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Maasai Relationships with and Perceptions of Dogs in Northern Tanzania

In: Society & Animals
Authors:
Lena K. Webster Organismic Biology and Ecology, Colorado College Colorado Springs, CO USA Associated Colleges of the Midwest Chicago, IL USA

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James J. Ebersole Organismal Biology and Ecology, Colorado College Colorado Springs, CO Associated Colleges of the Midwest Chicago, IL USA

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Abstract

Semi-structured interviews with 26 Maasai adults in one pastoralist, northern Tanzanian community showed that dogs were considered owned by one household, allowed to roam, and fed regularly. Interviewees strongly valued that dogs warn of wild predators threatening livestock, which provide nearly all human food and income, but most liked dogs only moderately, and only a few expressed affection for dogs. Participants disliked that dogs steal food, create disturbances, sometimes threaten people, and spread disease to humans. The strong utilitarian attitude toward dogs might be from poor economic security, frequent death of all Maasai non-human animals, and mostly non-expressive culture. Although dogs cause nearly all of the substantial Tanzanian human rabies cases, few dogs were vaccinated although most people would pay if the vaccine were available. These dogs also present disease risks to wildlife, so vaccination programs, facilitated by perceived ownership of all dogs, could reduce hazards to people and wildlife.

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