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Our canine friends

  • Published at 05:41 pm December 23rd, 2017
  • Last updated at 12:33 pm December 24th, 2017
Our canine friends
Continuous efforts by animal welfare organisations and a handful of concerned citizens are yet to fully succeed in protecting homeless dogs on our streets. Roaming the streets and living off trash, these animals often get abused for amusement and killed off like pests, despite regulations explicitly prohibiting such actions. Such cruelty and negligence can be attributed to a lack of manpower and resources required to protect, feed, and rescue stray animals. Additionally, many people do not care much about stray dogs, while many consider them to be a nuisance. And, some are petrified of these allegedly “vicious” animals and so they avoid contact with stray dogs by all means possible. But historical data suggests that this feeling (or a lack thereof) towards dogs is a relatively new phenomenon. A man-made creature Dogs are the finest examples of a truly man-made creature. The National Centre for Biotechnology Information estimates dogs to have been domesticated at least 20,000 years ago. The key word here is “domesticated,” meaning they did not come about as a result of natural selection, or some sort of evolutionary anomaly that mysteriously turned the ferocious gray wolf into such a playful animal. While the gray wolf may have had an evolutionary advantage of living alongside people and scavenging for food from their trash, it is deliberate human interference that led to its transformation to the play-bowing canines that are so dependent on people for their survival. Fear and propaganda The fear of animals is theorised to be a learned behaviour, formed through classical conditioning as explained by an experiment conducted in 1920, by psychologist John B Watson on an infant known to the scientific community as “Little Albert.” Albert was first introduced to a white laboratory rat and allowed to play with it. The researchers then made a loud noise behind Albert’s back each time he touched the rat. Albert’s obvious response to the noise was to cry and show fear. After several such pairings of the two stimuli, Albert was presented with only the rat. Upon seeing the rat, Albert got very distressed, crying and crawling away. Outside a laboratory, children learn such behaviour from the people around them.
Events like Puppyville, free clinics, and crowdfunding projects are just the tip of the iceberg
A concerned mother exclaiming that the dog her child is approaching will bite, might subconsciously install this irrational fear in the child’s mind as well. Worse still are propaganda spread by unsympathetic and illiterate clerics, claiming dogs as “impure.” That fact is, approaching or touching a dog does not automatically result in a violent attack from the animal. It is children hurting or abusing animals that usually result in dog bites. If parents took the time to civilise their children rather than fill their heads with irrational fear, both the child and animal would be safe. Of course, parents and guardians should also teach their children how to approach dogs, how to spot an ill one, and how to maintain proper hygiene after touching one. Using ignorant fear tactics, however, is not the right way. Why should we care? They were bred for their intelligence and loyalty to be our companions. It is only logical that they get affection and food from us. But where is our loyalty? Abandoning our own creations is nothing but a sign of cowardice. There is no point in fighting a 20,000 year old bond or our urge to interact with animals that manifests during our childhood, drawing us to animals of all kinds -- and that includes dogs as well (stray or pet). As for the ever-growing dog population, the suggestion of a mass culling is irrational and inhumane. Moreover, dog-culling is never a permanent solution. Dogs have a very high breeding rate, and removal of dogs from one area just results in them being replaced by those from neighbouring ones. Besides, the only reason behind such violent and ineffective measures in the face of better alternatives is nothing but a way to quench the blood thirst of emotionless psychopaths, of which there are many. Looking forward Reasonable solutions do exist, and have been implemented in many places all over the world, including our very own, Dhaka. CNVR (catch, neuter, vaccinate, return) programs are much more humane, and highly effective at controlling dog populations and preventing rabies. Organisations like Obhoyaronno Bangladesh Animal Welfare Society, People for Animal Welfare, Humane Society International, and many more are trying their best, but more people, more donations, and more awareness are needed to truly achieve a long lasting change. Events like Puppyville, free clinics, and crowdfunding projects are just the tip of the iceberg. Real change can only be made if our community comes together to help make lives better and safer for a species historically considered to be our best friends. SM Abrar Aowsaf is a freelance contributor.