Illustration by Đàm Minh Chí
“My dog doesn’t bite” may be the biggest lie in the world.
I realised that at the age of five when I saw a childhood friend attacked by a neighbour’s dog, which, to her, was “smart, sweet and obedient”.
In the past year, tragic dog attacks have been reported over and over again in the media, and many of the victims have been children.
Social outrage peaked last week when a seven-year-old boy in Hưng Yên Province was killed by his neighbour’s pack of seven dogs when walking on a street.
Authorities are considering prosecuting the owner.
While local residents described them as aggressive and uncontrollable, the owner did not bother putting muzzles on them and let them run freely.
They had bitten several other people in the past, which made neighbours wonder why the owner hadn’t started paying attention to his “beloved” pets.
There have been calls for action from authorities and citizens in the past, but little has changed.
Late last year, the Hà Nội People’s Committee released a new policy allowing districts to establish dog-catching teams to seize dogs without muzzles in public areas.
The initiative was applauded by residents, who said it should be implemented across the city.
The same model was first launched in HCM City a decade ago.
Sadly, the city’s dog catchers have been shelved due to financial shortage.
After five months of implementation, only Thanh Xuân District in Hà Nội has a dog-catching team due to the same problem.
They now operate once or twice a month only.
While dog catching teams seem to be temporary solutions for crowded cities like Hà Nội and HCM City, there are regulations aiming to punish dog owners who neglect others’ safety.
In July 2017, the Government issued a decree stating that owners of dogs without muzzles found in public areas will receive fines ranging from VNĐ600,000 to 800,000 (US$26-34).
The same fine will be applied for owners of dogs with no rabies vaccination.
The Penal Code regulates that owner of dogs without muzzles which bite people in public areas and cause serious injuries can be fined VNĐ20-100 million ($860-4,300) and imprisoned from one to five years.
Dog owners, however, seem unaware about these regulations as dogs off their leashes can still be spotted anywhere in the country.
Dogs are animals, which is a fact many have forgotten. No matter how smart, loyal or calm a dog may be, it always can bite, sometimes without any reason.
Some dogs, because they have been trained properly, have limits for what they will do, but who knows when the rules will be broken?
It is not strange for a dog to randomly attack people and last year saw several fatalities caused by bites in residences.
An eight-month old baby girl in Hà Nội’s Ba Đình District was mauled to death by her family’s 40kg dog in July.
In November, 2018, a man in Thường Tín District was attacked by his pitbull while feeding it. As a neighbour intervened to help him, he suffered the same fate. The two men were hospitalised.
Whether his passion for the fierce animal remains after the incident, only God knows.
Veterinarians can also be victims.
A Hà Nội vet who had her arm bitten by a dog who was being treated died of rabies on the road to hospital six weeks after the incident in June last year.
It is said that dogs are man's best friend, but that doesn't mean they need to be let off leashes so they can harm people.
Taking care of pets means having them vaccinated and putting muzzles on them.
The dogs which killed the Hưng Yên boy were seized by local police, some will be destroyed, while others may be lucky enough to live.
The question is, do you want to take the same chance with your pets? VNS