Stray Dogs

My opinion about the ubiquitous stray dogs in Georgia has evolved over the years, from “Wait, there’s also a country called Georgia?” to “crap, do I have to get rabies shots?” to “oh, these stray dogs aren’t so bad” to “shit, I’m being chased by a dog” to “wait, how many of my friends have been bitten?” At some point I was complaining about this issue to a friend of mine in the States who is good at getting things done, and she suggested that I write a letter to the President about it. If the country is really as small and if political action really happens as summarily as I have represented, went her logic, then a determined individual may well stand a fair chance of motivating some kind of change, especially on a matter so relatively trivial and uncontroversial.

Soon after that, a conversation started up on one of TLG’s more exclusive facebook groups talking about the issue of strays. I floated the idea of a petition/letter writing campaign and the various folks seemed to think that could be good, so I went ahead a drafted a succinct but comprehensive letter about stray dogs – the problem, and the solution – to be promulgated and possibly sent in to some sort of elected officials.

Well, response has been good, so I went ahead and submitted said letter to Misha himself through his nifty “Send Letter To ThePresident” web form – and note that Misha is so modern that his title is in CamelCase – and I’m really hoping that Mr. Saakashvili will get my letter and take it to heart. Especially since we’re so tight these days.

Anyway, here’s the text of the letter. I’m actually serious about getting something done about this dog thing, so if you agree with what I’ve written I encourage you to share it with your friends and enemies, and then sign it and send it to your local politicians – be they regional members of parliament, local mayors or influential folk, the Mayor of Tbilisi, or the President himself. This really isn’t a controversial issue and I think we can all agree that strays should be dealt with responsibly and humanely.

***********************************************

To whom it may concern,

The problem of stray dogs has yet to be adequately addressed in Georgia. Stray dogs pose a number of dangers to public health and safety – aside from the obvious issue of dog bites, there’s also the danger of rabies (a disease which, if not treated promptly, is fatal) and of other diseases spread by dogs or by insects carried by dogs. Finally, the large number of strays sharing the road with automobiles can lead to traffic accidents if a driver swerves to avoid a passing dog.

The life of a stray dog is nasty, brutish, and short. Strays are hungry, scavenging for food through the refuse left by humans, and many strays are bony and emaciated. Many strays also have untreated injuries or diseases, leaving them scarred and visibly disfigured. Strays are subject to abuse at the hands of unkind humans or at the teeth and claws of other dogs.

Meanwhile, the communities that live with strays face a number of quality of life concerns. Dogs are loud at night, when they roam the streets in packs hunting or fighting or howling at the moon. Dogs dig through our trash, making a mess on the street. Dogs leave their excrement in public places where people want to walk. Living with filthy, noisy animals may seem like a trifling problem, but when visitors come to Georgia for tourism, work, or education, the strays make a significant impact on their opinion and can mar the beauty of Georgia in their minds.

This problem should be approached with a comprehensive, responsible, and humane plan to control the population of strays both by reducing current numbers of strays and preventing the growth of the population in the future. Such a plan would include dog-catchers, pounds, adoption programs, and, as a last resort, euthanasia. Pet owners should be encouraged to keep their pets from running wild through collar and leash laws; and additionally should be encouraged to have their pets spayed or neutered.

As a concerned resident of Georgia, I urge you to take action on this issue. Many countries have successfully managed the problem of stray dogs and there are a number of different, effective models to work from, as well as various NGOs concerned with animal rights and/or civic development who would be happy to work with the Georgian government to ensure a prompt, efficient, and effective solution to the problem of stray dogs.

Thank you for your attention,
(Your name here)

************************************************

Of course you should feel free to edit this in whatever way you like, or just write your own completely original letter. I actually believe that together, we can build a better Georgia, and I think we would all like to see the benefits of a well-managed dog population throughout the country.

***********

In case you’re wondering what we should do with all the strays, I hear Bremen is in the market for some new musicians – especially if your dog can play an upright bass guitar…

(Video: Bremenskiye Musicanti, Part 1)

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6 Responses to Stray Dogs

  1. Chrest says:

    The main issue I see with this is that I expect very few people will adopt the dogs. I recently posted a picture of my formerly stray cat on Facebook, and a Georgian coworker asked about him yesterday. Here is how the conversation went:
    “I really like your cat, he’s very pretty. Where did you buy him?”
    “I didn’t buy him.”
    “Oh, he was a gift then?”
    “No, he was a stray, as a kitten. My friend found him sick and took him in, and then gave him to me because she already had two formerly stray cats.”
    “Oh.”

    The concept of getting a pet from the street was not even on the radar.

    Likewise, a friend in TLG recently tried to find a home for a litter of puppies that were born near her house, and was unable to, because she couldn’t find a shelter in Tbilisi that would take in strays. She found shelters, they just wouldn’t take in strays. The puppies died.

    The Caucasian Shepherd in my compound is kept in a dirty fenced-in yard, walked infrequently, and fed nothing but bread.

    Another TLG friend lived with a family who had a puppy, which they kept chained outside. For her birthday party, a bunch of us visited her, and after the party we went outside and played with the puppy, who was adorable. The Georgians stood in a clump looking at us, trying to figure out what we were doing with the dog.

    My point is not that Georgians tend to treat even the animals which they own poorly (although they often do). My point is that many Georgians do not see animals (and especially dogs) as a source of companionship. Instead, they are working animals, or in Tbilisi, status symbols. A program that required dogs to be adopted in order to avoid euthanizing them would, I fear, end up euthanizing the vast majority of the dogs that it took in, because no one would adopt them, because they wouldn’t see the point.

    I suggest a system of catching, neutering or spaying, tagging, and releasing stray dogs as a first phase in order to reduce their numbers, because otherwise this system will probably end up simply killing hundreds of animals, barring a sudden, large shift in public attitudes toward strays.

    • Kety Zhvania-Tyson says:

      Unfortunately I have to agree with the author – most Georgians will not adapt stray dogs. It will take time to change this attitude, change the culture. We need shelters, we need educational programs, we need general awareness on this issue.

  2. Kam says:

    I’d like to see something done about cats too. I was actually surprised when I moved to Tbilisi about how many fewer stray dogs there are in proportion to where I was before but it is definitely still an issue. The entire city is just /crawling/ with cats, though. It’s so bad that I constantly have to prevent cats from getting into my house, mostly out of concern for my own cat. There is at least one group here that does work revolving around the desexing of animals, but the work that needs to be done is too much for /one/ organization to solve.

    Something like a spay/neuter and release program would be fantastic (there was a program like this implemented in Savannah, Georgia back in the States, where the issue of stray cats and dogs downtown is at least as bad as here. People also need to be educated about the benefits and reasons behind desexing their animals, because lots of people here react negatively to the idea, thinking that it’s cruel (because, you know, abandoning animals to become roadkill once they’re hormonally overcharged or adding to the already overwhelming unwanted animal population with litter after litter is so much more humane).

    Unfortunately, I think it will be a while before adoption really gains popularity because it seems that most people around here prefer pedigreed animals (though I’ve met some great people who have taken in strays, as well). Shelters would be fantastic but quickly overwhelmed as is often the case.

  3. pasumonok says:

    The number of stray dogs in tbilisi has decreased dramatically, since the some company won a tender and started catching dogs, checking their health and then either neutering them or killing them (which was somewhat cruel).
    it still is a problem, but i am afraid to complain, because i really see improvement. in saburtalo, most of the stray dogs are actually yard dogs–that is several neighbors in one yard take care of them. during the dog-killing period, dog-catchers tried to get rid of the yard dogs and upset all the little old ladies who actually took care of them. after much fight, they agreed to check those dogs,, neuter them,, bring them back to the yard and put a collar on them–as a proof that it has been checked. these dogs are now called domesticated dogs, but they are not pets–they do not live in the apartment.
    i would also add that there are 2 domesticated dogs in my cousin’s yard. two strays and one well-bread doggy with no owner. two or three families feed these dogs and the whole yard treats them well. one family is especially active and paid for the cancer-removing surgery for one of these three. the dogs protect yard from others, and yes, if you walk in the yard, they will bark at you, but they act nice towards their own people.
    to me, those dogs are essential part of the yard, just like trees, benches and soccer stadium.
    the number of cats has increased since the dog massacre. i don’t mind. in istanbul, cats are everywhere and it gives the city some charm.

  4. --> says:

    >submitted said letter to Misha

    Don’t you think that something is wrong with the situation when the President of the country have to deal personally with stray dogs problem? I mean – why nobody else below him is capable or willing to deal/fix the problems?

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