Indie dogs are alert, intelligent and hardy

Why removing and killing street dogs in India doesn't work. Jena is an Indian dog, born on the streets of a small tourist town in southern India. With her happy disposition and her copper coat she is stunningly beautiful, on the inside and out, even even with scabs and scars from living rough and one eye missing, cruelly taken with a brick that was thrown at her. She runs to greet those she knows are friends, a loving person that will feed and stroke her.

There are only a few of them in her life so far, her only understanding of kindness in this harsh world, she gives as much love back as she gets from them. After being caught by strangers and dropped off 50 miles away Jena made her way back to the streets where she was born, back home. When someone drives too closely by or comes at her aggressively she recoils, hunching small her lithe body in fear. Sadly, her fear is well founded for there are some that seek to hurt her, remove her from her home, kill her.

Indian dogs selected by nature not humans are perhaps the most alert, intelligent and hardy of their species.

Originating from the ancient pariah dogs they have always been present in Indian villages and cities. Drawings on prehistoric rock art at Bhimbetka show a man walking a medium size dog with erect ears and curved tail on a leash, representing the special relationship between humans and these dogs possibly tens of thousands of years ago.(S,Herman, 2008). Most of India's dogs are gentle, brave, loyal and loving and will only bite if provoked.

They are often called strays but what people don't realise is that most of them are not strays, they are not lost, not wild, not all orphaned, or without a home. While some of these dogs have been abandoned and some are owned most are community dogs living peacefully among people. "They are part and parcel of our society," Dr. Manilal Valliyate, director of veterinary affairs for PETA India says. "In most of the cities, it becomes a social system; in every village you'll find a dog fed by the local villagers. Though they don't claim to be the owners of the dog, they are the guardians." (M,Sarkar 2015).

These dogs are seen running, playing with the children, sleeping on someone's doorstep, prancing about with a chapati. They are an integrated and valuable part of society, they can be a source of protection, love and inspiration. They have a lawful right to share the community with people.


Yet in a country with the highest death rate of rabies and problems associated with dogs, many see them as a menace.

There is no doubt that the dog population needs to be managed in India just as it does in any country. At an estimated 30 million dogs in India, too many dogs on the streets is an animal welfare and a public health issue.

Unfortunately, fear and ignorance have led many Indian citizens and officials to see street dogs as nothing but a nuisance and to seek to eradicate them removing them from their territories and using inhumane methods such as poisoning and beating.


Removing and culling dogs is illegal, cruel and as I will explain unnecessary, for as a means to rid nuisance behaviour and rabies it does not work because for every dog killed, another comes in to take over that dog's territory.

Culling undermines the only scientifically proven method of dog management, Animal birth control (ABC) and rabies vaccination. Changing the current public perceptions of dogs and successful dog management is the solution so that Jena, and dogs like her and people in her community live together with pleasure and safety.


The government through local authority have been culling dogs for two decades or three decades but by this method the dog population has not reduced nor have the dog bites or incidence of rabies. As Rahul Sehgal, Asian director of HSI explains. "Dogs have an unique ecology, the only way that you can reduce the population is by ensuring a healthy population of sterilised and vaccinated dogs, who will prevent new dogs from coming into the territory." (A, Leach 2014) 'Culling' a word used instead of 'killing' of street dogs is now illegal in India. Whether owned, abandoned or born on the streets it is against the law to remove dogs to other areas. Street dogs may only be caught if they are to be taken for sterilisation, rabies inoculation or treatment for illness or injury. Sections 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code and the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 state 'It is illegal for anyone to beat, kick, throw acid, over-ride, over-drive, torture, mutilate, kill for superstition, or extracting parts, to wilfully give an animal any injurious drug or substance, put out poisoned food, to purposefully injure or to subject unnecessary pain to a street animal.

And yet it happens all the time.

The constitution of India requires people to show compassion to all living beings.

While the central government of India has enacted rules under the prevention of Cruelty to Animals act, 1960 called the animal Birth control (Dogs) Rules 2001, to protect street dogs from cruelty, municipalities, (the local authority called panchayat) still remove and kill community dogs. While the law states that dogs can only be humanely euthanised if they are found to be aggressive, rabid and otherwise mortally ill (Sudhi Ranjan) panchayat in the state of Kerala recently indiscriminately killed 40,000 dogs including puppies.(Jayalakshmi K ) News of the Kerala massacre was bought to the worlds attention by social media. An eye witness account of a friendly healthy dog being injected with a lethal substance along with pictures of dead dogs piled into heaps on the street made the issue visible.

NGOS and individuals around the world sparked a call for a petition to boycott the tourist state of Kerala. The Animal Welfare board of India (AWBI) informed the Keralan government that its order on culling goes against a Supreme Court ruling banning killing of street dogs. (Jayalakshmi July 27 2015)


Kerela is not isolated in its illegal killing, it is commonly known that other states violate the rules by removing or killing dogs. I have seen for myself a dog's legs tied, clearly shot and thrown in the ocean to be washed a day later outside a high end tourist resort where the manager admitted they employed the gypsies “but only to shoot in the air to scare the dogs off.”


In a Country with Kafkaesque bureaucracy, laws are often not enforced. Police regard offences to animals as trivial and give the least of their time and attention. Police ignorance of the laws and of complaints leads not only to inaction but harassment. When people bring unlawful actions to their attention, the offences are often not dealt with. The public can submit a First Information Report (F.I.R) but the process is so cumbersome most don't. Often isn't safe to do so.

Regardless of the legality and morality of removing and killing dogs for population, nuisance and rabies control it does not work.

Those like Dr Menezes of 'People for elimination of stray troubles' that advocate removing or killing dogs don't understand the facts.. Dr Menezes rightly wants people to understand the seriousness and the risk of rabies but his claim that “ it is absolutely essential that all dogs be cleared from public places” is not correct (29th March, 2006) In the study by Singh and Choudhary, 66.6% of people would like to control dog population to reduce human rabies. 33.3% suggested poisoning, 17.7% shooting and 4% favoured killing the dogs by drowning. Sterilisation and immunization was suggested by only 5.7% to solve the rabies problem. In another study 42.2% of respondents felt that killing rabid animals is the best method for controlling rabies within the stray dog population. But as Herbert, Basha & Thanagaraj say “This is a flawed attitude that needs to be altered. There is no evidence that the removal of dogs alone has ever had a significant impact on dog population densities or on the spread of rabies.”

The reasoning goes like this. For every dog removed or killed another takes it place. If all are killed or removed from an area then in their absence rats, snakes, birds and cats populations will initially increase creating a bigger food supply. Along with the exposure to a large amount of

human waste dumped on the streets in India the vacant space will be soon filled up with dogs from other areas, dogs that are unlikely to be sterilized or vaccinated.

Territory between the new dogs will have to be established, nuisance behaviour like fighting and barking will increase.

Dogs are usually aggravated during the mating season. Unsterilised dogs that occupy the new territory prowl, fight and will breed, More dogs creates more fight for resources producing an unhealthy dog population. People caught up in the fights over mating and territory get bitten by unvaccinated dogs putting the whole neighbourhood at risk for rabies outbreaks.

Killing or removing dogs puts the communities right back where they started.

The only scientifically proven method of sustainably and humanely reducing street dog populations is mass animal birth control. In its strategic framework for eliminating the disease the world health organisation states “To eliminate rabies from India, animal health is the key.”(WHO) Inoculation and sterilised dogs are the best protectors to make a community safe, as they won't allow others to come on to their territory the area will be safe from rabies.

All the evidence from research and studies supports the fact that ABC programs of sterilization and vaccination together are successful if they are scaled adequately and intensively. Programs designed for targeting 70% of the population and then sustaining the population with consistency over a number of years will keep the dog population stable improving the health of the remaining dogs, a decline in nuisance behaviour, dog bites and incidences of human rabies.

In areas with good ABC Programs there is less incidence of pyometra, the venereal disease tvt and mange as dogs are treated or very sick dogs are euthansied.

'People for the Elimination of stray troubles' statement that ''sterilisation does not prevent rabies'' is misleading. Each dog sterilised in a ABC Program also receives rabies inoculation. While Dr. Abdul Rahman, of the Veterinary Association, says India is limping along with a “knee-jerk program of ad hoc projects” and that Sterilisation efforts have “not made a dent in controlling rabies”, he also says that a few cities have been successful, including Jaipur, Chennai and Tirupati. In Bangalore, where a successful ABC program operates the city municipal body confirms that there have been no reported rabies cases in dog for the past four years(M,R Abraham) The city of Jameshedpur with its intensive program in Jharkhand and others that are scaled adequately are also successful.

Dr Menezes comments further “There should be a public audit on the returns the taxpayers get from the money that is invested in this fruitless program.”and “that our well intentioned NGOs are totally incapable of achieving and documenting either of the targets”. Neither of these statements is true. While some ABC programs are found to be fake, not effective or falling short of welfare standards that is not a failure of the concept itself. The problems are to do with untrustworthy organisations, failure of correct procedures, lack of infrastructure, or differing understanding of what is required.

With commitment and resources sterilisation and vaccination can and will reduce dog populations, nuisance, and rabies. It is hard work but it can be done.

Misinformation like removal and killing and information given by the likes of Dr Sneezes impedes efforts to dog management.

He suggests that NGOs should promote dog ownership rather than allowing dogs on the street, while this is a good idea he needs to advocate for education in responsible pet ownership as 54% of rabies cases are due to owned dogs (Singh & Choudhary) not street (as he calls stray) dogs.

Misunderstanding of dog behaviour leads to bites and potential for rabies. Education is needed as to how to treat bites when they occur. India is a country where many health professionals, let alone citizens, don’t know how to treat a dog bite properly. Madhusudana. “... money should go to education and vaccination.... we need to educate, educate, educate.”(Mary rose Abraham). Improving Public health and welfare of these dogs depends on people's understanding and tolerance of dogs.

An integrated approach of humane dog management, community awareness and education is the solution. The media, particularly use of influential people that support humane dog management and acceptance of community dogs could be a useful tool. When people are given information to help them deal well with the issues in their lives subtle and powerful changes take place. There is strength in knowledge and new understanding, it undermines corruption and ignorance.


Education needs to be focused particularly on children as they are at the greatest risk of dog bites and they are the greatest force for change.

Awareness & Education is needed to dispell myths, the benefits of dog management; first aid & treatment for bites, and awareness of dog behaviour to prevent bites in the first instance. People need to accept that dogs are a part of their communities, always have been and always will be, and that these relationships of care, protection fun and friendship can be positive for dogs and humans alike.

Animal welfare isn't rocket science its more important than that. What people do, how they treat the dogs matters for the health and positive development of their communities.

Lasting solutions requires long term planning and implementation. It requires sufficient political commitment. While dog ecology is not understood, the law goes unenforced, corruption succeeds, dogs are removed and killed, dog population and rabies can not be controlled.

An article on August 25th In the Hindustan times Delhi titled ''Civic bodies tell Supreme Court they want to kill ferocious stray dogs.” was submitted by Sanjiv Sen an advocate (lawyer) for 3 municipals corps in Delhi that want to eliminate stray dogs. They say they pose a danger to the safety of human beings. Sen made his submission during a petition by 'People for the elimination of stray dogs' that want stray dogs to be killed if they are a nuisance.

Recently the Bombay High court had turned down the petitioners plea. Sen is asking the supreme court to consider the petition. (Bhadra Sinha). If this occurs there will be potential for mass killing.


We can not turn back time. The lives of those 40,000 dogs and thousands of others denied of their homes and killed cruelly can not be bought back but we can ensure this does not happen again not just for the welfare of Jena and other dogs but the for health and well being of the Indian people.

My message to the people of India is that you have everything to gain and nothing to lose being good to the community dogs. Keeping the dog population down and avoiding the fatal disease of rabies is being done for you and your children's benefit. If you feed and care for the dogs in your neighbourhood they won't be hungry and less likely to be diseased. If you befriend them you will find these intelligent loyal creatures will defend your house and person, protect, play and love you. When more people value this relationship there will be less abuse, the dogs will be less fearful it will be safer for people living there and it is easier for NGOS doing dog management to handle the dogs.

And you will discover the love of a dog, and by doing so you make the world a better, kinder place.


Linda O'Connor.


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May 2014


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Department of Community Medicine, Pramukh Swami Medical College Karamsad, Anand Gujarat-388325., India

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*Proper wildlife rehabilitation is an extremely biologically and ecologically responsible attitude toward all living things.*