If dogs were like humans and mated for life, what would happen? By one statistic, if you leave a pair of dogs, a male and a female, together for a seven-eight year period, this union would have produced a staggering 66,000 pups. That is the statistic not of some dog hater but provided by Blue Cross, an agency that works with strays and their issues.
The caveat is that they have to all survive then the dog population would grow to 66,000 over seven-eight years through just one pair. Luckily, neither do dogs mate for life nor do all the pups in a litter survive. But that gives you an idea of the stray dog menace: how rapidly the dog population can grow if left unchecked.
Dog lovers insist that strays are not a problem: what is needed is a scientific solution (and not the Final Solution that is being pushed by civic bodies, of picking up strays and releasing them somewhere else: which is no solution at all).
According to a World Health Organisation paper, mass killing of dogs does not help Third World countries: removing garbage from the streets helps control stray dogs far more effectively.
Following up on this WHO paper, Sushma Date, a paediatrician, dog lover and the moving spirit behind sterilising dogs and returning them to their own street (often the same spot from which the dog was picked up) in one civic ward in Pune, said they are making common cause with people who like as well as those who dislike dogs.
“We are making common cause with people who don’t like dogs since a neutered animal is a healthier animal and of course, won’t be reproducing!” she said, pointing out that this way they also address the issue of controlling stray dog numbers.
The other nuisance, apart from strays, are the well meaning folks who feed strays but won’t let them into their homes or take care of their health by ensuring timely vaccination or even neutering. These people will also not let the civic staff round them up when the pound team comes. Pune is believed to have approximately 40,000 strays although Dr. Date and her team estimate this number to be higher.
The problem is exacerbated by both, dog lovers and dog haters, each sticking to their points of view, with the latter pointing not just to the nuisance but also the howling. Sterilisation removes aggression and the howling associated with the mating season, dog lovers maintain.
Dr Date’s suggestion was that each housing society should adopt strays, feed them at fixed times and then vaccinate them and eventually, once the dogs trust them, sterilise them. This will help reduce the population of strays. The other allied solution, of getting garbage bins off streets, will also help. But for that to happen, for those bins to disappear, the garbage collection system needs to be changed and only then can the bins go.
Back to stray dogs, though, members from Dr. Date’s team narrated how they catch the dogs and then get them sterilised.
“The first time we tried to catch stray dogs, we had a band of dog lovers and animal activists. We called the dog squad van and then all of us ran behind the dogs, with nets but the dogs were a lot faster... So, we then decided to get the dog feeders to catch the dogs and put them in nets. Once the dog is sterilised, it is rested for three days and then released at exactly the same spot from which it was caught,” said one volunteer. These dog feeders, by the way, are the street food vendors who have their carts or other semi-pucca stalls.
The volunteer added that when they walk along the streets, they can identify nearly all the dogs with their names, their offspring, etc. A neutered dog gets a Rs.v’ shaped clip on its ear so it is identifiable and not picked up again.
Every Saturday morning, the van and members of the Pune Municipal Corporation’s Dog Squad reach a designated area where volunteers come, identify the street-side food vendor who feeds the dogs and then catch between six to eight dogs.
What these activists are aiming for is that each street looks after its own issue: since these dogs have territorial associations, it is only right that they should be treated by the local residents. And those with pet dogs are being advised to carry Rs.pooper scoopers’ so that they do not add to the garbage on the street. After all, garbage and the stray dog menace are closely linked.
Eventually, it is yet another part of being a responsible citizen: your street, help keep it clean.