following is a synopsis of the Dog Control Program Animal India
Trust presented on behalf of the Society for Stray Canine
Birth Control to various Delhi city officials, veterinarians, representatives
of neighborhood associations and other interested parties on March
29, 2005. Although specifically directed at the Delhi audience,
this presentation and program is really a basic primer on humane animal
control for anyone, anywhere and if its principals are implemented
correctly it will work anywhere in the world.
begining to set up any program, there needs to be a determination
as to what the primary objective is. When it comes to a comprehensive
Dog Control Program for Delhi, the primary objective must be two
fold. It must be set up from the very beginning with
the end goal of 1) completely containing canine rabies and
2) humanely controlling the dog population densities.
Once the primary objective has been determined, the question then
becomes, which course of action must be taken to successfully reach
the end goal?
We Need to Build a Successful Dog Control Program?
To build a successful
Dog Control Program, four major components are needed: Rabies
Control, Dog Population Management, Habitat Control and Pet
Each of these components
must be complete and functional programs in themselves, capable
of making significant contributions to an overall dog control program.
However, the true secret to success lies not in their individual
strength, but in their combined strength. By combining these
programs together into a well planned comprehensive Dog Control
Program, it becomes possible to provide a viable long term solution
to Delhi’s rabies and dog population problems.
even one component in the equation will considerably lower the chances
of success and make attaining the desired goals much more difficult.
Merging the Components
– Focusing on the Targets
Once the necessary
program components have been identified the dogs to be targeted
must be determined.
In the overall dog
population there are very specific categories of dogs, each considerably
different in their makeup from one another.
The first category
to be considered is the Family Owned - Restricted or Supervised
dog. These dogs are totally dependent on their owners and
their movements are completely supervised and restricted by their
owners. In this population segment, the rate of reproduction
is relatively low. Many of the males are neutered and females
in heat are kept under control. Shelter, food and water are
intentionally provided by their owner.
The second category is the Family Owned – Partially Restricted
dog. These dogs are wholly dependent on their owners, but
their movements are only partially restricted and they are not completely
supervised. These dogs can be found wandering on the streets
part of the time. Due to their lack of complete supervision
and movement restriction, these dogs can freely reproduce and their
rearing success may be high since their main food source, shelter
and protection are provided by humans. These same dogs however,
may often also feed on refuse and garbage and this is significant
in regards to dog transmitted disease. The surplus offspring
of this population segment will generally end up entering either
the neighborhood/community dog population or that of the feral dog.
The third category
is the Unsupervised Neighborhood or Community dog.
These dogs are partially dependent on humans; however their movements
are unrestricted and unsupervised. Since these dogs are not
supervised and their movements are completely unrestricted, the
uncontrolled population growth of this group adds significantly
to the increase of the overall dog population. This population
segment also poses a significant health hazard in regards to rabies
transmission and other dog related diseases.
The Animal Welfare
Board of India (AWBI), has estimated that 88% of Community/Neighborhood
dog owners attempt to hide their dogs from the MCD and NGO dog catchers.
Opposition to having their dogs captured is usually not in opposition
of sterilization and vaccination, but in the belief that capture
may lead to the killing of the dog. Once the dog catchers
leave, the dogs are then left to roam and mate freely once again.
The fourth and final
dog population category is the Feral dog. Feral dogs are
independent or dependent only on human waste/garbage and their movements
are totally unrestricted.
Now that we have
looked at the four categories it is easy to understand that both
unsupervised family owned dogs and neighborhood or community dogs,
contribute greatly to the rising stray dog population. Therefore,
any successful Dog Control Program must encompass all categories
of dogs, not just the dogs found wandering and/or living on the
streets. If any population segment is largely ignored while implementing
any Dog Control Program, the program is guaranteed to ultimately
Another thing that
is quickly realized once a person begins thinking about the different
categories of the dog population is that there are very few dogs
which have no referral household or no attachment to at least one
person or establishment in a community. Even the neighborhood
or community dog will have some level of attachment to a specific
human or the community as a whole. These dogs are likely dependent
upon human aid in the form of food, shelter and possibly some level
Exceptions to the
general rule may be found in limited areas where dogs find sufficient
food and shelter without the intentional aid of humans, such as,
markets, slaughter houses, garbage receptacles, etc. These
dogs which lose their relationship to man and become truly feral,
survive best if they become members of an independent pack.
These dogs are also much less likely to be as successful in raising
litters if given no aid by man, either directly or indirectly, as
will the dogs with some human aid and/or supervision.
Successful dog population
management strategies cannot be effective in the long term if they
depend solely on reducing the number of truly feral dogs which already
struggle for survival on a day to day basis. Even though these
dogs may be very significant in the transmission of rabies and other
diseases and should therefore be targets of population and vaccination
control measures for those very reasons, they cannot be the sole
source of focus in dog population management.
All of this information
prompts us to ask, what is truly meant by the term `stray dog'.
For instance, family owned dogs kept in houses during the day may
be left to freely roam the streets at night or vice versa.
Therefore, the correct use of the 'Stray' terminology is thus mainly
a reference to roaming/wandering - not ownership alone. Any
dog permitted by its owner to roam free and unsupervised at any
time and under any circumstances should by definition be considered
a `stray' dog. In that light, it can be said, all feral
dogs are strays, but all stray dogs are not feral.
Since we now understand
the four categories of the dog population and the part they play
in Delhi's dog overpopulation and rabies problems, let’s discuss
the four major components that will make up a successful Dog Control
We’ll begin with
a look at Rabies Control and Population Management, but first let
us consider the following observations.
dog population management requires mass sterilization.
even if you are able to sterilize every single dog, they can still
transmit rabies if they are not vaccinated.
prevention can only be effectively achieved through vaccination.
vaccinate the entire dog population, you can eventually prevent
rabies completely, but will never have affected the dog population
issue at all.
When we think about
this, we realize the two issues are completely separate. However,
when it comes to implementing a Dog Control Program, if you overlap
the two and work on both at the same time, you then have the beginning
of a successful Dog Control Program.
Now let's consider
the two issues.
Control and Population Management:
Here are some of
the things we know about rabies here in India.
• We know the largest transmission source of rabies is the dog population.
• We also know India’s
dog population doubled in a three year period from 1998 to 2001.
Therefore, we can assume Delhi’s dog population also doubled during
the same timeframe.
• We are also aware
that according to the latest statistics from the World Health Organization
there are approximately 18,000 reported human deaths in India each
year from rabies. This equates to one death every 30 minutes
It should be noted
that statistics regarding deaths from rabies are obtained only from
government hospitals and do not reflect any deaths occurring in
private homes, private hospitals, etc.
• According to the
National Institute of Communicable Diseases, we know that 96% of
the rabies cases reported in India are caused by bites from stray
• Of the nearly
2.2 million people a year in India that are bitten by animals, only
1.4 million seek treatment.
The figures below indicate the number of rabies deaths in Delhi
and the surrounding outlying areas (suburbs) by year since the start
of the Society for Stray Canine Birth Control. These cases
are all reported from only one source: The Maharishi Valmiki Infectious
Diseases Hospital of MCD
2004 215 up to December of 2004
As you have probably already noted, these statistics show our current
rate of rabies vaccination is not great enough to control the spread
of rabies. In fact we are not really seeing a decline in the
numbers at all. If we are to experience a significant drop
in the rate of rabies a much greater number of dogs must be vaccinated
at a much quicker rate along with a rapid decrease in the dog population
through sterilization and other population management controls.
At this time, by
municipal government estimates, we have approximately 200,000 stray
or free roaming dogs in New Delhi. Our own estimates
put the number closer to twice that amount or 400,000. These
numbers, whichever may be closer to the actual number, along with
the number of rabies deaths reported annually, plus the number of
reported dog bites/attacks leaves little doubt it is long past time
to implement an organized and proactive approach to bring the numbers
Animal Birth Control (ABC) and Anti Rabies Vaccination (ARV) programs
in place to help slow and eventually stop the indiscriminate breeding
of Delhi's stray dogs along with insuring the population is vaccinated
against rabies, their numbers, as well as the number of rabies cases
will continue to increase.
In dog population
management, the concept and benefits of an area based ABC program
may be easier to understand if we compare it to a "vaccination"
against the disease of overpopulation. We know scientifically
that over 70% of the dog population, which includes any unsupervised
or partially supervised dogs in any given demographical area, must
be sterilized in order to stop the population increases. By
sterilizing over 70% of an area's dog population the birth rate
will be affected sufficiently to bring about a population decrease
within that area.
The positive outcome
of this type of program will be that any successful mating of the
remaining 30% of the dogs is reduced to the point that births will
only occur at a rate which will replace normal attrition.
The 70% rule works
just as well when applied to the rabies control issue and should
be considered the minimum standard when it comes to vaccinating
the dog population against rabies.
The 70% concept
is extremely insightful into success or failure as it relates to
pet overpopulation, as well as rabies control and should be completely
understood by participating NGO's, government officials and the
The most realistic approach for implementing our program in order
to eventually reach the total dog population is through a systematic
and organized area based method. By concentrating efforts
area by area each NGO can systematically and massively sterilize
and vaccinate the stray dog population one area at a time to achieve
the over 70% goal. If their sterilization and vaccination
efforts in each zone can be accomplished within one breeding cycle
(an approximate 6 month period), the result will have an immediate
visual and measurable impact.
has already shown us sterilizing and vaccinating dogs using an unsystematic
approach without concentrating efforts area by area will lead to
failure. However, even when using the area based approach,
the only ingredient that insures success is surpassing the magic
important point to always remember is that unless the sterilizations
in each area are completed within the target timeframe of 6 months,
the result will be a population surge rather than reduction.
It has been shown that up to the 70% point, reducing the number
of litters born tends to enhance the survival rate of the rest.
Pregnant and nursing mothers have less competition, so find more
readily available food sources. Better nourished pups are
less vulnerable to disease and because they are nursed longer and
leave their mothers later, are less likely to fall victim to other
types of accident. Therefore, until over 70% of any area’s population
of stray dogs are altered, sterilizing some, but not all can actually
bring a reproduction surge.
This is often an
unexpected surprise to organizations and officials who think they
can make a difference by sterilizing dogs randomly without a properly
organized and thought out plan.
As we have already
stated, sterilizing and vaccinating over 70% of the free roaming
dog population in any given area or zone within one breeding cycle
is the minimum standard for success. Exceed 70% and the effort
will succeed, fall short of 70%, however, and the effort is doomed
The following data
shows the number of dogs vaccinated and sterilized during the past
4 years under the Society for Stray Canine Birth Control.
2001 - 2002:
2002 - 2003: 11,014
2003 - 2004: 12,538
2004 - 2005: 16,905 dogs have been vaccinated and sterilized up
through February, 2005. The target number for up through March
30, 2005 is set at 18,000 dogs.
Let’s Discuss Habitat Control and What It Entails:
As we consider habitat
control we must understand humans are the only species which generate
huge quantities of edible waste/garbage. If not contained
and disposed of properly it becomes a natural attraction to many
species of animals seeking food, the stray dog being just one of
many. The production of garbage is very high in cities compared
to villages and this increased garbage generation correspondingly
increases the survival and reproduction rates of stray dogs by increasing
the carrying capacity of the environment, thus leading to population
The stray dogs living
in the cities find food from garbage that has been thrown out from
private residences, restaurants, hotels, butcher shops, slaughter
houses, etc. Water is readily available from broken water
pipes, drains, etc. and shelter is available in numerous drains,
ditches, old buildings and various other places. Hence, city
living actively supports stray dogs.
On the other hand,
the stray dog population is never high in forests or thinly populated
areas. Raising successful litters in a truly feral state without
direct or indirect assistance from man in the form of food and shelter
is very difficult and is therefore self limiting.
What Does This Tell Us?
It’s really very
simple. As long as you have rats, open air disposal of either
animal or human feces, and large amounts of easily accessible food
waste and/or garbage, you will have stray dogs, many of which are
sick and diseased, because you will be maintaining the conditions
which are conducive to their reproduction. If you take control
of the food sources you can exert absolute control over the dog
population. Decrease the number of available food sources
and you can decrease the number of stray dogs. The overall
sanitation conditions of an area are very important and it is essential
we keep our surroundings clean and free of garbage and waste food.
Habitat control is possibly the single most important component
when it comes to successful Dog Control. In fact, it is possible
to eliminate stray dog populations, simply by sterilizing them and
allowing them to hold their habitat with diminished reproductive
capacity while correcting the habitat conditions, i.e., ample food
sources, which permitted them to proliferate in the first place.
In order to control
the habitat and make it less appealing and non supportive to the
dog population, there must be a massive effort to insure all food
sources are eliminated. A proper system of garbage disposal
must be expanded and the public must be educated through the mass
media and other means on the importance of maintaining clean neighborhoods
and how it corresponds to the dog population.
The Last Major
Component - Pet Registration:
A Pet Registration
Program is beneficial in various ways. Most specifically,
pet registration can be used along with other population survey
tools in estimating the total dog population. The total dog
population of an area must be estimated accurately in order to define
targets for Dog Population Management Programs. Population
estimates are essential in defining targets for both sterilization
and rabies control. If we are going to insure we sterilize,
vaccinate and then annually revaccinate over 70% of the total dog
population it is then imperative we have accurate documentation
as to the total dog population.
should also be used as a tool in educating the public on how vaccinating
their pet against rabies plays a vital role in controlling the spread
of rabies. The Pet Registration Program’s ongoing publicity
campaign should consistently stress these points, thus allowing
pet registration to be used as a positive educational tool.
is also a means of tying a specific dog to a specific person.
Registration records can be used to tie individual dogs to their
respective owners. This is useful in several different ways.
Dogs found wandering can easily be returned to their owners or their
owners can be contacted to pick their dog up from the appropriate
authority. Registration also offers a way of easily notifying
pet owners that it is time to have their pets revaccinated and re-registered.
It is much easier to find the owner or caretaker of a dog than it
is to find a specific dog that needs revaccination.
Now that we know
what needs to be done to implement a successful Dog Control Program,
how would we evaluate the success of the program? What visible
indicators would we see to know we are succeeding?
will be noted through the following indicators:
• Local authorities, NGO’s and the public should progressively see
a lower number of dogs in the streets and authorities should note
a fall in the number of complaints received about dogs.
• There should be a noticeable improvement in the health of the
remaining dogs, there will be a reduction in the number of puppies
being born and a reduction in the number of stray dogs needing rescue
and/or veterinary care.
• As the public
becomes more educated on the benefits of a Dog Control Program,
there will be an increased number of owners complying with pet registration
regulations and thus becoming accessible to health measures such
as annual rabies revaccination, etc.
• Education and
a successful program will also result in more dogs being presented
by owners for sterilization and other health related treatments.
It should be noted,
that even though we have not specifically mentioned it here as a
major component of a successful dog control program, education is
definitely a major ingredient. Every opportunity must be taken
to continually educate the public through mass media and various
other means. With the successful implementation of each of
the four major components mentioned in this presentation additional
educational opportunities arise. These opportunities should
not be missed. Educating the public on the benefits of the
four major components of dog control, specifically how the program
will benefit them, along with what the programs entail and what
they can do to help will make the implementation and success much
easier to achieve.
As an example, in
the U.S. more than 70% of dogs and owned cats are vaccinated against
rabies. In addition, nearly 70% of the owned dogs are sterilized,
as are more than 85% of the owned cats. It must be clearly
understood, however, that these animals are not vaccinated and sterilized
because the law requires it. Rather, in the U.S. pet dogs
and cats are vaccinated and sterilized because people who keep them
have been convinced by their veterinarians, through educational
campaigns and by their friends and neighbors that vaccinating and
sterilizing their pets is the socially responsible and considerate
thing to do. In other words, the progress made in the U.S.
has been a triumph of education. So...... EDUCATE, EDUCATE,
Will Delhi be successful in humanely responding to their dog overpopulation
problem? It all depends on the direction they go from here.
Act now and go in the right direction and they can be successful.
To do otherwise guarantees a continuation and acceleration of the
problems they currently face.