Calls for action against strays after toddler is mauled

Muscat: The shocking instance of a toddler being mauled by a stray dog in Al Athaiba in Muscat Governorate has once again fuelled calls for measures to rid neighbourhoods of feral canines.

The father of the one-year-old, who is currently being treated at Khoula Hospital for severe injuries, has urged authorities to take action against the stray dog menace, asserting that his elder son was also attacked by the same animals last month.

According to an official of the Royal Oman Police (ROP), stray dogs are netted and taken away when their numbers spike in a given area.  “There is an annual campaign conducted by the ROP to curb the growth of stray dogs in different governorates of the Sultanate. Often, when citizens report a jump in the number of strays in their neighbourhoods, we initiate action as well,” the official said.

The combination of overpopulated neighbourhoods and ad hoc urban growth is blamed for an uptick in the population of strays in some areas of the Sultanate.

However, animal rights groups opposed to a cull of these animals are calling for regulations and guidelines in support of animal welfare to be set in Oman.

The ROP has urged citizens and expatriates to put collars on the necks of their pets to keep them from getting ensnared in animal control operations.

For many local residents, the growth of strays is potentially a menace.  Nasser al Harrasi, who lives with his family in Omani-style dwellings in Bausher, explained: “When a stray dog dashes across the road, a motorist may lose control of his vehicle and knock down pedestrians. These strays ransack trash bins and carry away rubbish bags leaving behind garbage strewn around.  Their barking and howling is a nuisance. And when they attack each other, they are a threat to passersby as well.”

Animal lovers are calling for the establishment of shelters for stray animals where they can be cared for. Others have urged animal welfare groups to come up with more compassionate ways of managing the feral dog population as an alternative to sending them to the dog pound.