By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO
I never understood why, at the end of every one of his shows, TV game show host Bob Barker always refrained â€œHelp control the pet population. Have your pet spayed or neutered. Goodbye everybody!â€ I did not comprehend the importance of controlling the pet population while growing up in the suburbs of America. Sure, my friends and neighbors had cats and dogs for pets. However, I never witnessed a problem with stray animals while growing up.
It wasnâ€™t until I moved to Kuwait as a young adult that I witnessed first hand the problems that an out of control pet population can wreak on a society. Stray cats are routinely spotted dumpster diving for sustenance in some of the richest neighborhoods in the country. There are even more cats in the less posh neighborhoods. Most recently, dogs have joined their domestic counterparts on the cold hard streets of Kuwait. However, dogs are not as sprightly as cats and cannot reach into the tall dumpsters for food. Dogs in Kuwait often hunt smaller animals for food and have even attacked humans without provocation.
The uncontrolled pet population is also taking a toll on the health of consumers. Stray cats often mingle with customers in the open-air cafes and restaurants of Kuwait. Being that they are so used to human contact, the cats walk right up to customers and rub against the odd leg or â€œmeowâ€ for a scrap of food. Itâ€™s a heart-breaking scene to watch. Just an ocean away, pets are pampered in American cities often decked out in designer pint-sized duds and noshing on the best food that money can buy.
The primary reason the pet population is so out of control in Kuwait is a lack of responsibility on the part of pet owners. People purchase the pets when they are small, cute and cuddly. However, once the pet reaches maturity, they are often left to fend for themselves and released outdoors. The concept of spaying or neutering a pet in Kuwait is foreign to say the least. And with only a handful of veterinary hospitals to serve the entire pet loving populous of Kuwait and two animal rescue groups, itâ€™s a losing battle.
The situation has become dire and authorities in Kuwait have taken matters into their own hands. Day laborers in the tiny country, who normally perform duties to keep the streets clean and landscaping pristine, have been given a new job. The new job requires placing poisoned dog food in areas populated by stray dogs and even cats. The aftermath of the poisonings, which has resulted in dead animal carcasses left to rot on the streets of Kuwait, has been widely publicized on local blogs and in local newspapers.
The poisoned kibble resembles real dog food and a heart wrenching side effect of the intentional poisoning is that family pets are unintentionally ingesting the food as well. A French expatriate shared her story in a recent interview, â€œAfter a walk in the local park, my dog began foaming at the mouth and shaking. I remembered that he had run towards something that had taken his interest in the park, and realized he had ingested poison. His legs were dragging on the way home and for once he was not pulling on the leash, but I did not realize what was wrong. By the time we realized it was too late, but there is no emergency animal hospital here so there was nothing I could do but watch him die.â€
A relatively new project, to control the stray animal population in Kuwait, was launched late last year in a joint initiative by the animal rescue group Kâ€™s Path and Kuwait National Petroleum Company. The premise of the initiative is to round up stray animals and nurture them back to health. Once healthy, the pets are adopted by loving homes. Rehabilitating the animals takes more time, money and manpower than simply poisoning them to death. An unexpected silver lining to the animal poisonings is that many people in Kuwait have called themselves to action and are opening their homes to animals in need.
As for the stray animal poisonings in Kuwait, as of press time, they continue despite the public uproar.