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Dog Population Control: Animal Welfare Issues from a Developing Country's Perspective - S. Abdul Rahman

Dog Population Control: Animal Welfare Issues from a Developing Country's Perspective - S. Abdul Rahman



S. Abdul Rahman, Rtd. Dean, Veterinary College Bangalore, India, explains how animal welfare must be posed as a human problem (e.g. tackling rabies) to be addressed in a developing country....

S. Abdul Rahman, Rtd. Dean, Veterinary College Bangalore, India, explains how animal welfare must be posed as a human problem (e.g. tackling rabies) to be addressed in a developing country.

For more information about this presentation and the International Companion Animal Welfare Conference, visit www.icawc.org (there is a summary of this session in the blog).



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  • Stray Dogs: uses and threats;
    (Their control: Problems and possibilities)

    ► Stray dogs clean up bio-waste that attract pests and flies
    ► prevent decay of waste and control spread of stench, pollution & disease
    ► Stray dogs prowl (more) at night limit rats from coming over ground feed breed and spreading rat fever.
    ► (rats are estimated to destroy up to 35% of our food grains)
    ► They limit large rodent (and mongoose) multiplication
    ► They alert control intruding alien dogs, prowlers (men) at night
    ► They Keep reptiles at bay from homestead


    ► of 80,000 the rabies death/ per annum in the world 20,000 is in India
    ► In India millions undergo post-dog bite vaccination/ annum
    ► In US four million bites (no vaccination needed as rabies is extremely low).
    ► There are other diseases like rat fever, Toxoplasma, tape worm etc spread by dogs to man and domestic animals.
    ► dogs howl, fight, can bite when provoked or when allowed to gang-up




     Vaccination schedule in post exposure is 0 day, 3, 7, 14, 28 & 90th day. (six man days)

     IN THE YEAR ‘05 – ‘06 2.7 CRORES SPENT FOR POST- BITE TREATMENT IN City Gen Hosp TVM alone
    INDIRECT LOSSES following dig bite

    It is now known that nearly 70% of the people exposed to dog bite are rural poor and nearly 40% are children below 15 yrs.

     Mental agony more so when children are involed
     Loss of man days, loss of earning; when children are involved the entire family leave earning and attend the kid
     Transportation cost of patient and accompanying person (the number of companions are more in case children are involved)
     Secondary complications (possible)
     Cost borne on public funds IN THE YEAR ‘05 – ‘06 2.7 CRORES SPENT FOR POST- BITE TREATMENT IN City Gen Hosp TVM alone. It is much more now

    Stray dogs: confusing questions?
    ► What is a stray dog? Unleashed domestic dog? pariah, mongrel, watch dog let lose at night, abandoned pet?
    ► Who is responsible for so many stray dogs?
    ► Why was killing stopped? 19th cent.50,000 dogs were killed/yr. 1993, admitted it as a failure as rabies deaths increased; killed dogs were replaced by more unfriendly dogs;

    ► Why do dogs bite?
    ► Why return dogs after ABC? Why not destroy or remove them
    ► Domestic & rural dogs spread more rabies
    Who can catch a stray dog? (legal authority/ responsibility)

    All Street dogs are not without owner, Dogs guards their own territory; but when destroyed alien dogs enter the scene. They can be unfamiliar and more unfriendly. [two dogs multiply to >300 in three yrs.]

    Who is responsible for so many stray dogs?
    Sufficient food wastes on premises, preference of people for male pets, abandoning sick or old pets on the street.

    Reason for stray population increase
    ► the availability of scrap food & edible waste on the street,
    ► Sponsoring of street dogs by people who either can not afford pets or who are care seeking.
    ► Offering food to street dogs by sponsors of fast food joints are congenial for breeding of dogs.

    ► Compassion for animal life, tendency to feed or make food wastes available to street dogs, the high survival skill, strength and dexterity of stray animals make their control difficult.

    Dog population (old data)

    *India's dog population is 21.76 million as per 1992 census. In 1982, when the census for dogs was initiated as part of livestock census, the dog population was 18.54 million. In 1987, it got reduced to 17.95 million but again rose to 21.76 million in 1992. Thus in 10 years the population increased by 17.3% @ 1.7% per annum. (we have seen that U.S. has nearly 130 Million dogs and cats)

    As per 1992 census, out of 21.76 million dogs, 20.06 million (92.2%) are in rural areas and 1.7 million (7.8%) in urban areas. 13.29 million (61% are males) and 8.47 million (38.9%) are females. 13.09 million (60%) are licenced dogs and 8.67 million (40%) other stray dogs. Out of 1.67 million dogs in urban areas, 1.03 million (60%) are licenced and 0.66 million (40%) stray dogs. Similarly, out of 20.06 million dogs in rural areas, 12.05 million (60%) are licenced and 8 million (40%) stray dogs.

    The average number of dogs per urban area (per district headquarter) in India is 3357 and per rural area (per village) is 32.

    [*Extracted from paper presented by Dr. S.C. Mathur, Animal Health Consultant in National Seminar on 'Veterinary Public Health Challenges & Opportunities' held on 21st & 22nd October, 2000 New Delhi.]

    How to avoid dog bite
    Do not provoke a dog: sudden movement, approaching a nursing or feeding dog;
    When a strange dog approach stay firm without sudden movement or fear
    Do not allow ganging of stray dogs in one territory (never more than 6-10). This can be one reason for attack on a child in Bangalore, though children disturbing street dogs that provoke attack by ‘street dog gangs’ in defense is not uncommon. Discourage any child from pelting stone at a passing dog.
    In breeding season disturbing the process would invite dog bite
    A stranger entering a residential area in the dead of the night would invite the anger of street dogs


    Apart from symptoms which can be at time deceptive, using FAT (Fluorescent Antibody Test) rabies can be diagnosed in live animals. Through correct tests un-necessary vaccination of bite victims can be avoided to an extend, though preventing rabies in dogs and reducing their rampant breeding is ideal. .

    1. FAT
    2. NEGRI BODY STANING (in Post-mortem)
    3. MOUSE INNOCULATION (testing on lab. Animals)
    4. Rapid (direct) test of saliva

     There is a supreme court judgment upholding that ABC rules 2001 is a valid piece of law to be obeyed by all. A stay had been granted to operation of many judgments of lower courts which favored killing stray dogs

    WHAT IS ABC programme

    Animal Birth Control program or ABC programme as it is commonly called, is considered a humane method of reducing the problem of increasing number of stray animals, without causing any drastic imbalance in the harmony among man animal and environment. Though, sterilization of both male and female animals are considered, there is no option to limit sterilization to one gender. A female dog in season attracts males from far off places in large numbers and therefore has to figure in the ABC programme invariably. ABC involves a major surgery and therefore needs general anesthesia which is not devoid of risks. Furthermore, General anesthesia is a stressful process with the effect of anesthesia lingering for many days including a transient change in the behaviour pattern of the animal involved. This can be gainfully used at least in some cases to control aggression in street dogs. [We must remember that unruly domestic dogs can also be equally dangerous.]


    ► locating, identifying and counting of animals and studying their, hierarchical order (pecking order).
    ► catching them with minimal stress, from 1 territory at a time.
    ► pre-anesthetic assessment of the animals;
    ► health assessment and retaining them in the hold (Temporary shelter)
    ► pre-anesthetic fasting, pre-medication
    ► control and anesthesia
    ► surgery & management of emergencies
    ► recovery & post anesthetic management
    ► post-operative therapy, vaccination etc.
    ► removal of stitches (only where needed)
    ► release and rehabilitation of animals
    ► Post-ABC follow-up: Re-vaccinate, Educate people to avoid dog bite

    For actions at serial number 1& 2and for those at 11 & 12, it may be necessary to involve voluntary groups from each resident organizations, animal enthusiasts, animal ethologists (behaviour experts). For the rest veterinary surgeons who has specific training for the purpose need be involved or be trained from time to time for the purpose. The specifics of the actions may have to be modified or fortified from time to time for the welfare of the animals and to the benefit of the community.

    Why local vety hospitals do not do regular ABC?
    All people (staff, workers, volunteers) who handle stray dogs need be immunized.
    Stray dogs may not be allowed to mingle with domestic pets
    Stray dogs can be transmitting zoonotic disease to Man
    Stray dogs can also contract zoonotic disease from Man


     Establishment of dog shelters with safety and containment
     Provide Requisite number of dog vans for capture and transportation.
     2 trained dog catchers (action volunteers) and 1 driver per each van.
     Ambulance-cum-clinical van as mobile ABC centre.
     Provide catching and controlling equipments
     Incinerators for the disposal of the carcass.
     Periodic repair of shelters, ambulance etc.
     Setting up facilities for surgery, Pre-anesthetic clinic, post operative care, immunization, identification etc.

    NECESSARY FACILITIES AT A GLANCE: The following would be needed facilities
    A. a dog catching, controlling and transport group
    B. experts for pre operative attendance and health verification
    C. Dog holds (shelter) for each compatible groups and/ or individuals
    D. People for Feeding and observation
    E. Experts at Pre-anaesthetic clinic
    F. Helpers for Surgery with preparation & recovery units
    G. Experts for Surgery
    H. Training rooms for veterinary personnel and for training public awareness group & organization of volunteers etc. include PA system
    I. Experts and help Post-operative cells
    J. Health care units with facilities for vaccination, treatment etc.
    K. Trained group Release and Rehabilitation & linkage with residents
    L. Follow-up group (independent)

    NOTE: The facilities listed at B to I may be created by retrofitting and remodeling the existing infra-structure at District Veterinary Hospital. Minimum professionals, para-veterinary staff and adm. Staff only would be created in the initial stage, managing the rest through a process of convergence of trainees, volunteers and Sr.consultants. Para staff, observers, campaign group etc. may be generated through the same process of training volunteers from each area of operation. Professional staff needed could be generated through consultancy/ contract appointment, work-cum-training etc. Operational cost & transport facility would be created which in the initial stage be multi-purpose. Equipments & instruments would have to be purchased.

    NOTE: It is expected that after the pilot program is launched, based on its initial success or failure, a more effective and closely knit unit leading to establishment of a regular welfare clinic would emerge. A macro-epidemiological unit (IT/ICT based) that would collect data and prepare information for action including the nature and event of exposures would help generating guidelines not only on reduction of exposure to dog bite, but also for elimination of other zoonotic and infectious diseases.


    Why are some against counting of dogs? (to be discussed)
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