Nguyen Ngoc Son, head of the Hanoi Department of Animal Health, said dog squads are among measures to create “safe zones” in the city for rabies prevention. The aim is to inform pet owners about current regulations, fine owners who let their pets go out unmuzzled and unattended, and prevent animal attacks, he added.
Four inner districts: Hoan Kiem, Dong Da, Ba Dinh and Thanh Xuan have already launched dog squads in their wards. The animal health department is cooperating with the other eight inner districts, Bac Tu Liem, Cau Giay, Ha Dong, Hai Ba Trung, Hoang Mai, Long Bien, Nam Tu Liem and Tay Ho, to launch their own squads as well by 2023.
For outer districts and towns, dog squads are currently “not feasible” as locals in these areas often let their dogs loose in order to protect their homes and assets. As such, it will take time to convince them to adopt these initiatives, Son said.
While Hanoi has yet to decide on the composition of these dog squads, Son said there would be six to eight people in each squads, including militia members, veterinarians and police officers. Squads will operate once or twice a week in an irregular schedule. They will detect cases of pets going out without muzzles and leashes, pets urinating and defecating in public places and pets attacking people, said Son.
He said some people raise large dogs of up to 40 kg and it could be dangerous to those who try to capture them. There are also dogs that cost tens of millions of Vietnamese dong, so containing them is a challenge in itself as they’re considered assets of great value.
“Wards that form dog squads also find it difficult to find locations to keep the pets, as they must both satisfy the pets’ needs for food and hygiene, and to also not affect people in surrounding areas,” Son said.
He added that the animal health department will consult with local authorities to pay these dog squads for their work.
“This job requires specific skill sets, which means training… If there are no appropriate policies, it will be hard to build an effective, professional dog squad,” Son said.
In accordance with a recently issued guideline for rabies prevention in the 2022-2030 period, Hanoi will form 579 squads to capture stray dogs and cats for rabies prevention and require official pet ownership declarations.
By 2030, Hanoi aims to manage over 90 percent of families with pets and to ensure rabies vaccination rates are at over 90 percent. There should be no more casualties due to rabies by 2030, it added.
The capital currently has around 421,000-493,000 dogs and cats. Many pet owners still let their pets go outside unmuzzled and unattended.
Owners of stray dogs could be fined up to VND800,000 ($35).