Shelters: Home for ‘motherless’ pets

By Dr. Olutunde John Olarinde

Shelters or Dog pounds are facilities that house and dispose of homeless, lost, or abandoned animals; mostly dogs and cats. In the past, a shelter was more commonly referred to as a dog pound, a term which had its origins in the impoundments of agricultural communities, where stray cattle would be penned up or impounded until claimed by their owners.

 A replica of motherless babies’ home or Orphanage in humans, shelters as establishments, are usual and common occurrences in cities and towns of all advanced and developed countries and economies where the concerns for animals, their welfare and rights are high, paramount and respected. This is mainly due to the respect and value placed on animals and pets, the recognition of them as important resource in the economy and the social and economic conditions in these climes where the hurdles of the provisions of food, shelter, and clothing and other basic human necessities and needs of life had been surmounted to a large part.

Interestingly in Nigeria and other developing economies, the concern, welfare and respect for animals is improving by the days as exemplified by the care, love and affections shown by pet parents, lovers and owners and the increasing embrace of ownership of pets of all kinds, mostly dogs and cats by the populace. This is mainly due to the increased awareness of the people to the health, security and other benefits of keeping pets. For now, these improvements have not catapulted to the establishments and springing up of various shelter homes ,which are mostly run by governments, private individuals and non –profit organizations in the more advanced economies. There is hope that as there is improvement in the standard of living of the populace, increased awareness, welfare and concerns about animals and pets, there will be the berthing of shelters in the major cities and towns in Nigeria in the not too distant future.

The goal of the modern animal shelter is to contribute to public health and preventive medicine by keeping animals that otherwise would be free on the streets; usually in unsanitary conditions and that could constitute serious health hazards to the society. These free and stray animals that roam the streets without any form of veterinary Medicare and vaccinations like rabies immunizations are health risks. The shelter aims to provide a safe, loving, and caring environment until the pet is either reclaimed by its parent and owner, placed in a new home, placed with another organization for adoption, or euthanized.

In Lagos, where there is an increase in incidences of stray dogs and animals that roam the streets and that constitute health risks of bites and rabies, the government through the state’s  veterinary directorate under the Ministry of Agriculture and co-operatives many years ago instituted a  control programme which has a semblance of shelters to address and mitigate these health risks by inaugurating  a laudable program, The Stray Animal Control (SAC) programme, colloquially and otherwise called ‘Maja,Maja’ in the local parlance .Sadly enough, this programme has only being active on posters and on paper without the needed muscles and bites to achieve its set objectives.

The personnel in charge are not provided the needed tools like operational vehicles for streets’ monitoring, surveillance and capture and other necessary tools and enabling environment. This has made the program to be comatose, ineffective, a lame duck and a lip service as against the self-professed social services commitments and responsibilities to the healthcare of the people in the state by the government.

The untimely death of a promising, married and young banker in the state many months back (that  government officials were aware of and even paid condolence visits to the family) lent credence to the fact that government has to rethink its priorities and take necessary actions. He was bitten by a free and stray dog on the street that was later confirmed to be rabid. This reported case is one out of hundreds of reported and unreported cases in the state.

The other organization in the vanguard of the welfare of animals in the state is the resuscitated Nigeria society for the prevention of cruelty to Animals (NSPCA), the Nigerian version of the global organization, Society for the prevention of cruelty to Animals (SPCA).This non-profit and animal welfare organization and its shelter facility has been grounded for decades before its resuscitation. It offers shelter facility for homeless, abandoned and lost pets and animals. Like all organizations of its sort, funding to carry out its services to the fullest has always been an issue. It has to depend on grants and donations from services organizations and individuals to fulfill its objectives.

In the end, with the increased incidences of free and stray animals and pets on our streets and the associated health risks of bites and rabies to the teeming populace, who pay taxes in one form or the other, the importance of shelters and control programmes cannot be overemphasized to protect them.  The government should see to the re-activation, re-energizing and proper funding for established programme(s) in this direction, while appealing and urging well-meaning and well to do individuals and organizations to support the efforts of government by supporting established facilities and / or starting theirs’ as contribution to humanity and the society.


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