Kenya: Stiff Fines for Owners of Free-Roaming Dogs

Are you a dog owner? Do you let your canine roam freely in your estate? You may want to reconsider.

Parliament is debating a bill that will see you face stiff sanctions should your dog be found loitering.

The Control of Stray Dogs Bill, 2019, that was introduced to the Senate on Tuesday, proposes that owners ensure that their dogs do not pose a risk or cause nuisance to members of the public.

FINE

Should a canine be caught free-roaming, the owner shall be liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding Sh300,000 or to a jail term of not less one year.

The bill, sponsored by nominated Senator Mary Seneta, seeks to repeal the Rabies Act and provide the mechanism of dealing with the menace of stray dogs.

The Rabies Act was enacted in 1932 and has only amended once, in 1962, and Ms Seneta argues that it is outdated and cannot deal with threats posed by stray dogs which pose serious human, health and welfare problems.

"With the promulgation of the new Constitution it has become important to overhaul the Act in order to take into account the provisions of the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution on the functions of the county governments," Ms Seneta states in the memorandum of objects of the Bill.

Nairobi County government estimates there are about 50,000 stray dogs which pose serious risk to city dwellers.

NEW SURVEY

A recent dog survey report by World Animal Protection, a London-based lobby, established that 53 percent of dog owners in Nairobi allow their canines to roam freely, especially at night on belief that it is the animals' natural behaviour.

The survey also revealed that a majority of dog owners do not vaccinate their dogs with seventy-three percent of respondents saying they would immunise them and provide healthcare if the services are available.

"This survey points to a significant information gap among dog owners. Something that can only be bridged through active education programmes and aggressive campaigns," said Emily Mudoga, campaign manager at World Animal Protection during the launch of the report in March this year.

City Hall says it would spend Sh100 million to deal with the growing menace of stray dogs in the county.

The county director of veterinary service, Mr Murithi Muhari, said the devolved unit would eliminate these dogs in the next one year by "shooting them through designated ways".

Among the objects of the Bill is public education programmes focused on responsible dog ownership, prevention of human-animal disease transmission and spread, and management of stray dogs population.

Ms Seneta wants owners to accept full responsibility for their dogs and for any offspring that the canines produce in their lifetime; ensure the proper welfare of the dog including vaccination and protection of the dog from infectious diseases.

STRAY DOGS

The bill gives power to county officials to seize stray dogs found in public places and detain them. However, such seizure shall be done at the cost of the dog owner.

Section 6 (3) of the Bill provides where the conduct of an owner of a dog results in a death of a person caused by the dog, the owner will have committed an offence and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding Sh500,000 or a jail term not exceeding of not less than five years, or both.

Where a dog trespasses to a place other its owner's place, the owner shall be liable for the damage done to property by the trespass or by any person capturing the dog, the expenses incurred in capturing the dog.

Such expenses shall include capturing, confining and impounding the dog, attempting to ascertain the owner, maintaining, transporting or selling the dog.

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