Who Values Dogs in Nigeria

By Kodichukwu Okonkwo, DVM | March 4th, 2014

Nigeria is a country with people of diverse mindset and philosophy to life. A typical Nigerian can simply be referred to be confidently rich or poor. I mean that poverty does not make a Nigerian timid in any way. In fact a Nigerian can intimidate with wealth or poverty. Don’t worry you will understand what I mean in the course of this article.

Dogs over the years have remained man’s best friend as they are always referred to in western literature. Domestic animals meaning they have been made to live among humans successfully for thousands of years. Nigeria is not left out in the human world where these animals are domesticated but how has this animal been perceived and treated?

It is worthy to note that Nigeria has environments that can be described as mega-cities with electricity, pipe borne water, good roads etc. These areas attract the ‘high and mighty’ and the middle class. In the same vain both Local and exotic breeds of dogs are found here but the later are more in existence. While the rural environment with few of the facilities found in the cities therefore populated by the poor and some struggling middle class, has the local breeds more in population. (I hope you are not expecting some figures of statistics.) Now these dogs are positively or negatively affected by the environment they find themselves.

Dogs in the rural areas receive the most unfortunate level of care and keeping. The rural dwellers are mostly the hand-to-mouth earners without much regards to the dogs in their care. These dogs mostly fend for themselves hunting leftover food or bones found at the butchery. This they do mostly in the night because of the hostile confrontation they usually receive from pedestrians during the day. Veterinary care is usual none existent in this part of the country. In fact there is wide spread ignorance about doctors that care for dogs so these dogs die of ‘natural causes’ or someone is blamed for poisoning the dog out of ‘witch craft’. Few rural dwellers make attempt to feed their dogs by practically sharing their meals with the dog while eating. These set of people also sort for veterinary care of which they want to self medicate and not pay veterinary charges.

Most of these dogs are kept as hunting dogs. “Bush meat” is a special delicacy in Nigeria so hunters use these dogs to catch the “bush rat” and hares to meet their target supplies to the “bush-bar” restaurants. Others are reared as meat popularly known as “404” especially in the southern part of Nigeria where these dogs are their best “celebrated” meat. Pray you don’t witness the way these dogs are killed for meat. In fact there are special markets for these dogs where they are priced like goats ready for slaughter. 

Dogs in the cities are the ones that feel what it means to be totally dependent on the owner because kennels are built to accommodate them and some are even allowed to sleep indoors. I swear they are not the local breed of dogs. This is where you learn of dog breeds like Caucasian, Alsatian, Doberman, Rottweiler, German shepherd kept as security dogs and Lhasa apso, pug, Samoyed etc kept as pet and ‘show’ dogs. These dogs get most if not all the veterinary care required and are fed with nutritious food both canned food & dry food bought at expensive price. But does that mean that they are valued and loved? Not in all cases.

To some city dwellers dogs are used to show how wealthy they are. Individuals in this category will tell you the expensive price they bought the dog and the expensive food they give these dogs in a bid to impress you. They speak of the breed with aural of pride and display of wisdom especially to those who are ignorant.

The second category of city dog owners acquires dogs strictly for security and to keep ‘bad’ people away. They shop for the most aggressive and dangerous dogs just to make sure that bad people don’t even dream of breaking into their house or gates. To these set of people breeds like Rottweiler, mastiff & Caucasians are their favourite due to their massive looks and in other cases ugly looks. These owners hardly come close to their dogs. The veterinarian may never meet the owners of these dogs. In fact it’s usually a battle to get paid by these dog owners as a veterinarian caring for these dogs.

The third category: are single guys and ladies who need company. These people will practically take their dogs to the veterinarian for ‘checkup’ and seek advice on nutrition, medication & training. These dogs actually watch television with their owners. Have you seen a dog watch football matches? This is where it happens. These dogs eat the best of food ever even lie side by side with their owners to sleep. But this mostly ended when the person gets married.

The last category: are dog lovers. These guys cannot think of living without a dog due to their childhood experience growing with dogs or their natural love for animals in general. If these guys are wealthy, they tend to have gallery of dogs of different breeds and sizes nicely accommodated in state-of-the-art cages/kennels. These people can spend the whole day telling you about each dog and their individual behavior if you are willing to listen. They can even setup a lunch with you to continue their tale. Like the third category, they feed their dogs well but not as much because of the number usually.

You might ask if dogs in the city suffer like the ones in the rural area. Yes, most of them do. Why? Because the owners are not usually the ones that feed them or administer their medications but the security guys who turn out to be those from the rural environment with the prevailing mentality engraved in him. They often ask: “why should ‘oga’ be spending plenty money to feed these dogs when me I have not eaten?”. These guys go to the extent of eating the food meant for the dogs and leave the dogs starving for days. The owners usually get a positive answer when he asks if the dogs have eaten without knowing that the dogs are actually starving. These dogs get beaten and kicked like the “rural dogs” by these guys. So you see they may not be enjoying afterall.

Note that:

The article is based on my own experience as a mobile veterinarian practicing in Abuja Nigeria.

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Kodichukwu Okonkwo, DVM

Founder of Fairvet Animal Clinic Ltd since 2011, studied at the University of Nigeria Nsukka. He is well experienced in small animal, large animal & poultry medicine, and also skilled at zoo medicine. He loves animals and builds both professional and personal relationship with pet owners in order to sustain a good interaction with pet and animal owners, coupled with His great skills in programming; he brought about www.fairvet.com which he personally built from scratch.

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