Now that the Indian media have gone on a dog culling promotion tangent, I am writing this blog out of concern with the one-sided and incomplete information, fear and intolerance towards animals that is being spread widely.

The new ABC Rules, 2022, which have provisions to better implement Animal Birth Control in India, are going to be notified. Anti dog lobby seems to want culling of large numbers to be included. Even if we would all agree that so-called stray dog “menace” has to stop, that rabies has to be eradicated and hence that the dog population in this country has to be controlled, fact is that massive killing of dogs, even if done for a period of 100+ years, has proven to be ineffective. This conclusion is based on ground realities, ineffective examples from Indian cities and states (e.g. Surat, Chennai, Kerala), scientific research and international guidelines and practices.

Framing rabies-eradication as a public health issue, as mentioned in one of the newspaper articles (ToI, 8 March 2023), is in my opinion a welcome step and in line with the “One Health” initiative of the World Health Organisation. But the same international institutions, based on scientific research and experiences across the globe, strongly condemn mass culling and instead promote a humane catch-neuter-return program, such as already laid down in the Indian Animal Birth Control (ABC) Rules.

Great work is being done by the Blue Cross in Chennai and World Veterinary Services in the Nilgiris and in Goa as well as by other NGOs in India, but the implementation of the ABC program has been done haphazardly by authorities. Improvements in the execution need to be made, hence the need for the “new” ABC Rules to be notified.

If we really want to work towards a solution, catch-neuter-return / animal birth control in combination with annual vaccination programs must become more effective by working systematically, area-based, and collectively with community engagement.

“The Stray Buddy program as adopted by the NGO All Creatures Great and Small is setting up and facilitating self-managed community groups that map, feed, sterilise, vaccinate and raise awareness in their localities. Such approaches, based on the global One Health approach and international guidelines (e.g. ICAM) are key if we effectively want to address the human-dog conflicts and eradicate rabies.”

Anjali Gopalan, Founder and Managing Trustee of the NGO All Creatures Great and Small

Rather than spreading factually incorrect or incomplete information in newspapers, social media and WhatsApp groups – resulting in increased hate, fear and polarisation in society – it will be more beneficial to inculcate an attitude of collective and positive action rooted in the spirit of “being the change we want to see”.

If RWAs and local authorities (whether obliged by law or out of common sense) would come forward to collaborate with local caregivers in ensuring systematic mapping, feeding, catching for vaccination and sterilisation of the community dogs, and send out proper information to residents to raise awareness about responsible pet ownership, condemning people who abandon their pets on the streets, and promoting adoption of strays instead of buying breed dogs, the local dog population will certainly stabilise and steadily decrease, while the remaining domesticated community dogs will be safe, healthy and happy.

#Coexistence is possible!

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