dog FAQs from WSD
We are constantly asked questions
about the stray dog issue, both by people who think dogs a nuisance
and by dog-lovers. These are the most common ones.
are there so many stray dogs here anyway? Why aren’t there any in
London and New York?
A1. The urban environment in India has two features that
encourage stray animal populations – exposed garbage and slums.
Neither of these exists in developed countries.
Stray dogs are scavengers and garbage provides an ample source of
food for them. In the absence of this food source, dogs would not
be able to survive on the streets. Moreover in India and most other
south-east Asian countries, stray dogs are also kept as free-roaming
pets by slum-dwellers and street-dwellers such as ragpickers.
There are stray
dogs in developed countries too – but they are abandoned pets,
or feral dogs (meaning dogs who were once pets but now live like
strays). They are unable to survive or breed on city streets since
they can find nothing to eat. Most are captured, housed in animal
shelters and rehomed.
Q2. Why did the municipal corporation stop killing dogs?
A2. Mass killing of dogs as a population control
measure was started by the British in the 19th Century. It was
continued on a large scale (up to 50,000 dogs killed every year)
after Independence by the municipal authorities all over India,
with the aims of eradicating human rabies deaths and the stray
dog population. By 1993, it was admitted to be a complete failure,
since human rabies deaths had actually increased, and the dog
population was also perceptibly growing .
Studies by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Animal
Welfare Board of India (Ministry of Environment & Forests)
show that dog population control measures which work in developed
countries are unsuccessful in third world developing countries,
since urban conditions are very different. The urban environment
here encourages breeding of stray dogs, so no matter how many
dogs were killed, they were quickly replaced by more.
That’s why in January 1994, the killing programme was replaced
by mass sterilisation of stray dogs. The sterilisation programme
is carried out by non-government organisations in collaboration
with the municipal corporation.
Q3. If stray dog population control is the issue, wouldn’t
it make more sense to kill the dogs or take them away?
A3. Removal or killing of stray dogs seems to be the
most obvious method of controlling the population, but it has
actually proved to be completely useless. This is because even
when large numbers of dogs are killed, the conditions that sustain
dog populations remain unchanged. Dogs are territorial and each
one lives in its own specific area. When they are removed, the
following things happen:
- The food source – garbage
– is still available in abundance, so dogs from neighbouring
areas enter the vacant territories.
- Pups born and growing up
in the surrounding areas also move in to occupy these vacant
- The few dogs who escape capture
and remain behind attack these newcomers, leading to frequent
and prolonged dog-fights.
- Since they are not sterilised,
all the dogs who escape capture continue to mate, leading
to more fighting.
- In the course of fights,
dogs often accidentally redirect their aggression towards
people passing by, so many humans get bitten.
- Females with pups become
aggressive and often attack pedestrians who come too close
to their litter.
- They breed at a very high
rate (two litters of pups a year). It has been estimated that
two dogs can multiply to over 300 in three years.
who are removed are quickly replaced, the population does not
decrease at all. The main factors leading to dog aggression
– migration and mating – continue to exist, so the nuisance
Since removal of dogs actually increases dog-related problems,
the effective solution is to sterilise the dogs, vac cinate
them against rabies and put them back in their own areas.
Q4. But what’s the point of putting the dogs back after sterilisation?
Doesn’t the problem just continue?
A4. No, when dogs are sterilised and put back in their
own area, the population and the problems caused by dogs both
reduce. Here’s how:
- Each dog guards its own
territory and does not allow new dogs to enter
- Since they are all neutered,
they no longer mate or multiply
- The main factors leading
to dog aggression – migration and mating - are eliminated.
So dog-fights reduce dramatically
- With the decrease in fighting,
bites to humans also decrease
- Since females no longer
have pups to protect, this source of dog aggression is also
- Over a period of time,
as the sterilised dogs die natural deaths, the population
is greatly reduced.
there is NO overnight solution to the stray dog issue. It
is simply not possible to wish all the dogs away. With sterilisation,
the population becomes stable, non-breeding and non-rabid
and decreases over time. It also becomes largely non-aggressive.
On the other hand, when dogs are removed or killed, new dogs
keep entering an area and the population is continuously changing,
unstable, aggressive, multiplies at a high rate and carries
rabies. Which method makes more sense?
Q5. Why don’t you dog-lovers just keep all these stray
dogs in your own homes?
A5. Dog-lovers have not created the stray dog population.
They merely try to minimise it through sterilisation, and
to keep it rabies-free through vaccination. Moreover, even
if a lot of stray dogs got adopted, the basic problems of
vacant territories and d og replacement would remain.
(By the same logic, people who love children could be asked
to keep the entire population of street children in their
Incidentally, our organisation does promote the adoption of
pariahs and mongrels - so if someone you know is planning
to buy a pure-breed dog, try and persuade him to adopt a stray
instead. Although it won’t provide a large-scale solution,
you will have the satisfaction of knowing you got one dog
off the street!
Q6. Can’t some of the dogs be released in another
A6. Since they would be entering the territory of
other dogs, there would be a lot of fighting in the area in
which they are released, and in the process more humans would
get bitten. Their original territories would also be left
vacant, so new dogs would enter… and the stray dog problem
would go on forever.
Q7. What about rabies? Don’t they all spread rabies?
A7. Only rabid dogs spread rabi es. Healthy ones
The World Health Organisation recommends mass vaccination
of dogs as the only effective way to eradicate human rabies.
Mass vaccination has led to a significant decrease in human
rabies deaths in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Jaipur
and Mumbai itself. Recently Fethiye in southwestern Turkey
implemented this programme and dog-related problems have reduced.
The sterilisation programme includes anti-rabies vaccination.
Our organisation also annually vaccinates a large number of
stray dogs on site. Between 1993 and 2005, we have vaccinated
over 37,000 stray dogs.
more information, read our leaflet on rabies.
Q8. But didn’t dog-killing help in controlling rabies?
A8. Dog-killing was ineffective as a rabies eradication
measure, since the catchers only captured healthy dogs and
the rabid ones were left to spread the disease. Official sources
also claim that half of human rabies deaths are caused by
unvaccinated pets, so once again killing stray dogs is of
The killing method has failed to control rabies in developing
countries worldwide – including Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi
Arabia, Cambodia, North Korea, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Jordan,
Syria, Yemen, Bangladesh, Nepal, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
Q9. I sometimes see dogs with skin problems and hairless
patches – aren’t they all rabid?
A9. Skin problems and fur fall are not symptoms of
rabies. Rabies affects the central ne rvous system, not the
skin. Probably the confusion occurred because there is a skin
disease called scabies. Strangely, this question is asked
quite often in India.
Q10. How exactly do you sterilise the dogs? Are both
males and females sterilised?
A10. Both males and females need to be sterilised,
because while the females actually give birth to more dogs,
the males are more aggressive and have much higher nuisance
value. Complaints from the public are almost always about
Both males and females are surgically sterilised at our centre,
under general anaesthesia, by qualified veterinary surgeons.
The process is also called neutering. In the case of females
the ovaries and uterus are removed, and in the case of males
the testicles are removed. Therefore both mating and breeding
cease. The dogs are kept for post-operative care for a period
of 8 days and then released in their original location.
Q11. Ok, so the birth rate of dogs comes down over
time…but what about dog-bites?
A11. As explained earlier, most dog aggression occurs
during mating time, as dogs cross territories to mate and
fight with other dogs whose areas they enter. Humans passing
by get accidentally bitten in the course of these dog-fights.
This problem ends when all the dogs from a neighbourhood are
As testosterone levels come down after sterilisation, male
dogs also become less aggressive. Stray dog females are usually
aggressive only when they have puppies to protect, so with
sterilisation this problem ends as well.
Q12. Dogs bark and howl the whole night – how can
you solve that problem?
A12. Barking and howling occur during dog-fights,
which take place at their mating time, so with sterilisation
the problem disappears. Dogs bark when new dogs enter their
territory, and as these migrations cease with sterilisation,
the barking largely ends too. They also howl when they live
and move in packs. When the dog population dwindles in size,
pack behaviour also declines.
Q13. How would I know if a dog has been sterilised?
A13. Our organisation puts an identification tattoo
on the dog’s left inner thigh, g iving the month and year
of sterilisation. Other animal welfare groups put different
identification marks – some brand the dog’s outer thigh and
one organisation cuts a triangular notch in the ear.
Q14. The dog problem may have reduced in South Mumbai
– but there are still so many dogs in the suburbs. What’s
being done about that?
A14. The human population and the number of high-rise
buildings are growing very fast in the suburbs, leading to
suddenly increased amounts of garbage, leading to a large
population of stray dogs.
Our organisation has been working consistently for eleven
years in South Mumbai, which is why the dog population has
reduced there. Animal welfare organis ations working in the
suburbs started operations much later, and will need some
time to show results.
Q15. How did stray dogs originate anyway?
A15. India has long been home to the Pariah Dog,
one of the world’s oldest canine breeds. In slightly varied
forms, the Pariah Dog has existed for over 14,000 years all
over Asia and North Africa. Most rural families own at least
one. As villages and rural areas turned into cities, these
dogs became stray dogs. As explained earlier, they survive
by eating garbage and are also kept as pets by slum-dwellers.
dog population is regularly increased by callous owners
who abandon their pets on the st reet. Many irresponsible
pure-breed owners also allow their pets to mate with strays,
producing a large population of mix-breeds or mongrels.
Q16. What is the difference between stray dogs and
A16. Stray is merely a legal term indicating an
animal who is ownerless and homeless. It does not refer
to the breed of the dog. When pure-breeds are lost or abandoned
on the street by their owners, they also become strays.
A mongrel is a dog of mixed or indeterminate breed. Both
the terms stray and mongrel are commonly – and erroneously
– used to denote a Pariah Dog. Pariahs are a distinct breed
of dog, coming under the category of primitive or aboriginal
breeds. Since they are not commercially recognised, this
fact is not widely known.
In India, most strays are Pariah Dogs or mongrels. Once
a Pariah or mongrel gets adopted as a house-pet, it ceases
to be a stray.
Q17. My building society wants to remove all the
dogs from the premises and release them in another area
– is that legal?
A17. No, it is absolutely illegal and punishable.
Under the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act only the staff
of the BMC or people authorised by them can capture stray
dogs. The guidelines for dog population control approved
by the Mumbai High Court in 1998 also prohibit the permanent
removal of stray dogs from their original location.
Q18. Some people go around feeding stray dogs. Doesn’t
that increase the stray dog problem?
A18. No. Stray dog populations are created and
sustained by garbage, not by handouts from kind-hearted
ladies! In fact, people who feed dogs generally get them
vaccinated and neutered as well, so the population would
actually decrease where dogs are being fed. However, feeding
should be done in a responsible manner so that it does not
cause any disturbance to the public.
Q19. Isn’t it sad that stray dogs have to eat garbage?
A19. Archaeological studies indi cate that wolves
started living near human settlements so that they could
eat the garbage thrown outside. Dogs evolved from these
wolves, and have always been scavengers. Unlike humans,
they do not view garbage with disgust. In fact, even a well-fed
pedigreed dog will often make trips to the dustbin when
his owners aren’t looking. Of course, eating garbage has
its risks, since once in a while a dog may eat something
poisonous – but many strays lead long and healthy lives
with no other source of food.
Q20. What should I do if I want the dogs in my area
A20. You should request the Brihanmumbai Municipal
Corporation, preferably in writing, to pick up the dogs
and hand them over to the nearest animal welfare organisation
for sterilisatio n. State clearly that you want them returned
to the same area afterwards. If you like, contact us and
we will arrange for them to be picked up.
Q21. If I want stray dogs vaccinated against rabies
what should I do?
A21. We can vaccinate them if they are within
Mumbai city limits. Contact us.
Q22. If I see a sick or injured dog, what should
A22. Our first-aid groups can treat wounds and
skin problems on site. If the injury or illness is serious,
call the SPCA on 24137518.
Q23. Do I have to pay anything if I want any of
A23. Our organisation does not charge for any
services. However, check with individual organisations regarding