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|A dog carried on a motorbike without muzzle in Hà Nội. - VNS Photo Viet Thanh|
The tragic story was just the latest in a series of recent fatalities caused by dog bites.
In the middle of July, an eight-month old baby girl living on Doi Can Street in Hanoi died from bites by her own family’s 40kg dog.
Dog owners and people living close to dogs are not the only victims. Veterinarians are also vulnerable. In June, a 24-year-old vet had her arm bit by a dog who was being treated at a private clinic in Hanoi. Despite sterilising the bite, the doctor, who had not been vaccinated against rabies, gradually felt the pain from the bite spread through her whole body. Six weeks after being bitten, she died en route to the hospital.
According to the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, 43 people died of rabies nationwide in the first seven months of this year. All infected dead people were bit by dogs and scratched by cats and then did not come to healthcare facilities to be vaccinated against rabies. In 2017, 500,000 people were bit and then got vaccinated.
In many cases, the accident could have been prevented if the owners of the dog were more aware of potential dangers. Tightened regulations on dog management in public areas have gained little attention. The regulations approved by the Hanoi’s People’s Committee require dogs to be registered, leashed or kept in owners’ living spaces and muzzled when playing in public areas. Dog owners have to pay fines when their off-leash dogs are seized by law enforcement. If off-leash dogs bite people, their owners must pay for the victims’ medical needs.
Nguyen Duc Long, a dog owner in Hanoi who raises a Western dog breed (Pit bull), said that his dog is very calm and always follows his orders. Western breeds are regarded as more likely to behave aggressively.
“I never muzzle him in public areas. He barks at strangers but never bites anyone,” he said. Captain Dao Duy Ha, head of the dog training department at the 24 Border Defence School told Thanh Nien (Young People) that dog owners, especially those who own aggressive dogs, must be trained to have more understanding.
Dog breeds such as Pit Bulls and Dobermanns are often trained for fighting so they are very aggressive and tend to attack people, Ha said.
If two dogs bite each other, people around them should not shout or use sticks to interfere. These interferences make the dogs more aggressive and even cause them to turn to attack people, he said.
Nguyen Ha An, a dog seller in Hanoi’s Cau Giay District, said that raising Western dog breeds has become a trend in recent years in big cities. People buy the dogs to follow the trend. Few of them care about the dog’s origins and habits. In general, foreign breeds may behave more aggressively as they are less accustomed to the Vietnamese climate.
“Dogs of any breed, even those raised by their owners since they were young, might become aggressive, especially mongrels. Mongolian dogs, which are used to cold weather might easily get angry and aggressive in hot weather (as in Vietnam) and when they are kept in narrow spaces,” he said.
Besides Hanoi’s regulations, last year the Government issued administrative fines of VND600,000-800,000 (US$26-35) for not muzzling or leashing the dogs in public areas; VND100,000 to VND1 million ($4.5-45) for unleashing the dogs or letting them cause damages to other people. Owners of dogs that attack others will have to compensate the victims.
In spite of these regulations, dogs running freely without muzzles or off-leash dogs can still be easily seen in public areas in Hanoi and HCM City.
A resident living at apartment building B1 on Truong Sa Street of HCM City’s Binh Thuan Street told Thanh Nien that many people living in the area are worried about being bit by un-muzzled dogs and even more worried because they do not know whether the dogs have been vaccinated.
Dog seller Ha An said that there are no police on duty to identify violations, so the existing regulations have not proved effective.
This month HCM City’s District 1 became the first district of the city’s 24 to re-start the dog management campaign. Since August 15, a patrol team has caught nine un-muzzled dogs off-leash.
The district People’s Committee chairman Doan Ngọc Hai said strict punishments will be imposed on violating dog owners.
Meanwhile, in the first nine months of this year, Hanoi recorded 5,098 people bit by animals, 87 per cent of whom were bit by dogs. Three people died of rabies, according to the city’s Veterinary Department.
The municipal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has asked the local People’s Committee to step up management on dogs, dog slaughtering and business facilities.