ABC* responsible for decline in human rabies
*Animal Birth Control
The bond between man and dog had its beginning 12-14
millennia ago somewhere in Eurasia
where a reciprocal relationship between them first emerged. Provided
with scraps of food when approaching the early encampments and settlements
of man, the wolf soon became a frequent and welcome visitor, warning
man of imminent danger and later assisting him in the hunt for wild
animals. Thus began the domestication of the dog and the establishment
of a bond between man and animals that has no equal.
Today, man violates that bond by allowing dogs to breed excessively
and then abandoning them in great numbers, thus creating hazards
for the dogs themselves as well as a considerable health risk to
human society. All too
often, authorities confronted with the problems caused by these
dogs have turned to mass destruction in the hope of finding a quick
solution, only to discover that the destruction had to continue,
year after year, with no end in sight. Moreover, by reducing temporarily
the population of straying dogs, the authorities had improved the
chances of survival of the remainder and provided fresh opportunities
for newly-abandoned dogs. It is now becoming recognised that removal
of surplus dogs cannot solve the problem unless combined with other
measures such as registration and neutering of dogs and education
of the public (1)
At a certain population density the birth rate and
the death rate become equal, the population comes to an equilibrium,
population growth levels off.
This more realistic description of population growth is referred
to as logistic growth. The
upper limit at which population growth levels off is called the
carrying capacity of the environment.
Each habitat has a specific carrying capacity for each species.
This specific carrying capacity essentially depends on the
availability, distribution and quality of the resources (shelter,
food, water) for the species concerned.
The density of a population of higher vertebrates (including
dogs) is almost always near the carrying capacity of the environment.
Any reduction in population density through additional mortality
is rapidly compensated by better reproduction and survival.
In other words, when dogs are removed, the survivors’ life
expectancy increases because they have better access to the resources,
and there is less competition for resources. (2)
In 1964, appalled by the horrific way the Corporation
of Madras was killing street dogs, the Blue Cross of India began
to study this issue. We were surprised to learn that the Madras
Corporation - at 300 years one of the oldest Corporations in the
world - started its catch-and-kill programme in 1860. Dogs regarding
which complaints were received were often shot on the street and
the complaints generally were about dogs which were biters and,
therefore, suspected to be rabid. Section 218 of
The Madras City Municipal Corporation Act of 1919 authorised
catching and killing any dog on the street which did not have a
licence tag. S. Theodore Baskaran, the former Post Master General
of Tamil Nadu states, and I quote: “In the early 1970s, the number
of stray dogs destroyed by the Corporation was so high that the
Central Leather Research Institute, Madras, designed
products – such as neckties and wallets – from dog skins”
number of dogs being killed by the Corporation continued to rise
after this period. So did the number of dogs on the street and so
did the number of cases
of human rabies deaths.
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