Muscat: Muscat’s stray dog population has plagued authorities for years as they struggle to bring down their numbers after continuous complaints from residents.
Over the past six years, authorities have indiscriminately shot any stray dog they come across on the spot, a move that has unsettled many residents.
“I think what they are doing is inhumane and cruel,” said Dr Elke Heitz, head veterinarian at Qurum Verterinary Clinic.
“Dogs are being killed in a very indiscriminate manner. They shoot any dog that comes in[to] the sight,” she told Gulf News.
The dogs often do not die right away, as the bullets used are very small, she explained.
“Many bullets sometimes hit their legs and they die much later because of their wounds,” she said.
Instead of executing dogs on the streets, she suggests authorities implement a “neuter and release policy” where dogs undergo surgeries that prevent them from reproducing but can still live out their natural lives.
The cost of neutering a dog is only 60 riyals (Dh572).
Meanwhile, as cases of abandoned and injured dogs increase, a group of volunteers has set up an adoption centre to help find loving homes for these mistreated animals.
“I adopted two puppies two years ago. I found them stranded in one of the wadis in the capital. Their mother was killed. They were in [a] miserable condition. I took them to Muscat Veterinary clinic for treatment and saved their life,” Katie Thompson, a member of Oman Animal Adopting and Fostering group, told Gulf News.
Today these dogs live a happy life in Thompson’s house in the Khuwair district of the capital, Muscat.
“They are fiercely loyal, protective and loving. These sweet dogs don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow. They filled my life with so much joy and love,” she said.
Hernandez Robin, a resident in Oman for the past last years, rescued five dogs in Seeb province.
“I took three of them to the vet after I found them bleeding from being shot,” he said, adding that he felt it was his duty as a human to care for these dogs.
“I can’t forget the day when I saw a puppy die after being shot several times. I couldn’t sleep for days,” he said.
Five people reported to have been bitten by stray dogs in 2016, according to police figures.
Two died from rabies caused by dog bites in the past ten years.
There are no accurate figures about the number of stray dogs in Muscat.
Nasser Al Beloushi, an 18-year-old was bit by a stray dog last year in his neighbourhood.
“The dog attacked me and bit my finger. Luckily my friend rushed me to the hospital and medics gave me the mandatory injections. I have had a phobia of dogs ever since,” he said.
“Many people are afraid of dogs but in fact they are shy and sweet animals that don’t usually bite,” Ahmad Al Harthi, an animal right activist, told Gulf News.
“They want to live peacefully along with humans. More awareness campaigns are needed about dogs so people do not fear them.”
Al Beloushi added that even though he is afraid of dogs, he doesn’t believe they should be executed.
“They are God’s creations,” he said.
The police conduct annual execution campaigns for stray dogs in coordination with the Muscat Municipality.
An officer with the Royal Oman Police said the campaigns are supposed be conducted in the early morning and far way from residential areas — silent guns are used.
In the Islamic world, dogs have traditionally been shunned because tradition holds that they are unclean.
Muslim tradition holds that dogs’ saliva is unclean and could spread disease.
Islam “prohibits the ownership of dogs, apart from those used for guarding or hunting,” said Ahmad Al Raisi, the imam of mosques in the capital.
He added that many families still avoid keeping dogs because they believe it goes against the teachings of Islam.
However, Islam orders compassion for animals and the Holy Quran, the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet), and Islamic history offer many examples of kindness, mercy, and compassion for animals.
Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) told his companions a story of an Israelite prostitute forgiven by God after she gave water to a dog dying of thirst.
In another saying, the Prophet passed a dog with her puppies on his way to conquer Makkah.
He ordered his army not to hurt them and even posted a man to stay back and ensure no one harms them.
“He who is not kind to God’s creatures, God will not be kind to him,” another Hadith says.