On Sunday 3 March on Praia Antonio Sousa an owned dog, Cookie, was involved in an unfortunate incident that resulted in a child receiving a bite on the ankle. The dog, although large, is friendly and not known to be aggressive, but was startled and reacted in an inappropriate way.
The child was quickly attended to and witnesses have stated that it was not a serious bite. The proper way to deal with an incident like this is to hold the owner accountable for the dog and if the matter is not resolved, to involve the police.
Unfortunately the beach club owner, Josh Angulo, who is a well-known windsurfer who recently competed in the Red Bull Storm Chase in Ireland, reacted in anger & aggression.
|Praia Antonio Sousa where the incident took place|
|Cookie before he was beaten|
|Cookie after he was beaten|
Cookie's owner was visibly upset, sad and angry with the people who had done this to her dog. She immediately took responsibility and offered to pay the medical fee for the child, who had been taken to the clinic and received treatment for a minor cut. The child's mother initially accepted this as the resolution to the incident and disassociated herself from the violence that the dog suffered, but later changed her mind. The association, SOS Cães e Gatos Cabo Verde became involved to help to reconcile the matter between the child's parents and the dog's owner.
Of course it is not acceptable that anyone, let alone a child, is bitten by a dog, but this does not excuse people taking the law into their own hands and beating a dog in a premeditated attack.
Many people are outraged about both aspects of this incident and claims and counter-claims have been aired, especially on facebook. Supporters of Josh Angulo claim that the beating did not take place but since Angulo has not answered questions about what actually happened during those eight hours the dog was missing, only his stated intention to "kill the dog" and the veterinarian's report can be relied on. Mr Angulo is a well known figure in Cape Verde and he talks frankly of his battle with drugs and alcohol in this interview, his justification of this aggressive act includes the following statement,
"Me and my family will continue to defend the Capverdian persons rights to sossego, bem estar, health and the right to be at the beach or in public without continual molestation from wild animals which you folks so avidly defend."
It should be noted that there are several dogs that are associated with Mr Angulo's own bar on Antonio Sousa beach. These dogs run free and are fed by staff and guests. Naturally they defend their territory, as dogs do and will bark and charge at other dogs walking on the beach. These dogs are rarely under anyone's control.
Suddenly the issue of stray dogs came to the forefront and the animal welfare association, SOS Cães e Gatos began to be blamed for many things, such as allowing dogs to wander free (the association has made many recommendations over the years about how to improve this but has no authority to DO anything) and hiding the "fact" that there is rabies on the island (there isn't). All of the issues raised are important but do not in any way justify violent, aggressive and criminal behaviour. (An important point to note that the dog in question is owned, registered with the Câmara Municipal of Sal & fully vaccinated).
Clearly it is in everyone's interests (including the dogs, some of who live miserable lives) to reduce the population of dogs living on the street and that is why the programme of sterilisation that the association has undertaken since 2010 is so important. But it is also important to note that an estimated 80% of dogs in Santa Maria are owned, so education about responsible behaviour is a key part of improving the situation.
The aim is for people & animals to live together in peace. Violence is never the answer. A dog does not understand why he receives a beating. Actions like this make the dog MORE likely to be defensive & wary towards humans, not less likely, thereby increasing the possibility of the behaviour you are trying to beat out of it, rather than decreasing it.
Once again many hotels and restaurants are calling for the killing of all dogs found wandering free, but reverting to mass killing of animals with strychnine poisoning is also unacceptable and ineffective (or it would have worked by now).
Catch Neuter & Return programmes are the ONLY method that works as stated in scientific reports by the World Health Organisation, but it takes time. The purpose of the cats and dogs association is to reduce the amount of animals living on the street, the same objective as those who are calling for all the dogs to be killed. It is also to educate people about safeguarding the health of their families by inoculation of animals, treatment for fleas and ticks and to promote responsible ownership, including not allowing dogs to wander free. Reduction of access to food is also important, cleaning up the streets and asking tourists not to feed dogs at restaurants will also improve the situation. Dogs gather where there is easy access to food.
Many people justify violence towards dogs and cats (beating them, dumping them and killing them) by stating that Santa Maria is a tourist town and tourists object to animals wandering around freely. However, creating a reputation for Sal as an island that deals with animals in a humane and effective way can only enhance the island's (and country's) reputation. Being known as a place that allows cruelty towards animals and the killing of animals in the name of tourism will not bring the island any good publicity.
Dogs are fast becoming a scapegoat for all that ails Santa Maria, but violence and aggression is not the answer. Working together to find proper solutions, develop and implement good strategies and having the patience to see scientific policies work, is what is needed. Everyone wants the same outcome.
There is no doubt that Cookie did something wrong, but the subsequent action taken by Josh Angulo and several others was disproportionate, inappropriate and illegal.
We believe that the child is fine (although requests for information have not been answered) and the dog is also recovering.
The matter is now in the hands of the police who will take action according to Capeverdean law and not according to mob rule.