A Solution to the Abandoned and Rabid

by Julia G. on February 12, 2017 - 4:50pm

As a citizen of Montreal, Quebec, I do not come across many stray animals and it always comes as a shock to me when I see the abandoned cats and dogs in places that I have visited such as; Cuba and Greece, which always leaves me feeling a pang in my heart. The article, “Animal Welfare: Why Dogs Are a Development Issue” written by Anna Leach and published to The Guardian on May 2nd, 2014, addresses the issue about stray animals.

            This newspaper article emphasizes that stray dogs have become a threat to the population’s health.  It has become an overwhelming issue as there are 55,000 human lives taken away every year due to rabies and 95% of these deaths occurred in Asia and Africa. India alone is responsible for having an overwhelming 70% of the amounts of deaths caused by rabies. Unfortunately, the citizens of the country live out of fear as the dogs that roam the streets threaten their physical well-being. For instance, the dogs interfere with the fitness routines of the population as they are afraid to be bit while on their morning jogs, and mothers use sticks as protection when they walk outdoors with their children.

            Many countries resort to the “solution” of slaughtering the stray dogs. For instance, dogs in Bangladesh are beaten to death, those in Bhutan are shot, and in India they are electrocuted. Rahul Sehgal, the Asia director of animal welfare nongovernmental organization: Humane Society International quoted in this article claims that these methods are unsuccessful with dealing with the issue of the rabid dogs. Sehgal is quoted questioning the various governments as he queried, “you have been culling dogs for two decades or three decades - but has the dog population gone down, have your dog bites gone down, has your rabies gone down?” The answer is no. He comes up with a solution as he describes the dogs’ “ecology” as unique and how the problem can be fixed by figuring out a solution that revolves around it. The term “ecology” used in his statement refers to the social interactions of the dogs and their environment.  Thus, he believes that the amount of stray dogs can be reduced by proceeding to sterilizing and vaccinating the dogs that inhabit the city so that they are healthy, and therefore will keep away new dogs from coming into their environment. However, there are limits to this solution as the governments do not have enough funds to vaccinate all of the dogs, such as in India that would have to vaccinate approximately 35 million. There are bigger issues to take care of from the perspective of the government, as they need to focus on matters such as poverty, health and education of the citizens. Luckily, nongovernmental organizations that are advocates for the health and safety of animals are shedding light on this issue in the developing countries and are trying to come up with better solutions. There are also limits to their solutions as they need governmental advocacy for their plans.  Luckily, the governments in certain countries in Asia, such as in Bhutan, supported half of the funding, which allowed them to see successful results of the projects at hand to reduce the amount of stray dogs and to deal with the issue of rabies. The nongovernmental organizations have made their way through Bangladesh, Mauritius and the Philippines, where they are working to help with this issue.  

            It really hurt my heart to read about the ways they kill the dogs in these countries. I have a chocolate Labrador Retriever at home and it breaks my heart to hear that other dogs across the world are being shot, beaten, and electrocuted to death. I absolutely agree with the statement Sehgal made which was, “We have to try to get over the problem of overpopulation with compassion.” It is so important to do things with care as it provides more successful results than with violence. Thus, it is important that dog owners not only vaccinate their dogs to make sure they are healthy, but that they are able to afford their new pet financially and emotionally so that the animals do not end up abandoned on the street, catching diseases and then reproducing; thus favoring a vicious cycle.

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This was a very informative article, and I wholeheartedly agree that the solution to the problem of stray dogs is not violence. Innocent animals should not be punished for their owners' irresponsible actions. A few years ago, my grandparents adopted a dog that had been carelessly left by the highway. It was a rather large dog that had clearly not been fed in a while, and I can imagine how it could have become a hazard for a passerby if hunger and fear made it lose control. However, with proper care and shelter, this dog became a lovely addition to our family. I think this is a good example of how the problem can be overcome with compassion rather than violence, as you pointed out in your summary.

Your article offers a good insight into the issue of the treatment of animals in poor and developing countries, something that frequently gets overlooked. It's very often that people forget about the awful conditions domesticated animals are confronted with in places where human issues take priority, leaving creatures like the dogs you spoke of with little aid and creating a cycle of neglect and mistreatment that is difficult to escape from.

You outlined some different ways in which we can and are remedying this situation, and from an ethical perspective we have a few options for tackling the issue. As you mentioned, there were attempts to vaccinate animals in India, which would be the most humane method to correct disease and overpopulation. The problem with this method is, as you said, that treating 35 million animals is costly for India, which can barely afford to feed its own people. Thus, if we wish to avoid this, the only logical step we can reach would be either to find some means of funding a large-scale vaccination project, through charity or some other means, or to take some steps in the utilitarian direction, and sacrifice the needs of the few for the needs of the many and selectively vaccinate only a portion of the population and allowing the treated animals to live while the others can be humanely euthanized.

About the author

I am a Criminology student from Montreal. I love animals, music, and reading...especially when it involves sitting on the beach.