This article is co-written by Morris Averill.
Owning pets in Yangon was the privilege of the rich in 2015. So, it’s no wonder that for foreigners having a pet in Yangon is different, a lot of fun, sometimes heartbreaking and occasionally confronting.
Wawa and Chi Chi became part of Daniel Wong’s adopted family, after moving to Yangon three years ago.
With their “tiny paws and huge eyes fluttering”, the Chihuahua’s have melted the hearts of unbelieving strangers. “There are surprising moments, people ask ‘are they rabbits’ or ‘guinea pigs?’”
He’s not alone. Dutch citizen, Mary Droge recalls walking French Bulldog, Cappuccino through Yangon’s streets. With his flat nose and miniature tail Cappuccino was ready to smell the feet of anyone passing by. As a young woman kneed down for a pat, she’s asks,
“Did you cut off your cat’s tail? Oh really? It’s a dog?”
Slowly over the years the world of dogs as pets has opened. No longer are they simply rabies ridden strays but loving companions and to share wonderful experiences.
As owning a puppy becomes a temptation, Adjunct Professor Kyaw Naing Oo warns pet lovers to choose their dogs carefully. “For the last three years we’ve seen an increase in Huskies, snow dogs that simply can’t tolerate the heat of Myanmar. Intense heat can compromise their immune system.”
Do I need to register my dog?
In early 2020 the Yangon City Development Committee mandated for all pets to be registered.
However, it’s no simple task.
Mary who set up Myanmar’s first cageless Doggy Hotel, PetCare rushed on the opening date to submit her registration to avoid a fine or being thrown in jail. “We handed over our ‘tea money’ to the police, just for a simple signature and headed to the Township office and got the response: ‘Pet registration, what are you talking about’?” After two months of stomping the ground she’s registered “2-3 pets. Only 50 to go”.
Vet Care In Myanmar
Euthanasia: When Mary first opened PetCare she found and adopted a puppy that had been seriously hurt by a car.
Within a week Lucky’s health deteriorated with an uncontrollable fever and diarrhea. After a diagnosis of Tetanus, with a heavy heart Mary asked vets for him to be put down. “No!” was the answer again and again.
“Very few vets practice euthanasia”. It’s simply culturally not done, said Kyaw Naing Oo. “There are only some vets who, in extreme cases, when a dog has a broken back the animal will be euthanized.”
Buying A New Puppy In Yangon: “In Myanmar if you are looking for a pet, avoid pet shops. Unfortunately, the businesses often inject puppies with steroids and don’t vaccinate. We find after a few days of going to a new home the pet becomes sick. Some have died within a month.” said Kyaw Naing Oo.
“Please make sure your pets are up to date with vaccinations, as this is too often overlooked”.
Most vets in Yangon will de-sex animals, however, most pet owners won’t. “This is influenced by religion, so if you castrate the dog, it’s taking away their sexual abilities. It’s a fear of Karma, that you’ll be reincarnating as a dog.”
Education: As the number of pets increase in Myanmar there is still education to be had. “I’ve had love struck young women letting their puppy share their bed. They’ll ask, ‘Can I get pregnant from a dog?’ There is still work to be done”.
“Living in Yangon is a privilege” I say to my old blind toy poodle, Angel as she struts out go for our short walk, banging into walls. Loving the smells of Asia, she sniffs where once she could see. The street is full of surprises too for me.
Kind strangers’ approach with genuine concern: “She’s diseased!” “Why don’t you feed her?” and brutally “She’s ugly, isn’t she.”