Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What do Muslims think about dogs?

Muslims-R-Us has a site-meter that allows administrators to see the referral link that a visitor has followed to visit the site. Funnily enough, the maximum number of hits we get are for "Muslim dating" , following, I presume, an article from the New York Times that we linked to, that talked about pre-arranged marriages and likened them to blind dates.
Recently, I discovered that a visitor came to this site looking for an answer to "Why do Muslims dislike dogs?" A Google-search reveals all kinds of misinformation on the position of Muslims regarding dogs -- ranging from the outright malicious to the hilariously off key.
So, I thought it would be worthwhile compiling a coherent answer form various sources on what Muslims really think about dogs:
Fatwa (religious ruling)from Sh. Ahmad Kutty from islam-online.net, on owning dogs
“A dog can be owned for purposes such as the following:
1. A trained dog for hunting. Remember in Islam we are only allowed to hunt for food; there is no such thing as hunting for fun, for we are not allowed to kill or torture animals or drive them out of their habitats for the fun of it.
2. A trained dog as a guide. This would be the case if a person is blind and he/she has no choice but to keep a dog for essential services. In this case, it is permissible for him/her to keep a dog inside the house once it has been trained for service, but it is still recommended that the dog have its own sleeping arrangement. 3. A dog trained for police duties.
4. A guard dog to guard houses or property.
5. A dog used by farmers to shepherd cattle and sheep.
Do Muslims think dogs are dirty?
There's actually a difference of opinion among scholars on that, with some ruling that only the *saliva* of a dog is considered dirty, while the dry fur is not. God knows best.
Are dogs dirty by normal (meaning non-religious) criteria:
This is an enlightening article on zoonotic diseases -- diseases carried and transmitted by household pets, I'm quoting the part about dogs:
"Rabies is the disease most commonly transmitted from cats and dogs to humans. Saleh noted that pets should be vaccinated annually against the disease from the age of four years. Animals that are kept at home are safe from the disease. However, the problem can arise when they are taken outside, like when you take your dog out for a walk. "If the animal is bitten by another infected animal it can contract the disease," he explained.
When dealing with rabies, it is important to note two things, Saleh said. The first is that the disease is only transferable through biting. The second is that a quick response is vital should this occur.
"If you have a dog and notice any kind of behavioral changes such as mad behavior or lack of recognition of the owner, you need to immediately send the dog to a veterinarian hospital. If for any reason medical attention for the animal can't be sought, then it must be put to sleep immediately or it becomes a health hazard," he said.
Saleh explained that there are two kinds of rabies; furious and dumb. In furious rabies, the symptoms are evident. Dumb rabies is more dangerous because the infected animal does not show any symptoms but still carries the disease. "In both cases there needs to be a history of being bitten by another animal," he said.
So what should one do when bitten by an animal? This depends on the degree of laceration (tear) in the bite as well as its location. The disease enters through the nerve fibers that feed the area of the wound. Hence, the closer the bite is to the brain, the more dangerous.
As soon as the bite occurs, the wound needs to be flushed out with water. "When doing that, the patient is in fact doing two things: mechanically removing the virus or diluting it. Also, the wound should not be covered or stitched because the virus is more potent when isolated from air," explained Saleh.
The second step to take after being bitten is to receive rabies shots. The first shot against rabies should be taken immediately on the same day of the bite. The following shots are taken three days later, then after one and two weeks. The final shot is taken 28 days after the bite. The animal that bit the person should be located and placed under observation. If the animal is rabid then it will die within two weeks. At this point the person must take all five shots. If the animal lives, then the two remaining shots are not necessary.
Dogs can transfer roundworms to their owners. In some extreme cases these worms can cause damage to the liver, eyes or brain. Dogs need to be taken on a regular annual visit to their doctors for de-worming and their stool should be checked every six months, said Saleh.
A parasitic dermatological disease that could be passed on to humans from their dogs is
mange (or scabies in humans). The parasites make tunnels under the skin. "Symptoms for dogs include itching, hair loss, wrinkling skin and a terrible smell. As soon as a dog contracts the disease, it needs to be treated in a pet hospital and to be isolated from people. If the disease becomes difficult to treat, the vet may need to put the dog to sleep in order to avoid contaminating humans and other dogs," he said.
If the dog or the owner show symptoms of itching, medical attention needs to be sought immediately. An important note, Saleh said, is that dogs normally shed hair twice a year and this should not be confused with mange. However, if circular or irregular patches of hair loss are discovered, a visit to the vet is a must."
I'm thinking of the distressing news that surface regularly about *pet* dogs viciously attacking their masters, members of the family...or even killing little children, as one more reason why it makes sense to keep a physical distance from dogs.
Interestingly, many *non-believers* consider dogs dirty because of their "disgusting" eating habits...read the comments on this blog...it's not only a Muslim thing!
The bottomline: there are numerous Prophetic narrations that exhort Muslims to treat animals with kindness...keeping one's physical distance does not equate cruelty.

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