Inside Nairobi City’s dog pound where man’s best friends are going hungry

Hungry dogs waste away at the Nairobi City Council Dog Pound, on Friday. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]
Their sorrowful eyes tell it all. The slow and painful whimpers sum it up. The dogs are hungry, and they show it whenever they sense human presence. At the Nairobi City Council Dog pound where stray and abandoned dogs are supposed to be rehabilitated, feeding dishes are empty. Whenever they hear footsteps along the corridor, they jump and reach out with their tongues, hoping someone will feed them.

The photographer and I pose as a couple out to adopt a puppy after a tip off on the inhumane treatment the animals are subjected to at the dog pound. The pound is located in an old building, a few metres from Jubilee Party offices in Pangani.

“There has been acute shortage of food for a long time now. We do not know what to do with them,” one employee says.

The dog pound is a section of the Agriculture Ministry at the county government. It is supposed to vaccinate and host stray dogs to reduce the risk of rabies.

It also takes in dogs whose owners have not complied with bylaws, such as getting them the required license.

The pound has been in existence for decades, but insiders say over the years, mismanagement of funds has made the place practically abandoned. Despite receiving dogs every day, the department never gets money to manage them.

In the office lies heaps of correspondence between the centre and managers desperately asking for funds. A section of a letter dated June 25 that the Standard on Sunday got hold of reads: “There is an ongoing operation of removing dogs from the streets and estates within Nairobi. The ground is currently holding 76 dogs. The maximum capacity of dog pound is 50. Some kennels are broken… feeding is a major problem.”

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Dr Kenneth Wameyo of the Kenya Veterinary Association says the council has abdicated the role of taking care of the dogs. He says although the council collects dog licensing fee through the pound, the money is not invested back to the centre.

“The money they collect should be enough to buy food for the dogs and other logistical needs at the pound. The question should be where the money being collected is used?” he poses.

The council was non-committal on how much resources are allocated to the dog pound. Inquiries to Pauline Wahiga, CEC Agriculture went unanswered. In May this year, City Hall announced that they will be spending Sh100 million to eliminate stray dogs, a figure animal activists hoped would serve the dog pound.

“We are concerned by the increasing number of stray dogs in the city and we are going to eliminate them in the next one year, we have allocated Sh100 million for that purpose,” said Nairobi County Director of Veterinary Services Dr Muhari Muriithi.

Sonko’s Communications Director Elkana Jacob now says the money has not been approved.

Next to the building that houses the dog pound stands an unfinished building that was erected in 2016. It was supposed to act as a veterinary centre for dogs that were being held at the pound. It stalled after much media publicity that was fuelled by international animal rights organisations calling for better treatment of animals. 

Peris Aoko, a dog lover who keeps many breeds says pet owners also have a part to play in ensuring that their animals do not suffer due to abandonment. 

“The reason why we have many dogs being held at the poundis because people get tired of caring for their pets. They also do not control breeding, so the animals end up breeding too much, and they cannot care for all of them,” she says. 

George Thune says the biggest challenge for dog owners in the city is the exorbitant rates that regulators have put. He says the council increased licensing fee to Sh2000, up from the Sh1000 that was being charged in previous years.

Dr Wameyo however places the blame on the city council, saying as a veterinarian, he has experienced a challenge trying to access the people in charge of licensing.  “It is a long process and not many people want to go through that. Unless something is done, many dogs will die painfully in the pound,” he says. 

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Nairobi City CouncilDogsMike Sonko