Owning a Dog in Kigali

Dogs in Kigali

Dogs! Some people love them, many Rwandans aren’t so keen on them.

Rwanda seems to be a largely dog-free country. You see very few pet dogs here but there does seem to be a lot of guard dogs kept in sad conditions. However, a growing number of expats and Rwandans are adopting dogs as pets, or bringing them with them when they move to Rwanda. You would be hard-pressed to say Rwanda is a dog-friendly country with the number of people who mistreat our furry little friends, the general disdain for the species and its lack of parks, but there are actually a number of organisations out there ready to help needy dogs.

Whether it’s spotting an injured dog and wanting to help, adopting an abandoned pup, or looking for info about vet services and dog supplies, this should serve as a guide to all things dog (and some things cat) in Rwanda.

Helping an Abandoned or Injured Dog

This happens somewhat frequently in Rwanda and it’s always a hard thing to deal with. Maybe you’re on your way to an important meeting, you don’t have a car, or your flatmates hate dogs and maybe you feel you can’t do anything for the little thing. The unfortunate truth is that if you don’t do anything for them (and they are lying injured on the side of the road) they may die a slow death there from infection, be stoned to death, or be hit by a car. So if you are able to do something please do.

There are two people you can contact in this kind of situation. Both will tell you that if you are able to keep the dog, or re-home them yourselves then that is the better option. But if you are really stuck, they may be able to help.

For Dogs Under 6 Months of Age

Contact Frances Klinck, an animal lover who has made a name for herself taking in abandoned puppies and finding loving new homes for them. She informally calls her operation WAG and they have a Facebook page full of info and cute doggy pics. She is limited in the number of dogs she can take in, and generally only accepts younger dogs less than 6 months old. But if you are really stuck and have a puppy who needs looking after you can try Frances on Wag.kigali@gmail.com. or get in touch via their WAG Kigali Facebook page. If you’re looking to foster a dog while a permanent home is found for them, this is a great place to look and your help is greatly appreciated.

Older or Injured Dogs

You can try contacting Jode Garbe, an American vet who has an animal sanctuary just outside Kigali in Nyamata and a vet clinic in Kigali near RDB. She has taken in dogs who don’t have anywhere else to go. It may be possible for her to take in other animals as well, such as injured birds, cats etc. Jode can be reached on 0788 740 428 or by email on jode.garbe@rwandanow.org. Her website address is http://www.rwandanow.org.

Keep in mind, both operate on very low-budgets and both are non-profits, so please consider making a donation if you transfer a dog to their care. Jode’s non-profit, RwandaNOW, is registered in the US as a charity so all contributions are tax-deductible.

If you are going to try to help a street dog, particularly injured ones, do proceed with caution. They can be nervous of people or even aggressive. Approach them slowly, low to the ground, with a gentle voice and no sudden movements. If you ever do get bitten, a rabies vaccine is essential (available at many pharmacies in Kigali and doctors, including the doctor based next to the Belgium embassy).

There is another Rwandan who is a vet technician who loves dogs and animals who you could call in a tricky situation who may be able to help, or offer some advice. His name is Justin and his number is 07888 43318.

Adopting a Dog

Great! Welcome to the ranks of people who move to Rwanda and end up adopting a dog or three. Rwandan dogs and cats are lovely and there are lots in need of good homes. Not the kind of home where they are going to be loved for a year or two and then abandoned on the street again when their owners leave Rwanda, but genuine, loving, forever homes.

Frances (mentioned above) generally has puppies and dogs less than a year old available for adoption. They are all vaccinated, clean of ticks, and fleas and will have spent time in a loving home. Frances won’t give dogs to people who just want a guard dog. You can contact Frances on wag.kigali@gmail.com.

Jode also has dogs available for adoption. You can contact her on 0788 740 428.

Fostering a Dog

Great! If this is the case, WAG is always on the lookout for good foster carers, who can help them care for their dogs when they reach capacity. They only foster out healthy puppies, usually for less than a month at a time. You would be responsible for providing food, love, and work on basic training if you can. WAG would handle vet care.

Veterinarian Services

There are a few different options when it comes to vets in Rwanda.  Available services include vaccinations, spaying and neutering operations, and general medical problems. Some also carry out micro-chipping, but it’s best to check with each vet individually.

Jode’s vet clinic is located near RDB in Kigali. Her number is 0788 740 428 or her email is jode.garbe@rwandanow.org.

Justin is a Rwandan animal lover who carries out some vet services. He is based in Kigali and his number is 0788 843 318. Justin can help with vaccinations, de-worming, and perhaps other services too. He will come to your home on his scooter.

The Gorilla Doctors in Musanze sometimes carry out vaccination drives on dogs and cats in the vicinity but you would need to contact them to check this.

There are some dog breeders in Kigali from whom you can buy expensive pedigrees, but I would suggest helping out abandoned dogs who need homes instead of encouraging the breeding of more dogs.

Dog Walking and Training

Surprisingly, yes. There are two Rwandan brothers who walk and train dogs in Kigali. I’ve used them and they are great and we have had no problems. They walk dogs for two hours at a time, even those with some behavioural problems. Call Daniel on 0788 606 743.

There is also a dedicated pet walking and training service called ‘Follow + Lead’ which was founded by El-Rahim Jaffer, a graduate of Animal Behaviour College from Toronto, Canada. They provide professional pet care and can help you to develop exercise, diet and training plans for your dog. You can get in touch with them on 0736 111 496 or by email at petsplus.rw@gmail.com.

There are a number of good spots for walking dogs, namely around Kiyovu, Kimihurura, and Nyarutarama. You can also try Juru Park, a forested space on the hill behind Kicukiro.  There may well be others too.

Buying Dogs from Street Sellers

This is a tough one and there is no simple answer to this question. On the one hand, these puppies are unlikely to be well-looked after by their current owners, particularly once they become bigger dogs, and it’s tempting to want to rescue them. On the other hand, if you take the dogs – and particularly if you pay money for them – you are encouraging an illicit doggy trade where people steal dogs from their mums when they are far too young. Puppies need to be with their mum and siblings until they are at least 8 weeks old so you should try to discourage taking pups who are younger. But it’s not easy and I don’t have a good answer for what to do. My advice would be to try hard not to part with any money for the dog, and if you do, try to make it not more than 500 Rwf, to reduce the incentive for the thieves. Jode suggests giving no money at all and just trying to take the dog. It’s a tough call.

If you do end up with a pup you can contact WAG on the email above.

Reporting Mistreatment of Animals

Few people know this but it is actually against Rwandan law to mistreat, injure, or kill a domestic animal. Article 436 of the new penal code says:

Any person who, mistreats livestock or domestic animals, in a way to compromise their health shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of eight (8) days but less than six (6) months and a fine of twenty thousand (20,000) to five hundred thousand (500, 000) Rwandan francs or one of these penalties.” Anybody who “maliciously and without reasonable justification kills or seriously wounds livestock or domestic animals belonging to another person, shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of six (6) months to one (1) year and a fine of two hundred thousand (200,000) to two million (2,000,000) Rwandan francs or one of these penalties.

If you want to see it, it’s here: http://www.police.gov.rw/uploads/tx_download/Official_Gazette_no_Special_of_14.06.2012-4.pdf

Ok, so the chances of the police actually doing much about animal abuse is unlikely, but it’s good to know this law exists. And there is talk of someone setting up a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals here, so there is some hope.

Buying Food, Crates, and Supplies

There are some shops that stock cat and dog food, and other supplies. There are listed below.  It’s also fairly easy to make your own dog food. A mix of rice, meat (or little fish) along with some leftover veggies are all it takes.  Eggs are an inexpensive source of protein and you can just crack a couple on top of their food.

For a long time, it seemed that Brussels Airways was the only place you could buy dog crates in Rwanda, and only if you were travelling on one of their flights. Happily it turns out there are some other local suppliers, and you don’t have to fly with a certain airline to do it. They are listed below.

  • Frulep – Located on the road from town to Kicukiro, in Gikondo, in the same car park as the Lebanese Restaurant and the petrol station. They sell cat food, dog food, dog treats.
  • Sawa City – Located across the road from Car Wash. They sell cat food, dog food, dog and cat treats and toys.
  • Nakumatt – You can buy dog leads and collars at both the UTC and KCT stores.
  • Agrotech – For animal supplies like leads, collars, and puppy food. There are a number of branches, but the biggest is near La Galette in town. Call them on 0252 573 489.
  • Octagon Kennels – For for IATA certified dog crates contact Shilla Muthoni at octagonoci@googlemail.com.

Leaving Rwanda with Your Dog or Cat

It’s not as difficult or as expensive as you may think, even if you’re travelling to England. You no longer have to quarantine dogs when you enter the UK, as long as they have their correct vaccinations, a microchip, and paperwork.

Nearly all airlines will accept dogs or cats, you just need to make sure to prepare. You will need proof of vaccinations (rabies is especially important and needs to be done within a year, and not sooner than 30 days before departure), a dog or cat crate and, depending on where you go, possibly a microchip. You will also need an animal export permit from RAB, which takes a few days to get. All of these things can be done relatively quickly and cheaply in Kigali. Contact a vet (see above) for more details on what is needed. Jode Garbe is a particularly good resource on this and has a lot of experience getting dogs on planes.

Each country has its own regulations regarding bringing dogs and cats into the country.  Consult with the local embassy or consulate as well as the country-specific websites for detailed requirements including vaccines, blood work, microchipping, and quarantine possibilities.

Also make sure to check with the airlines that they allow pets to fly all-year round (some won’t fly them in the summer) and book your pet on board as soon as you book your ticket. Some airlines take a restricted number of pets on each flight and they may get booked up.

When you do board the plane, make sure you ask to speak to the pilot and inform them that you have a dog travelling in the hold and remind them it is their responsibility to monitor the temperature in the hold. If there is a lengthy plane delay, make sure you speak to the pilot to remind them a pet is on board.

IATA (International Air Transport Association) approved crates for dogs can be procured from Drymon or Octagon. If you are flying Brussels Air, they will supply you with a crate ONLY if you have a boarding pass. Cat crates can be procured from Drymon or shipped directly from retailers in South Africa, for example http://www.olx.co.za/q/carriers/c-814. Or if you’re traveling to South Africa via air, you can easily purchase cat and dog crates and check them as luggage on your return flight to Rwanda.

Drymon is apparently the old Benalco store that used to be located in town. Drymon is mysterious and getting there seems to be pretty tricky but for anyone who wants to make an attempt, here are the directions:

Go towards Frulep (coming from the roundabout between the Cercle Sportif in Kiyovu and Sawa City), pass Frulep and turn left at the first traffic lights u see (they’re broken). There’a building with an elephant head on the corner. So turn left at the lights onto a dirt road and keep left when the road splits. Drymon is just about 2 minutes down the road on your left. It is VERY hard to see as the sign is tiny and the metal gate is normally closed… you have to sound your horn for them to let u in.

Good luck!

About Jenny & Juliet

Jenny and Juliet are animal-lovers who have been living in Kigali for a number of years. They are ready to help other animal lovers make the most of pets in Rwanda as best they can.