move in packs,” explained Al-Ali.
In this program, PAAAFR is also cooperating with Kuwait’s two animal protection societies: K’S PATH and PAWS – non-profit organizations of volunteers working to protect animals. “They shelter animals and they search for a home for them, if somebody wants to adopt them. They clean the dogs, vaccinate them and sterilize them, so they won’t reproduce,” said Al-Ali.
Since the 1960s there have been 10 teams from PAAAFR with 10 vehicles who have been trying to deal with the problem of stray dogs. She explained that the PAAAFR staff and members of K’s PATH and PAWS will undergo training provided by WSPA next month or in October. “WSPA has helped many other countries deal with the problem of stray animals with traps or anesthetization or by shooting them with tranquilizer gum, so the animals won’t be killed. We also have to provide the equipments,” stressed Al-Ali.
Helen Ashley, the International Media Manager of World Society for the Protection of Animals noted that the Society has been working with the Kuwaiti Government to develop a humane program to manage stray dogs in Kuwait. “We are pleased that following a workshop we held in Kuwait last year to discuss humane alternatives to their culling program, that the government have decided to work with us to develop a humane program to manage stray dogs. We will be providing the Kuwait Government with training and advice to help them put the program in place” she stated.
PAAAFR had earlier demanded a budget to help the problem with stray dogs. The Ministry of Finance, Al-Ali said, refused the request on this project. “So we are now working jointly with the volunteering societies and we plan to submit the proposal again. The ministry earlier didn’t find this issue to be a priority. We are also planning to prepare a new place in addition to the Rabies Unit where we can keep the stray animals,” Al-Ali concluded.
Manuela Tague, Chairperson of PAWS stated that their cooperation with PAAAFR has just started. “This is a step forward for the animals in Kuwait. Many people were complaining of the poisoning in public places. We will definitely support PAAAFR if they start this program but we are limited in our resources. Our running cost is about KD 2000 monthly as we don’t get any support from the government. We have 92 dogs and 78 cats and we only depend on our own resources and some donations,” she pointed out.
According to Tague in comparison to Europe there is no legal framework to punish those who abuse animals. “Many people throw hundreds of dogs in the Friday market, and some of them become stray animals. Kuwait needs control and regulations. And I think that the old way of poisoning animals was rude, as it took the animals long time and suffering to die. The government needs to implement the program as well as they did in Qatar and Abu Dhabi,” she added.
She added that PAWS was demanding a land PAAAFR to shelter the stray or abundant animals. “The current land we are operating on is here in the middle of farm area, and people there don’t like us to stay there. PAAAFR promised to provide us with a land maybe in Wafra to be far from people. Then we will be able to accommodate the animals,” she said. Tague concluded, “Some stray animals may be put down if they are really very sick, injured or aggressive but there are more humane ways to do that than throwing poison. In this way the animals die in terrible pain.” To report any case of stray animals people can call 24717124, so they will be transferred to the Rabies Unit.
By Nawara Fattahova, Staff Writer
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