2 main reasons why there are so many stray dogs in India

There are 2 main reasons why there are so many stray dogs in India. One major factor is that there is a lot of garbage lying around in India which feeds stray dogs. This points to a broken municipal system for collecting garbage. Another reason is a lack of animal birth control which in this instance means spaying and neutering of dogs. This originates in poor dog ownership but the problem has gone beyond that.

The stray dog population in India is the world's largest at 30m
The stray dog population in India is the world’s largest at 30m. Photo: JASMINE MONROUXE

It appears that the departments running municipal sanitation are underfunded, under motivated and neglected. It also appears that stray dogs are left alone to their own devices i.e. to procreate for a long time. It is no longer a case of a domestic dogs being abandoned to procreate because the dog is not sterilised. It is a simple case of a large population of feral or semi-feral dogs existing on the streets and they procreate.

As an outsider it appears that the matter has got out of hand completely. When something this important is neglected for long enough it is bound to happen. It reminds me, I have to say, of the Covid-19 pandemic and India’s mismanagement of it. Once again there is huge neglect of a problem. There appears to be a complete lack of commitment or desire to face the problem.

For example, there is little or no social distancing in India to restrict the spreading of the coronavirus. On television all we see is Indians attending these big festivals and ignoring social distancing and face mask et cetera. The reason why I’m going on about Covid-19 is because it does point to an attitude which is the same attitude which results in a huge population of stray dogs causing health problems for both the dogs and the residents.

Apparently there are 20,000 human deaths per year in India due to rabies transmitted to these people by dog bites. And I am also told that India has the highest number of stray dogs in the world at somewhere around 30 million. The number is increasing. The dogs are considered to be vermin and they are ill treated, sometimes being poisoned or beaten to death. Yet the dogs serve a purpose; the removal of some of the garbage from the streets.

It appears too that the vacuum effect is a major reason why it has become almost impossible to deal with the stray dog population. There are calls to cull the dogs or relocate them. But if you remove dogs from areas where there is a source of food then other dogs will move into that vacuum. We know this from dealing with feral cats.

And when you get involved in mass killing of undesirable animals which are treated as vermin you invariably end up using inhumane methods to destroy them. This is patiently evident in Australia where feral cats are being killed by any method possible. The inhumanity or humanity of the process is completely irrelevant.

In 1994, stray cats in Mumbai were killed by electrocution. There were calls to stop this barbaric method of getting rid of stray dogs from the Humane Society International and other welfare organisations. They turned to mass immunisation and sterilisation. This is equivalent to TNR programs for cats. It proved to be more successful and of course it was far more humane. Although there are people and organisations such as PETA to say that it is cruel to leave stray dogs and cats on the streets where they live miserable and painful lives. So kill them humanely: euthanise them properly.

In Kovalam, a small village in Kerala they killed stray dogs by shooting them and throwing their carcasses into the ocean. The occasional pet was caught in this destructive process. In another town in Kerala, 40 dogs were killed by injecting them with potassium cyanide. This caused an uproar. The problem is that the problem is too big, too enormous to deal with and people get desperate and take these ridiculously inhumane steps to try and solve the problem without success.

India simply has to get organised. There has to be more discipline. There has to be better management and people have to come together to deal with these problems in a coordinated manner. It’s a culture problem. The problem with the huge number of stray dogs and the problem with mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic has the same root cause: apathy, mismanagement, inhumanity and a lack of respect for animals.


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