A couple of weeks ago, there was this long debate in the media about what to do about stray dogs in this country sparked by dogs attacking a little boy incident. The debate spilled over to the comment box on this blogsite. I refrained from writing as both LSM and Maurina already did beautiful pieces about it and Unharm6187 wrote a few paragraphs worth about it in the comment box (I am surprised you did not post one on your site?)
A couple of days ago, I came across the minutes of the meetings that were held by the taskforce to look into the problems of stray dogs. I wasn't at the meeting so I can't give first hand accounts of what happened but can only based on what I read. Contrary to what the public think about the government, the amount of attention that was paid to be both ethical and humanitarian was clearly evident from the discussions. That's a plus point but there was no mention of a long term solution yet such as the building of animal shelters which were clamoured by some sections of the public. But then there has only been 2 meetings, so there are clearly many more meetings to go through. As Maurina said, more pacings need to be done.
I remembered many years ago, I was once a deputy Postmaster General, taking over from the incumbent as he went on haj leave for about a month. The Postmaster General is responsible for all the postal services in this country, the millions of letters and parcels sent and delivered and the running of all the post offices throughout the country. My job as the acting number 2 was to ensure that the administration and the management of all these functions function well. One issue that I came across was dogs - both the stray kind and the ones that acted as security guards. Dogs are territorial animals. Postmen and meter readers have been attacked by dogs, unfortunately dogs bite postmen happen so often that it becomes unnewsworthy as opposed to dogs bite children stories which becomes sensationalised. In Brunei, dogs have chased postmen and sometimes bite them and you don't get to hear about them.
What happens if postmen are unable to deliver letters because of dogs? If it is a guard dog, normally the department will try to deliver a letter saying that no more letters will be delivered until the dogs are under control. That warning letter can sometimes be difficult to deliver, so it becomes a Catch 22 situation. But the owners normally come and complain why they never receive letters, so they get all the letters at once when they come in and the warning letter as well. However stray dogs are treated differently. In those days, the district authorities will be informed and workers with blowpipes will come in and you know the rest.
I am not a lover of dogs, I have had my share of being chased by dogs when I was a child and I certainly didn't provoke them - I just happened to come across them, so I don't buy the theory that the dogs have to be provoked before they chase and bite you. However I do realise that they are the Al-Mighty's creatures too and they are here for a reason on this earth. We should however also realise the consequences of dogs and the possibility of dogs aggression. In America, according to the dogbitelaw.com, there are almost 5 million victims annually -- about 2% of the entire population. 800,000 need medical attention. 1,000 per day need treatment in hospital emergency rooms. Between 15 and 20 die per year. Most of the victims who receive medical attention are children, half of whom are bitten in the face. Dog bite losses exceed $1 billion per year, with $345 million paid by insurance. So, dog attacks are more common than you think and is quite costly to the economy.
What can we do in Brunei? Dogs are required to be licensed in Brunei under the Dogs Act. If they are not licensed, the authorities can come and take the dogs away and the owners can be fined. However that raised its own problems. It does cost money to register and no one knows where to register one anyway. I have yet to find out who does the registering. Unfortunately there is no penalty if the irresponsible owners who after getting weary of their dogs decided to let them go and these dogs became feral dogs. These dogs can become very dangerous as they are no longer domesticated. There are talks that the government should set up animal shelters but it has been pointed out that may not be on in this country. There are no brownie points for doing it. The only way is to get the private sector involved. Would anyone be willing to set one up?
Clearly, the taskforce still has lots of work to do and plenty of pacing. My colleague who is chairing it certainly has to balance between the needs of the safety of the public and the needs of the animal lovers. It ain't easy, as they say when man's best friend can become man's worst enemy.