Neutering and Spaying Dogs & Cats for Population Control• Bloody diarrhoea.
STRAW India's Animal Helpline received numerous calls daily from people whose hearts beat for animals. They call to ask for help for those animals who may have met with an accident or are weary for one reason or the other. But often times, there are calls from people who themselves want help from the so called "menace" of street dogs.
This morning's call from a very angry man, who was on his way to office, was the most outrageous - "There are too many dogs in the colony; I just stepped on dog's poop and I am sick of them. Can you help to eradicate these dogs?" he said.
Similarly, a few months ago, a neighbour was so fed up with a stray dog that stays on her staircase that she went to the vicious extent of pouring hot water on his back and wounding him terribly. And it is not uncommon to hear (though not too often) that some of the dogs in a colony in a city have been poisoned.
Our Animal Helpline receives at least one complaint on a daily basis from people who complain about street dogs howling at night, dirtying the colony, not allowing children to play in the park, not allowing the milkman, maid servant, car cleaner, etc., to walk up the staircase, running behind cyclists, motor-cyclists, and even behind cars and asking for help to get rid of them. But it's fortunate that the law - Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and for that matter even the Constitution of India provides animal protection through Article 51 that ensures "Compassion to all Living Creatures."
Stray dogs can be seen all across India, almost on every street, whether urban or rural. These animals live miserable lives on the street. They are homeless and move from one garbage bin to another looking for food. They get kicked, stoned and beaten with sticks by both children and adults alike and in the worst case scenario; they get run over by vehicles, fracture their legs, get paralysed and continue to live a maimed life.
Causes for the Stray Dog Problem
The commonly raised question from almost everybody in India is "why are there so many stray dogs on the streets of India, particularly urban India?" The answer to this is the existence of garbage in the environment, particularly in urban cities which is very encouraging for the existence of stray dogs. In fact, it is believed that dog population is directly proportional to the amount of garbage that human beings generate. Stray dogs are scavengers and garbage provides them ample food. If only our cities are clean and there is an absence of food source, dogs would not be able to survive on the streets. Besides this, many people particularly street and slum dwellers, keep stray dogs as free-roaming pets and take care of them, in terms of providing them food and medicines whenever needed.
Killing Stray Dogs is Not the Answer
Dealing with the situation - in order to make cities look prim and proper and also to take care of the peoples' complaints, often times state Governments adopt the practice started by the British in the 19th century when they undertook mass killing of dogs to control their population. Even the Government of Kerala adopted this method recently and culled thousands of dogs in the state.
The municipal authorities, all over India, continued with this practice even after Independence of India with an aim to eradicate human rabies deaths and control the stray dog population. However, by 1993, it was acknowledged to be a complete failure, since human rabies deaths had actually increased, and the dog population was also growing noticeably.
Studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Animal Welfare Board of India (Ministry of Environment & Forests) have clearly indicated that measures to control dog population that work for developed countries do not apply to under-developed countries because urban conditions in these two places are totally different.
The conditions to breed is so encouraging in countries like India that the number of dogs that were killed did not matter and within a short period of time, they got replaced by more. Hence in January 1994, this mass killing was replaced by the WHO recommended program which meant mass sterilization of stray dogs.
"The killing of stray animals without a just cause is prohibited by the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960."
The ABC-AR Animal Birth Control - Anti-Rabies Program
This acronym stands for Animal Birth Control - Anti Rabies program. This is the most humane, legal and scientific recommendation by WHO to manage the population of free-roaming dogs in the country. But the most essential part of this program is that it has to be done in right earnest by the city municipal corporations. Upon the success of this program in cities like Chennai and Jaipur, the Central Government in the year 2001 made it mandatory for municipal corporations to stop killing dogs and to adopt the program. This program, in short recommends the following steps:
a) A city be divided into circular zones moving inward from outward,
b) A census of the dog population in each zone be taken so that we know the exact number of dogs that need to be neutered,
c) Create awareness about the program and involve the people in the area for dog catching,
d) Catch the dogs, have them neutered and vaccinated with anti-rabies vaccine,
e) Give post-operative care for about seven to eight days,
f) And finally release them in the same area that they were captured (as dogs are territorial animals), in accordance with the Animal Birth Control Rules, 2001 framed, under Section 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and as per the orders of Honourable Supreme Court of India,
g) Out of the dogs caught only those dogs that are "irretrievably ill or mortally wounded" can be put down in a humane manner, again as prescribed by the Central Law - "Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act."
Advantages of the ABC Program
There are many reasons why Spaying (for female dogs) and neutering (for male dogs) is a good idea. It has a number of medical and behavioural advantages for the dog (and cats too). The medical advantages are very beneficial to the dog and the behavioural changes are advantages to the people. The most important medical benefit for the dog includes:
1) Spaying female pets helps prevent uterine infections and breast tumours, which could be often malignant. Spaying a dog or a cat before her first heat offers the best protection from these diseases leading to them leading a longer and healthier life.
2) Giving birth year after year can be extremely draining for the mother dog leading to the deterioration of her health.
3) Similarly neutering male dogs and cats have health benefits too. It prevents testicular cancer and some prostate problems.
"The mother dog's health deteriorates with each litter and her pups face misery on the streets."
Behavioural Benefits: In a country
like India, where people and dogs live in close proximity, spaying and neutering dogs (and cats) are very advantageous. These animals undergo many changes in terms of their behaviour which makes it easier for people to accept them in their lives.
1) Male dogs display aggression that is hormonally influenced towards each other and they very often injure themselves very badly. Neutering eliminates a lot of this kind of behaviour without affecting a male dog's protective instincts towards his family members and his house in case of a pet dog and towards the colony itself in case of a dog on the street.
2) Spayed and neutered dogs and cats show less aggression towards another of their own species and more importantly towards people as well. This is because their hormonal levels are down and more importantly they do not have little pups to protect.
3) Upon neutering a dog or for that matter even a cat, their need to roam to find a mate is diminished due to hormonal urges and also the need to mark their territories is removed altogether.
4) When a family has more than one male dog or cat at home, neutering helps them to generally get along well with each other. It is the similar case with strays. Since they all get along well, there would be fewer fights amongst one another followed by less squealing, howling, barking, etc.
5) Neutering reduces or even eliminates objectionable male behaviour such as mounting other dogs, furniture, family members, etc.
Hence, in a country like India, though humans and strays cross each other's paths on a daily basis, they necessarily do not co-exist in harmony. Poor implementation of the Animal Birth Control Program by the municipal corporations and uncontrolled breeding of the stray dogs have led to this kind of a state.
In such situations, where neutering of these animals is the key for their population control, it's important for citizens to understand it and possibly participate actively to make this possible. And before that, it is important for people to come to terms with the principle of "live and let live" and understand that this planet belongs to the animals as much as it belongs to we humans.