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July 21, 2011

Stopping Dog Culls in Bangladesh

Humane Society International

  • People care about the dogs' welfare. Cathrine Lowther

  • Some of the 18,000 dogs counted. Cathrine Lowther

  • Feeding community dogs. Cathrine Lowther

  • Part of the census crew. Cathrine Lowther

  • A street dog. Cathrine Lowther

HSI has been working closely with officials in Bangladesh, where dog bites are very common—many of them causing rabies. With more than 2,000 deaths every year (WHO, 2007), Bangladesh is a country with one of the highest per capita ratios of rabies in humans.

Ineffective and cruel

With so many rabies cases, the Bangladesh government had taken to conducting mass dog culls in an attempt to prevent the disease from spreading. The dogs were killed in the cruelest manner, by catching them with iron tongs and injecting magnesium sulfate into their hearts, or at times breaking their bones or smashing their heads.

Rubaiya Ahmad, founder and CEO of Obhoyaronno, an NGO working for the cause of animal welfare in Bangladesh, contacted HSI in December 2010 to help deal with this situation.

In HSI’s study of the problem, two major issues were recognized:

  • The mass culling of dogs was not helping to control rabies.
  • The post-exposure vaccines available were outdated.

Taking steps to help

HSI and Obhoyaronno met with many senior government officials to find a solution to problem, beginning with a dog census. The census was key to understanding what intervention would be required and how much, and what follow-up would be required in future. HSI donated funds to help cover expenses for the census and held a training session to teach 11 veterinary interns and 12 Dhaka City Corporation health inspectors how to carry it out.

The census was held from January 1 to March 15, 2011 in Dhaka city. Around 18,000 dogs were counted.

Support for our efforts

HSI convinced the Bangladesh government to stop culling dogs during the census period, which was a major achievement.

“This project was the first of its kind in Bangladesh. During the survey, we were met with a lot of stares, questions and comments—most of which were positive. One day, our team was beaten up in an area because people thought that we were spraying dogs to kill them! We saw poor auto rickshaw drivers hiding packs of dogs from the City Corporation and residents of rich neighborhoods paying DCC to kill them. So much for the argument 'Bangladesh is too poor to worry about animal welfare'!" said an excited Ahmad.

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