Sat, Feb 11, 2012 - Page 2 News List

FEATURE:School’s stray dog plan sparks fury

BITING BACK:A proposal to expel packs of stray dogs from NCCU’s campus has drawn howls of criticism from many ahead of a vote on the plan by the school

By Hu Ching-hui  /  Staff Reporter

A group of students from National Cheng Kung University who set up a volunteer team to handle the university’s stray dog problem take care of strays at the school campus in Greater Tainan on Wednesday.

Photo: Hu Ching-hui, Taipei Times

A proposal by National Chengchi University (NCCU) to drive stray dogs from its campus has sparked criticism from faculty members and animal welfare advocates, who have called the scheme absurd, inhumane and against common social values.

Stray dogs lingering on university campuses is a longstanding problem that has baffled many institutions in addition to NCCU, with more than 10 incidents of dog bites reported at campuses nationwide in the past six months.

A group of professors at NCCU proposed a plan to expel the stray dogs from the campus, a motion that was scheduled to be put to a vote by the university council in April.

However, the proposal ran into opposition from students and some faculty, who said that 90 percent of the stray dogs captured and sent to animal shelters were put to death.

They said the plan merely “passed the buck to government agencies.”

NCCU has such a large campus that there is no way to permanently keep out stray dogs, they said. If one pack were expelled, a different pack would wander in, faculty members said, adding that they planned to initiate a petition against the proposal.

Cheng Tien-tse (鄭天澤), a professor in NCCU’s Department of Statistics, who favors the expulsion proposal, said packs of strays often frighten students and faculty. He said the objective was to put a permanent end to the problem.

The university’s Environmental Protection Division said the stray dog problem was undermining campus safety.

An alternative approach was passed by the university council last month, whereby the university now calls a team from an animal shelter to capture any strays following an incidence of biting. In addition, people who take their dog for a walk at the campus are asked to use a leash.

Disputes about how to remedy the problem have been going on for several years.

An incident in which stray dogs were suspected of having being poisoned further inflamed debate. As an alternative, the university adopted the trap-neuter-release (TNR) method in October 2009.

The TNR method, which has been promoted for the relatively humane way it reduces and manages stray animal populations in other countries, was introduced to Taiwan a few years ago by animal welfare advocates.

In response to the university’s proposal, NCCU’s Respect Life Association teacher Lu Chien-yi (盧倩儀) said the university had used the TNR method on occasion.

The plan to expel stray dogs is a return to older and less humane methods, Lu said, and could have a negative impact on the university’s reputation.

National Taiwan University (NTU), where stray dogs are also a problem, until 2006 used the traditional approach of asking exterminators to catch the strays.

After it was determined that the eradication approach was not working, the university turned to the TNR method, with members of student associations managing the stray dog problem.

“Human beings and animals can actually get along in an amiable manner,” said Liu Chen-hsuan (劉振軒), dean of NTU’s School of Veterinary Medicine, adding that bites from strays had been few and far between at NTU in recent years.

According to Taipei City Animal Protection Office director Yen I-feng (嚴一峰), the office received numerous calls from NCCU reporting dog bites in the past, while other districts had recorded far fewer such incidents.

Stray dogs that present a security concern are prioritized, given limits on the office’s manpower, Yen said.

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