AWARE Trust Zimbabwe (ATZ) has treated almost 4 000 dogs of skin diseases mainly caused ill-treatment at the hands of their owners as a way of punishment in Tsholotsho, 98 kilometres north-west of Bulawayo
By Nokuthaba Dlamini
In a statement, ATZ said many of the dogs suffered from scalded skin, as they had hot water splashed on them, while some were forced to bottle hot boiled eggs in their mouths repeatedly, a practice that the locals believe is a way of training the canines not to steal eggs.
The trust said such practices were still dominant in rural areas, with Tsholotsho district being one of the case studies, where they have treated 3 821 dogs.
“Since the last update in May, they have neutered another 248 village dogs, and vaccinated and de-wormed 3 336 dogs in some of the remotest wards of the country, bordering the south of Hwange National Park.
“A further 207 dogs have been treated for all sorts of medical and surgical conditions,” ATZ said.
“Animal welfare education remains a challenge where cultural practices such as training a dog not to eat eggs by forcing a boiling hot egg inside its mouth still occur, while some are scalded with boiling water as a way of punishment.”
Hwange National Park, to the west of Zimbabwe, is one of the country’s prime tourist areas and a disease outbreak in the park could be catastrophic to tourism.
As part of the campaign the ATZ team spent a considerable amount of time educating villagers about animal welfare and vaccinated dogs, which is also a measure meant to prevent the spillover of deadly transmissible diseases to wild carnivores and vice versa.
ATZ expressed concern at the living standards in rural areas, saying villagers lived in unsanitary conditions characterised by a poor road and communications network.
“The trips have been logistically challenging due to their remote locations – mobile phone signal is largely absent resulting in sometimes poor ability to advertise the campaigns in advance,” ATZ said.
“In Pumula ward, there wasn’t even a communal borehole to extract water from – the team had to resort to sharing water with the local livestock from a murky dam.”
Just under a year ago, ATZ performed 92 operations with a total of 37 spays, 55 castrations and 893 dogs vaccinated in the first round, with their target being 12 000 dogs in communal areas bordering the Hwange National Park.
The area is known for its lethal canine distemper virus (CDV) outbreaks, which often leaves the few survivors with lifelong neurological symptoms such as tremors and twitches.
The trust said apart from the devastation to domestic dogs, CDV is a particularly serious threat to wild carnivores such as African wild dogs and lions.
“It is hoped that by vaccinating 12 000 domestic dogs with 7in1 and rabies, the suffering caused by these dreaded diseases will be drastically reduced,” the ATZ said.
ATZ director, Keith Dutlow in a recent, said they had treated 52 000 donkeys in Matabeleland South last year.
He said they worked closely with Zimbabwe Wildlife Parks and Wildlife Management Authority in dehorning of rhinos in parks to reduce the influx of poachers and treat animals snares and bullet wounds.
ATZ is supported by Dogs Trust Worldwide which they commended for providing critical veterinary care to dogs “that would never see a vet in their short, tough lives”.