Stray dogs in cities aren’t a new phenomenon. Dogs, and indeed all animals, go where they get food and shelter in abundance. And while living in the nooks and crannies of cities isn’t the most comfortable life, dogs make do as best they can to survive.
However, there are loads of residents who consider stray dogs to be a menace. Not without reason, as unchecked breeding leads to an alarming rise in stray dog population, which in turn leads to filth, rabies, spread of diseases borne by fleas, and aggressive behavior by territorial dogs fighting over increasingly small amounts of space.
The notion that their numbers must be reduced is correct, but it must be done in a humane manner. Violently killing them, as in this case from Bangalore, or this one from Delhi, or poisoning them in the dead of night, aren’t really solutions. Viciously murdering one, two, or even a whole pack serves no purpose; there will be more to replace them.
Mass culling as a solution is incredibly cruel. The government of Kerala’s proposition smacks of inhumanity. Just being a stray dog cannot, and should not, be grounds for killing them. Human beings may believe strays are encroaching on their lands, but it’s time enough that people learned to co-exist with other species that they share the earth with.
The best solutions, then, are dedicated and organized sterilization drives. Animal welfare societies across India are vigorously advocating spaying and neutering both female and male dogs, strays and pets alike, to discourage rising population and illegal breeding.
“Neutering is the best form of population control for strays,” Says Abhijeet Rajpurohit, a 24-year-old product manager from Mumbai, who also volunteers regularly with World For All. “Not only is it a humane way of dealing with the issue, it actually works better to reduce stray population over time.”
Dogs go into heat twice a year, and can bear up to 14 puppies per litter. Neutering both males and females increases their life expectancy, eliminates any risk of breeding, and reduces aggression in both males and females.
That being said, it isn’t, if at all, just the dogs’ fault. Like any living creature, they go where they get food. The primary source of a stray dog’s diet is from dumpsters, the stale or spoilt food casually tossed out of windows without second thought.
Dogs aren’t household pests that can be taken care of with extermination when their numbers are too large. They are intelligent creatures who want nothing more than to survive in the harsh world we put them in, and must be treated with compassion. Curbing their population needs long term solutions like proper waste disposal and regular sterilization drives.
The AWBI (Animal Welfare Board of India) have a standard operating procedure on animal birth control, as do private veterinary clinics. Sterilization drives are held by animal welfare groups several times a year, in addition to WFA, there’s YODA (Youth in Defence of Animals), and Save Our Strays that can help. Local governments are recognizing sterilization as the most effective solution for stray dog overpopulation.
Let’s hope more cities in India choose the safer, cruelty-free route as well.
Photo: unsplash.com/Anoir Chefik