In Kampala, Uganda, people are finally saying “no” to abusive dog culls.
The problem started nearly a month ago when a suburb of the city called Bukoto experienced a chilling visit from the KCCA (Kampala City Council Authority). In an attempt to control the stray dog population in the market, the KCCA entered with buckets of poisoned meat, and proceeded to kill every dog they could find.
These actions were filmed by a local news network, which documented the brutality as helpless street dogs buckled and seized under the effects of the poison. Most were killed in broad daylight, in front of children and market patrons. A copy of the video can be found here, although please keep in mind the content is graphic and heartbreaking.
Soon after the Bukoto cull, it was announced the KCCA would be taking their poison meat to another suburb of Kampala, called Nakawa. That’s when the citizens decided they’d had enough.
The taxi drivers in the Nakawa Park, who were aware of the USPCA (Ugandan Society for the Protection and Care of Animals) shelter nearby, called its manager, Alex Ochieng.
“They knew of us through Hope” Alex said, recalling a dog who had been run over at the taxi a few years prior and lost mobility in her back legs. Through donations, the USPCA fitted Hope with a wheelchair and she spent her days scooting around the taxi park, becoming local celebrity of sorts.
“So they told us, the KCCA is coming to poison dogs. We didn’t even hesitate one day; we went down to the taxi park immediately.” The dogs of the taxi park, who survive on bones and scraps from local restaurants and friendly drivers, were lazing away in the shade of the taxis, when USPCA staff arrived.
“The drivers were happy to see us,” Alex recalls. Quickly the USPCA distributed leashes and everyone pitched in to round up the dogs. However, the group soon realized the USPCA lacked the room in their vehicle to take all the dogs.
Thankfully the taxi drivers stepped in again, offering up their taxis for transport. Taxis or “matatus” in Uganda are actually large vans with sliding doors. The dogs clambered into the seats, and soon they were on their way to the shelter, where vaccinations, food and housing were all readily available.
“It was after hearing of Bukoto, and intervening in Nakawa that we decided to have a talk with the KCCA,” Alex says. He noted that culling has never helped the Uganda’s street dog problem. “It takes maybe a month, and then more dogs move in and take their place. It’s ineffective and cruel.”
Thankfully during the meeting between the USPCA and the Kampala City Authority, the USPCA was able to convince them to end inhumane dog culls.
“From now on, when the KCCA have a problem with dogs, they will call us first,” Alex said triumphantly. “We will come; we will take care of any dog issues for them, bringing them back to our shelter for treatment and adoption.”
The USPCA has also begun instituting education programs for children and adults around Kampala, teaching them about proper animal care, and respect for all life. Because in Uganda rabies and wild dog packs do pose real dangers, there’s a deep-seated cultural fear of unknown dogs. Many children grow up throwing stones at them, trying to scare away something they see as innately dangerous.
However, so far hundreds of children have attended the USPCA’s lectures, learning to love and protect animals. “Slowly we are sensitizing the Ugandan community about animal welfare,” says Alex. “If children grow up with animals as their family members…they will love them”.
Part of this outreach is teaching children how to recognize and help sick and helpless dogs because “saving a life is the nicest thing to do,” Alex tells them. The USPCA has also taken on the project of running community clinics to spay, neuter and vaccinate dogs in vulnerable communities.
Although the USPCA is nearly at capacity, they make efforts daily to ensure their dogs are comfortable. Community dog walking programs and yard time is especially vital to the dogs’ mental and physical health. Rehabilitation also plays a vital role at the shelter. In Alex’s words, “It’s interesting to nurse every sick animal back to health. This particular animal will love you as its life rescuer and one who shares passion. The Uganda SPCA exposes me to the world of animal’s welfare where behavior, habits, hidden facts, learning companionship of animals are really found.”
To visit the USPCA’s website, read their story, or make a donation, visit Animal Kind International.
Photo credits: Used with kind permission from the USPA.