At 8am, Lubao dog market is a beehive of activity as traders and buyers haggle over prices.
The market, located approximately 6km from Kakamega town, started in the early 1950s and with time, rose to become one of the biggest markets — famous for dog auction.
However, despite hundreds of dogs being traded and thousands of shillings changing hands, violation of their rights now raises concerns.
For instance, some dogs are whipped before being paraded for sale at the market. It is believed that whipping the canines ?— because of the pain caused ?— makes them hostile. This makes them appealing to buyers, especially those looking for guard dogs, who end up buying them just because of the perceived aggressiveness.
Jackson Makanji, chairman of the market, says he cannot rule out mischief in the sale of dogs.
“Buyers come for aggressive dogs and some of us might want to achieve that by any means so that they can sell,” explains Makanji.
He says some dogs exhibit strange behaviours that indicate such acts could be happening.
“We have had situations where dogs just bite people out of the blue and owners are forced to compensate and pay for the victims’ treatment,” he says.
Some of the traders claim some dogs are given bhang. Alex Ambulwa, a trader, says some dogs are sold looking sickly and emaciated.
“You can easily tell the sickly dogs are not taken care of properly. They are normally sold at throw-away prices and those buying have to care for them and feed them well,” he says.
Dr Emily Mudoga, Animal in Community Campaign manager at World Animal Protection (WAP), says it is shocking how, despite dogs being man’s best friend, he mistreats and abuses their rights.
“Dogs have evolved to live alongside us over thousands of years to be our oldest and best friends. Dogs mean so many things to so many people such as playmate and helper, worker and protector. Yet, millions of dogs are still suffering worldwide,” she explains.
“Every dog has a right to quality health care, it is the responsibility of dog owners to ensure that their dogs have access to food, water, good health and comfort,” explains Dr Mudoga.
Buyers from as far as Uganda and Tanzania come to the market every Thursday.
The cheapest goes for Sh800 and highest costs more than Sh5,000.
At the market, some dogs are chained on bicycles and made to run as the owner rides. The dogs get tired along the way but this does not bother their owners.
Some are transported in tightly-closed sacks or boxes. Traders say if you allow them to see the way, they might return home after being sold. If this happens, the seller has to return the money.
“It happens regularly here. You have to blindfold them before carrying them to the market,” says Ambulwa.
Some traders do not put up dog houses. “A dog is a security animal, it doesn’t need a house. If you provide one, it will sleep comfortably and forget its responsibilities,” claims Luke Shisia, adding his dogs sleep under a tree.
Others chain dogs the whole day and only release them at night to make them fierce.
But Dr Mudoga says that chaining dogs do not make them aggressive, instead, it causes them psychological stress.
“Dogs are social animals and need to play and run around,” she says, adding that keeping them in the dark frustrates and annoys them and they can bite anyone, even the owner.
She explains that dogs need proper transportation. If it is in the car, they should sit on the back seat. In some countries, dogs have safety belts.
Dogs also need shelter to rest and be protected from hot, cold and wet weather.
Other traders take away puppies from dogs to prepare them to reproduce more puppies. And this is done immediately the puppies are born
“Too many puppies can make bitches sick and not live long,” warns Dr Kenneth Wameyo of Kenya Veterinary Board.