Society problems

Our animal abuse reflects a society gone to dogs

When a video of West Ham defender Kurt Zouma kicking and throwing his cat surfaced online, it was widely condemned by animal lovers around the world. While the footballer’s act was heavily criticized as animal abuse and almost cost him his career, it reveals the seriousness with which animal welfare issues are treated in other countries.

Back home, the scenario of cats being kicked, beaten and thrown around is never new. Scenarios of dogs wagging their tails by the door as they drool over people eating while constantly dodging objects thrown at them to keep them away aren’t new either. Those of dogs, oxen and donkeys tending to serious wounds inflicted by their owners occur almost daily.

Although there are laws that protect these animals from abuse, the penalties for offenders have remained the same since 1962, as some sections have never been updated.

According to the director of Action for Animal Welfare in Africa, Dr. Kosova Mudoga, the welfare of domestic animals in Kenya is undermined by the owners’ lack of proper knowledge on how to keep animals. The majority of owners still lack knowledge about animal welfare laws and regulations.

“The main challenges are mainly about the knowledge of the owners on how to take good care of their animals. In a previous survey, we found that the majority of Kenyans in Nairobi love their animals but do not know what they need to care for them,” Dr Mudoga said.

Dr. Kosova says that although dogs are omnivores like humans, they enjoy a carnivorous diet more.

Cats, on the other hand, are purely carnivorous and therefore need a good amount of meat in their diet.

“But like dogs, they need carbohydrates and vegetables in their diet for vitamins and minerals,” Dr. Kosova added.

The lack of proper knowledge has led to the rise of the belief that fish is the best food for cats when in fact it is detrimental to their health. Dr. Kosova said cats instead suffer from neurological problems as a result of eating fish.

“Too much fish is detrimental to their health because fish has a thiaminase enzyme which destroys a thiamine B1 protein which is essential for cats or they end up suffering from neurological problems,” she said.

Proper health care for pets, primarily cats and dogs, she says, involves annual checkups as well as rabies vaccinations. Dogs should also be vaccinated annually against a combination of viruses including distemper, leptospira, parvo and hepatitis), while cats should be vaccinated against calicivirus – cat flu, panleukopenia and feline herpes.

They should also be wormed at least twice a year, but those around children, farm dogs, and loose dogs should be wormed at least monthly to eliminate worms that spread from animals to humans .

“There is also a need to ensure owners control external parasites using a variety of methods, from bathing to medication. Females should also not be allowed to give birth every year, as it affects their well-being and overall health,” she added.

While the welfare of cats and dogs is still lacking, animals like donkeys have also suffered for decades from myths that compromise their welfare.

“Some of these myths are detrimental to the health of these animals. While a donkey, just like cattle, needs to be dewormed, in most cases they are never dewormed. These donkeys are also tethered in the same place for days and in most cases have no access to water, but their contribution to the rural economy is enormous,” said CEO of Brooke East Africa, Dr. Raphael Kinoti.

Some donkeys also suffer injuries inflicted by users who whip them in the belief that they are working more efficiently. But just like other animals, donkeys too need to be cared for and trimmed of their hooves by specialists called farriers.

“They need the services of a farrier to be able to walk and balance properly. When the hooves are overgrown, it hurts and interferes with the way a donkey walks. It gets worse if they are overloaded. Donkey welfare issues have however improved through awareness raising and there are several farriers and champions across the country,” Dr Kinoti said.

Parliament passed the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (2012), which was a revised version of the earlier law passed in 1983.

The new law is broader and aims to control the treatment of animals, including their use in experiments. However, several domains have not been updated.

Another bill to update most of the articles is still in Parliament.

“The bill has been in draft for a long time. We hoped that if the bill was discussed and pushed, it would help address welfare issues because it is very progressive. It has not, however, been tabled in Parliament and if not pushed, it will be as good as a good piece of literature – Just a collection of good statements,” said Samuel Theuri, Head of Advocacy social rights at Brooke East Africa.