Saturday, December 31, 2011

eBook about stray dogs now on sale

My ebook about stray dogs, “A Stray View”, is now on sale at Bangkok Books.

After living in Bangkok and coming across stray dogs daily for several years I began to look at them through the eyes of a naturalist and tried to understand their lifestyle and behavior from a more neutral point of view than the generally fairly entrenched “savers” and “shooters”. I quickly started to sense that the reality of life on the streets for dogs was very variable according to their particular living situation and especially their individual backgrounds. How dogs reacted to people, for example, was clearly not always consistent and I wondered why. I also started to realise that unowned “stray” dogs were often being blamed for problems actually caused by pet dogs and their irresponsible owners.

“A Stray View” is a descriptive and photographic portrait of dogs on Bangkok’s streets plus an assessment of the stray dog issue including the nature, causes and management of the problems. I also question the attitude that dog’s have no role as free-living, unowned animals.

The following text is an extract (the Introduction) from “A Stray View”:

“Bangkok has a stray dog problem, in 2004 there were an estimated 130,000 unowned dogs wandering the city's streets, and despite efforts to control them this number according to some reports steadily increases by about 10% a year. They are an eyesore, a disease risk, a danger to traffic, a noise-polluting messy nuisance, and at times an intimidating threat. Bites are common, rabies still a reality, and the city has gained an unwanted but prominent feature to rival traffic jams in the memory of visitors. Hardly an endearing picture of "man's best friend".

Occasionally the problem is horrific such as the case of a boy fortunate to escape with his life after getting savagely mauled by a large group of dogs. Or the Sunday morning in September 2001 when a rabid dog bit 52 people in a popular Bangkok park before eventually getting beaten to death by a security guard. At other times its seriousness is tinged with farce such as the barking dogs that sent a female elephant into an uncontrolled two hour jog through the busy streets. Everybody agrees that something needs to be done, and things are being done, but the stray dog problem is far from being solved.

However, another viewpoint would say that it is the stray dogs that have the problem. They have been pushed back onto the edge of our society from where they came, and from here they face ill-health, hunger, hard-hitting traffic and intimidation from kicking, stone-throwing humans. The ties that have bonded us for 10,000 years or more are welt-knotted, and this position of "outcast friend" is often an uncomfortable one for both sides.

These are the two commonest attitudes; either that strays need "controlling" or "saving", but there is yet another angle which sees that many stray dogs arguably lead quite a good life and do not cause any significant trouble. This might sound strange to people living in clean, modern societies where any unowned dog looks out of place, but worldwide many strays are just a normal, unobtrusive part of the urban (or at least village) background. A closer look actually points to pets often being a larger part of the problem than unowned dogs.

Combining, or perhaps juggling, these three attitudes according to the situation will usually give the most balanced stance, but whichever angle is taken this is still not the full story as there are many close ties between stray dogs and people where both sides benefit. The fact is that some people like having these animals around, and this is a point perhaps too easily ignored.

There will always be dogs in our cities, and even if the only ones left are pets, people will still get bitten, other health risks will still remain, and no doubt there will still be annoying unstoppable barkers amongst them. The dog problem will never totally go away as long as people have a desire to keep the human-dog relationship going, and personally I cannot imagine a dogless society. However, the chances are that for many years to come cities like Bangkok will still have dogs on the streets, perhaps just pets on the loose, but more likely some unowned strays as well. They are part of the urban environment, they are here to stay, and the task is managing them.

In many situations the practicalities of dealing with thousands of free-running dogs suggest that the pragmatic aim should be to reduce the problem not eliminate it. This is certainly true in Buddhist Thailand where a reluctance to resort to euthanasia cuts down the options. In each different urban situation the authorities together with the wider public have to decide on the exact target of stray management, whether dog-free streets or perhaps some more acceptable number of canine wanderers with a healthcare plan.

One possible exception to the reduce-rather-than-eliminate strategy is rabies, which is incurable, fatal and most commonly passed to people via dogs. Large strides have been made to lessen the impact of this disease in Thailand and its virtually eradication as a cause of fatalities is just about conceivable.
Managing the dog problem to a large degree means managing people, and here we have to accept responsibility for creating the headache in the first place. We also have to accept that even if we are able to make significant improvements, the problems will just bloom again if there is no commitment to ongoing management.

But before looking at how to tackle strays it is worth getting to know our urban dogs a little better...”

Note: this ebook is available in a variety of formats including .pdf, mobi and epub.

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