- Protect the stray dogs/cats:
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The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are more than 200 million stray dogs worldwide and that every year, 55,000 people die from rabies, while another 15 million receive post exposure treatment to avert the deadly disease. 95% of these cases occur in Asia and Africa, and 99% of the fatalities are caused by dogs.
In Bali alone, the number of stray dogs is estimated at 500,000 and a rabies epidemic underway since 2008 has already killed 78 people. Despite culling somewhere between 120,000 and 200,000 dogs, and vaccinating an estimated 262,000 dogs, the epidemic rages on. In the face of the continuing epidemic and shortages of human anti-rabies vaccines, the government has banned dogs from the streets altogether -- perhaps the first at-large law imposed in this part of the world.
The stray dog-driven rabies crisis in Bali is hardly unique: India culls as many as 100,000 strays at a time,5 while attacks by marauding packs of dogs in Baghdad have led to a reinstitution of the same eradication program that was operated under Saddam Hussein. Its goal: the culling of over one million stray dogs.6 7 8
In Bangkok and many other Asian and African locales,10 11 living with strays and rabies is just an accepted fact of life. An estimated 200 dogs per square kilometer occupy Bangkok, fouling sidewalks and streets, causing traffic accidents and serving as vectors for rabies and other diseases.12 A nip on the ankle by a stray dog in any of these developing countries quickly jolts Western tourists into the life and death reality of the situation.
Thankfully the stray dog overpopulation crisis has earned the attention of Western humanitarians, animal welfare organizations and businesses, and they’re rallying to the cause. The World Health Organization is working aggressively, often partnering with Non Government Organizations (NGO’s), to assure that the production and distribution of rabies vaccines and post-exposure treatment keeps up with demand.
One of the most effective NGO’s working on the stray dog issue in the developing world is a group of veterinarians and volunteers called Veterinarians Without Borders.14 They can be found in many of the poorest countries of the world helping impoverished communities develop safe and healthy food supplies and eliminating some of the most dangerous diseases. Neutering and vaccinating stray dogs against rabies is an important part of their work today.
At the same time, animal shelters and dog rescue groups are springing up throughout Asia, Eurasia, the Middle East, parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. Some jurisdictions, notably Shanghai and Singapore15 have built pounds to hold strays, while in other locales, private citizens have formed humane societies and loose-knit groups of volunteers to care for rescued dogs.
These are all good signs. But when Western activists contemplate solutions for the stray dog crisis in the developing world, they need to keep in mind the differences between third world problems and the ones we’ve experienced here. Pet ownership is less common in developing countries; third world strays are seldom dogs that simply wandered off an owner’s property. Instead, they are often semi-feral dogs living at the outskirts of human communities, eking out an existence by feeding on human garbage.
So vast are the differences between the developing world and the US today, one must reach back to images of American cities in the 1800’s for comparison: an age when horses were still the primary mode of transportation, when domestic animals of all species often ran free, and garbage collection hadn’t yet begun.
The eradication measures employed by third world countries -- poisoning and shooting strays -- spark sensational headlines and searing criticism in the West, but where people are still struggling to provide food and shelter for their families; where canine rabies is an epidemic, and where there are shortages of rabies vaccine and post exposure treatment, animal control is still a matter of human survival
- How did the Netherlands manage to eradicate its stray dog problem?
Not through euthanasia! Hurray! They achieved it through the CNVR programme (Collect, Neuter, Vaccinate, and Return), which is a nation-wide, government-funded sterilisation programme. The World Animal Protection Agency believes it’s the most effective way to combat a stray dog population. Many municipalities spike taxes for store-bought dogs to incentivise people to adopt homeless dogs from shelters instead. The Netherlands set up an animal police force to monitor crimes against animals, including rescue animals in trouble. Marianne Thieme, the leader of the Party for the Animals, thinks there is a correlation between how society treats their animals with how they treat their civilians. She says, “there is a direct link between violence against animals and violence against humans.”