It’s a dog’s life for cap­i­tal’s grow­ing pack of strays

China Daily (USA) - - WORLD - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in Yangon, Myanmar

The dart hits a flee­ing street dog in the thigh, the bright or­ange tip sag­ging against his brown and white fur as he slows to a halt, his limbs suc­cumb­ing to the seda­tives.

The mutt is one of more than 100,000 strays that roam the streets of Myanmar’s com­mer­cial cap­i­tal Yangon, sleep­ing in door­ways, nos­ing through rub­bish and bark­ing their chal­lenges to each other late into the night.

He is ac­tu­ally one of the lucky ones— the se­dated an­i­mal is among sev­eral hun­dred that will be vac­ci­nated and neutered dur­ing a three­month city cam­paign in Yangon’s south­ern Lan­madaw town­ship.

Loved by some and loathed by oth­ers, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties have for years tried to contain the swelling packs of dogs by feed­ing them poi­soned meat.

But an­i­mal rights ac­tivists have lob­bied the gov­ern­ment to change tack, ar­gu­ing that the killings do lit­tle to contain the pop­u­la­tion or stop the spread of ra­bies.

Myanmar has the sec­ond­high­est rate of ra­bies in South­east Asia, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion, al­though vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams have helped stem the num­ber of cases.

Some say au­thor­i­ties dis­like neu­ter­ing be­cause of the be­lief held by Bud­dhists, the re­li­gious ma­jor­ity in Myanmar, that karmic ret­ri­bu­tion will leave you in­fer­tile in your next life.

Leav­ing poi­soned meat, on the other hand, is seen as free of spir­i­tual con­se­quences be­cause the dogs opt to eat the food on their own.

Oth­ers say ster­il­i­sa­tion is an ex­pen­sive op­tion for a coun­try where one in four lives be­low the poverty line.

But im­ages of dog corpses strewn across the city’s pave­ments spread on so­cial me­dia have shocked the pub­lic.

In­re­sponse, Yangon of­fi­cials signed an agree­ment with US an­i­mal NGO Hu­mane So­ci­ety In­ter­na­tional in March to be­gin a city-wide vac­ci­na­tion and ster­il­i­sa­tion scheme.

An­i­mal-lovers like Ter­ryl Just, an Amer­i­can who founded the Yang on An­i­mal Shel­ter which cares for some 500 rescued dogs, ar­gue the an­i­mals could be­come a tourist draw for the city.

“We’ve adopted some out to the States — LA, Seattle, Washington, Cal­i­for­nia — to peo­ple who have vis­ited Yangon,” she said.

“Tourism is huge and boom­ing and I think in­ter­est in the dogs is grow­ing as you have more expats com­ing in, and more aware­ness.”

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