For thousands of years, humans and dogs shared a lovely relationship. This interspecies relationship fostered a kindred spirit that paved the way for nurturing bonds with dogs and identifying the need for harmonious coexistence.
Às population surged (of both humans and dogs) and spaces shrank, the dynamics of this relationship changed and as a result it eclipsed the centuries-old bond of humans and dogs. Both species craft their socio-cognitive behaviour as they grow based on their external interactions and experience it positive or negative.
On the other side, the fears that emerged from cases of dog bites, unfortunately, took precedence over our positive narratives of interspecies bond with dogs. The fear grew so intense that people resorted to culling, poisoning in the absence of awareness.
Humane Society International/India (HSI/India) acknowledges that increasing the dog population is both an animal welfare and public health safety issue. To address the concerns, it shares 6 methods on World Stray Animals Day to ensure a peaceful coexistence between dogs and human beings in your residential area.
1) Sterilization is a humane way to keep the dog population under control and also improves the lives of those remaining on the streets. HSI/India has taken up mass sterilization and vaccination projects and completed various rates of sterilization – Dehradun (80%), Mussoorie, Nainital (98.6%), Vadodara (70%) and Lucknow (33%) in collaboration with the respective Municipalities.
2) Dog-mediated rabies is a vaccine preventable viral disease. Vaccinating your companion animal and street dogs is a cost-effective way to prevent rabies that is available even in low resource settings. Attending rabies awareness programs about dog behaviour and how to avoid dog bites and vaccination drives by adults as well as kids is always a better idea.
3) If you feed stray dogs, then ensure a safe and responsible feeding procedure. Pick a designated feeding spot that is way from the daily commute of your neighbourhood, to ensure a safer and undisturbed feeding routine. Make sure this spot is not in the walkway, pathway of your neighbours or others.
· Stick to a standard feeding routine and follow it. Set a feeding time and make sure you remain available everyday for the dogs otherwise ask a family member or friend for feeding so that if you can’t feed the dog due to any reason, someone else will be able to manage your responsibility.
· When the feeding is done, make sure to clean the spot or use newspaper and ensure you pick them up in a trash bag once.
· Water is just as important – so make sure you can provide it and refill it regularly. Keep the container you provide it in clean as well.
4) Dogs bite when they are anxious, stressed or feel threatened in some way or if they are sick, in pain or injured, protecting their litter or have had a cruel experience of being beaten. There are a number of videos on YouTube and other information which is useful for understanding a dog’s body language. This will help you to understand a dog’s behaviour and its body language to minimize dog bite incidents.
5) Our constitution makes it out fundamental duty to be compassionate to animals. Our apex court acknowledges that street dogs cannot be culled, that they have a right to live and it’s not a crime to care for them and feed them. Also, there has not been a single evidence to support COVID-19 spread from stray dogs to humans.
6) It is an established fact that poor waste management is one of the main causes of burgeoning street dog population. Street dogs are essentially scavengers and rummage through garbage bins to find their meals. The importance of proper waste management apart from the days of COVID 19 will always be a major step in street dog population control and prevention of rabies. Communities/residents are encouraged to identify such areas in their societies/neighborhoods and take corrective actions.
HSI/India is running animal birth control programs as well as engaging with communities on these various aspects through its campaign Abhay Sankalp in multiple cities across India and seeing a big change to make communities safer for all living in its environs.