Education answer to feral dogs

It saddened me to read that the Botanic Park has lost several of its Blue Iguanas to feral dogs.

The Blue Iguana recovery program is a good example of the kind of concerted, long-term effort needed to preserve species diversity.

Conversely, the island’s problem with feral dogs underscores the responsibility of owners to maintain domestic animals within their own borders.

Those domestic animals gone astray, hungry, exposed to the elements and usually without much fear of people pose a real danger to wildlife and sometimes to humans (children, walkers, runners and cyclists).

At the same time, those feral animals deserve better: their deal with humanity over the ages has included custodial care from their owners.

When this is defaulted upon, everybody, including the environment, suffers.

Groups such as the Humane Society, the Department of Agriculture and the local vet clinics do a great deal to alleviate the problem of feral animals on the island.

However, the problem continues, partially because it is tolerated by the public. If we can increase public awareness of how to properly care for animals, then we can expect fewer cases of dumping animals into important environmental reserves like the Botanic Park.

Education programs at local schools are vital, but sometimes animals are adopted by well-meaning expatriates who find they can’t take their new pets home.

Reaching people like these might take an extra effort, but even a casual conversation can get across the message that animals need to be returned to some kind of care facility if you can’t give them a decent life.

Anyone who has seen feral cats and dogs in the bush – thin, nervous and heavily parasitized – knows it’s not exactly paradise for them.

Domestic animals deserve domesticity and it is our responsibility to provide a good quality of life for them however we can.

Anne Lichtenwalner – DVM PhD St. Matthews University School of Veterinary Medicine

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