The sad fact is that having a dog in Iceland is not an easy task. The miracle of bringing a dog into your life is unfortunately not necessarily a popular choice.
The city of Reykjavík, as well as most municipalities, charges an annual license fee which can be a pretty hefty amount, considering the benefits. Included in the fee is, supposedly, maintenance related to facilities for dogs and basic medical insurance. Unfortunately, there are very few signs of facilities or service of any kind to dog families in most city neighborhoods, and election promises for improvement are rarely kept.
In my own community, we have seen no changes whatsoever, apart from perhaps the growing number of dogs living in our community. That is not reason enough, though, to pay any more attention to our needs, as it seems to be a rather political game whether to be in favor of dogs or against dogs in the city.
A local news site, Vísir recently reported on the heartbreaking situation of three families with dogs in the capital area and upon reading the story, I felt compelled to share it with the rest of the world, as it demonstrates yet again how uncultivated we are, as a society, in the treatment of animals.
In Icelandic society, as I have come to understand it, inclusion of animals other than the human species can be interpreted as unhygienic and unnatural. Dogs apparently belong in the countryside and cats should be kept inside so they don’t urinate in other people’s gardens.
This attitude is contrary to mine and many others who have fallen in love with our dogs and cats and whatever animals we love so dearly. The three families live in an apartment building in the capital area and all have puppies in their first year, one in each family. According to the report on Vísir, the dogs are quiet and are kept out of the common areas, and, as far as I can tell, each apartment has its private entrance, which, I believe, grants them the right to have a pet without consent from other residents.
However, it seems some of the residents are not happy with dogs in the residence and on June 2 there is going to be a vote on whether to allow pets in the apartment building or not. I cannot comment on the legitimacy of either, as I do not possess the legal knowledge, but being a dog owner, the mere thought of having to give up my pet is heart-breaking. In their campaign to keep their dogs, the three families have set up a website to encourage their neighbors to get to know their dogs and them, and on May 28, they organized a meet-up, which a dozen or so of residents attended in a local park.
I hope that kindness and respect prevails and these three families get to watch their puppies grow into adult dogs with all the vitality and maturity each year brings.
I am very fortunate to live in a three-story apartment building, all with a private entrance, where dogs are more than welcome. In fact, the general mood is that antipathy toward dogs is not tolerated. Our dogs spend time in the yard as much as we do and we all adore one another’s dogs.
This atmosphere of mutual respect and kindness to each other is one that I am grateful for and I hope the three families find themselves in similar circumstances.
In the latest edition of the German DOGS magazine for May-June, reporter Katharina Jakob writes about life with dogs in Iceland, an article that features dogs from my local community, my own among them.
In my community it’s our dogs that have brought the group of dog families together. We wouldn’t know of each other’s existence without them, nor would we be enriched by each other’s companionship and friendship, both in good times and bad.
It is safe to say that dogs make our world go round.
Júlíana Björnsdóttir – [email protected]