The Nairobi county government recently passed and gazetted the Dog Control and Welfare Act 2015, Number 10 of 2016. This Act is a public health measure that aims at licensing all dogs within the city boundaries.
The licence requires that all dogs must be vaccinated against rabies. The control of rabies is very important as this is a fatal zoonotic disease preventable through annual vaccination. Subsequently, all non-licensed dogs will be considered stray and eradicated.
According to the new law, anybody who intends to keep a pet must ensure it is vaccinated. To acquire a dog licence, one would have to go online and download an application form; fill it and submit it to the Nairobi County Council veterinary department together with copies of the vaccination certificates of the pet(s).
There are also other forms meant for those who intend to have either a breeding kennel or boarding kennels. Thereafter, the county veterinary department officials would then come and inspect your premises to ascertain if the facilities available are suitable for the purpose to which the application is intended. Once the ‘veterinary inspector’ is satisfied, you are then required to pay Sh3,000 per pet per year from a current fee of Sh1, 000.
When analysed, these laws are somewhat impractical. The county will have to either contend with impounding a lot of pets or, in a worst-case scenario, euthanise them since people will not go to claim them; or people will opt to abandon these pets.
Abandonment would take the form of either releasing them to the streets or, for the more sensible ones, simply opt not to have any.
The repercussions of this are many and include (but are not limited to): increased insecurity; increased number of strays hence an increased population of animals that will spread rabies; reduced income for a vibrant companion animal sector; and reduced or no income for the NCC through the licensing process.
The county will thus shoot itself in the foot. The subsequent ripple effects to the economy and general public health will be significant.
Questions that the county needs to ask are - Does it have the capacity to enforce this law especially with respect to funds and manpower? Due to the expansive nature of this city, it will require the county to hire more employees than the handful staff it currently has in its veterinary department.
Hence, the little money they earn from the exorbitant fees charged will all end up being used for salaries and still not be enough (the compliance level will be low anyway), forcing it to spend more taxpayers’ money to chase after less; poor economics.
Security matters are highly sensitive when it comes to allowing people into one’s premises. How will the NCC prevent unscrupulous county officials from fleecing residents (their reputation speaks for itself)? What about crooks who will take advantage of the situation to access people’s homes?
Whereas no-one is against by-laws that will promote responsible pet ownership and protection of public health, we see these rules being applied selectively. The county is likely to use the law mainly to target the struggling middle- and upper-class areas where pets are kept (responsibly, mostly).
However, the areas with the greatest need for animal control and welfare are the low income areas. One expects that funds raised should be ploughed back into the community to promote responsible pet ownership and protect public health through mass vaccination campaigns. The county has no such strategy. These laws are unfair and this can be blamed on lack of stakeholder involvement during their formulation.
The by-laws were originally instituted to ensure dogs and cats are vaccinated annually against rabies in order to safeguard public health. However, the Dog Control and Welfare Act, 2015 Number 10 of 2016 is solely for raising income.
The county should suspend this act and engage the stakeholders properly in order to come up with a comprehensive law that will serve this city in perpetuity and at reasonable fees.
Any new by-law should not only make the citizenry more responsible for their pets’ welfare, but should have a simple, effective licensing process.
The county should also take responsibility for improving dog and cat care and welfare among the less privileged who want to keep pets. Perhaps as a challenge to NCC, they could show good faith by organising free mass vaccination campaigns.