Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Stray dogs in India.

There are more than 30 million stray dogs in India, in urban as well as rural areas. A good number of these dogs in the urban setting are more community dogs rather than feral. Stray dogs is used to refer to lost and abandoned pets or others that had been socialized to humans before taking to the free-ranging life, and feral refer to those who have lived all their lives apart from people.

Most free-roaming dogs belong to an ancient canine race known as the pariah dog, which has existed all over Asia and Africa ever since human beings started living in settlements. They are scavengers–that is, they live on garbage created by humans. In India the breed has existed for perhaps 14,000 years or more. In addition to scavenging, they are widely kept as pets by rural and urban slum households.

Part of the urban stray population consists of mongrels or mix-breeds–descended from pure-breed dogs that have been allowed to interbreed with pariahs.

The size of stray dog populations always corresponds to the size and character of the human population of the area. Urban India has two features which create and sustain stray dog populations:

1) Large amounts of exposed garbage, which provide an abundant source of food.

2) A huge population of slum and street-dwellers, who often keep the dogs as free-roaming pets.

Mumbai has over 12 million human residents, of whom over half are slum-dwellers. At least 500 tons of garbage remain uncollected daily. Therefore, conditions are perfect for supporting a particularly large population of stray dogs.

The problem:
The biggest problem created by these dogs is rabies an dog bites.

Rabies can be a fatal disease which can be transmitted to humans. Although all placental mammals can get and transmit rabies, dogs are one the most common carriers. India has the highest number of human rabies deaths in the world (estimated at 35,000 per year).

Dog bites can occur when dogs are trying to mate or fighting among themselves. Pedestrians and other humans in the vicinity may be bitten by the fighting dogs. Females with pups are often protective and may bite people who approach their litter.

The solution:
Killing the dogs doesnt really work. Mass killing is a fruitless, inhumane, ineffective task and certainly didn’t work in other countries too, like in the seven years that Bucharest permitted it – street dog numbers did not decline.

Most states in India have been killing stray dogs for decades. The idea came from ‘developed countries’ without understanding the very different urban conditions in India. India has rubbish dumps and slum areas, which attract strays. Dogs removed are easily replaced.

When a dog is taken away:
· His territory becomes vacant and dogs from around move in to occupy the area.
· Dogs continue to multiply, so the areas are soon filled again.
· Dog fights increase, because each time a new dog enters an area he is attacked by the dogs already in there.
· During dog fights many humans get accidentally bitten.
· Rabies spreads to humans, due to no vaccination programs of strays
· Rabies continues to spread because the dog-catchers are reluctant to pick up a rabid dog – so only healthy dogs get killed.

The effective solution is a methodical Sterilization, vaccination, adoption, education and clean living. Educating and reaching people about sterilization of not only stray dogs, but pets to control the population, educating about living in balance wit the dogs and extending compassion.

ABC Animal birth control scheme set up by the Indian government to control the dog population by sterilization as opposed to the traditional method of killing dogs.
Under this program, stray dogs are surgically neutered and then replaced in their own area. They are also vaccinated against rabies.
The problem of pathetic implementation of this scheme, and government shelters being torture chambers instead for the dogs is a different point that I will write about in another post.

It is a slow process and often, cities go back to culling and create problems for the Animal Welfare orgs. Lets all try to reach out to as many as we can and discuss the solutions. Volunteers make the biggest difference in any effort. Volunteers, who take their community dogs to sterilization and vaccination events, volunteers who help the abused or diseased animals.

Indian Pariah dogs, native dogs, and mixes actually make for great pets because they are native breeds and already accustomed to the land and climate unlike foreign breeds which fail to thrive as easily. Read more about the Indian Pariah dog and native breeds here http://indianpariahdog.blogspot.com/

To Read more about Animal Birth control in India http://abcindia.org.in/

There are always ethical questions about Excessive sterilization and eventual elimination of native breeds. But for right now the above solution is the current solution to help implement because
  • There is a big imbalance between the human dog peaceful existence in India. The apathy and lack of compassion will always lead to mass culling getting accepted as a normal thing.
  • It is generally accepted that many of the free-roaming dogs in Indian cities and towns(urban) are actually mix-breeds (mongrels), though some certainly look more "mixed" than others. Pure Pariah and native dogs are more common in rural and remote areas where there are no Eurobreeds or other types of dog to interbreed with.
  • There are 30 million strays in India. A good sterilization, vaccination implementation will reduce the occurrence and hence fear of rabies. Some additional compassion outreach, adoption and volunteer encouragement will help change the outlook towards strays.
Of course, these are ideal solutions and work best in theory. A practical implementation of the solution is far from being anywhere close to workable and much more painful for the dogs and humans both. Thank you for dropping by. Please do leave your comments and ideas about the post.

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