The street dog issue

Why removal of dogs doesn’t work

Most Indian civic bodies have been killing street dogs for decades, some since the last century. The concept was directly imported from the developed countries without any understanding of the very different urban conditions in the third world. In developing countries such as India, where exposed garbage and slums encourage the existence of street dogs, killing or removing street dogs has proved completely ineffective in controlling rabies or the dog population. This is because dogs removed are easily replaced

Dogs have extremely high breeding rates. According to one estimate, two dogs can multiply to over 300 (over a few generations) in three years. They are also highly territorial, with each dog having its fixed niche

Here is what happens when dogs are taken away:

  • Their territories become vacant and dogs from neighbouring areas move in to occupy them

  • The dogs who escape the catching squads also continue to multiply, so the territorial vacuums are soon filled again

  • Dog fights increase, since every time a new dog enters a territory he is attacked by the dogs already in the neighbourhood

  • Dog fights continue to take place over mating

  • Dog bites also increase, as during dog fights many humans get accidentally bitten

  • Rabies continues to spread to humans, since none of the dogs is vaccinated

  • Rabies continues to spread because the dog-catchers are reluctant to pick up a rabid dog–so only healthy dogs get killed

As long as exposed garbage and slums continue to exist, dog-killing programmes cannot work. They only create an unstable, constantly changing, rapidly multiplying and rabies-carrying dog population

In Mumbai in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there were about 50 human rabies deaths every year in spite of a large scale dog-killing programme. Government sources claim that over half of human rabies deaths are caused by unvaccinated pets, so the killing of street dogs had no impact on human rabies

When dogs are removed

the food source, garbage remains

New dogs enter the vacant territory

Dog fights increase

and breeding continues

so the population keeps on growing

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