The term pariah means “outsider” or “not your own.” It is an appropriate word to describe the Indian street dog and his struggle to thrive every single day.
Indian dogs are a common sight—across the street, around the corner, on the stairwell, near the garbage dump, wherever people live—dependent on little food tidbits and leftovers. These intelligent animals co-exist with humans in and around urban settlements, too. Often, they are looked upon as watchdogs, guarding the areas where they live.
The relationship between street dogs and the human population in Indian cities is mostly harmonious, but rabies is a major concern in India, the leading nation in human rabies cases. Street dogs are a main vector of the deadly disease, which can make them unwanted members of Indian society, leading to inhumane means of dog control in some parts of the country.
HSI/India has been on a systemic path to changing people’s perceptions about the Indian street dog through Animal Birth Control (ABC) projects, veterinary training, dog census studies and community awareness and education.
Dogs on campus
Since 2011, HSI has expanded our programs in India to include helping academic institutions carry out sterilization on their campuses, at the same time offering sensitivity and education workshops. So far, institutes such as the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, IIT Roorkee, IIFM Bhopal and ISBH have signed up and covered the costs for the surgeries. HSI sends our team to carry out such programs.
A resident of the IIMB campus said, “About the ‘chaser’ dogs on campus: The ones around the faculty quarters, student mess, and academic block are now super-friendly and cute. They are well-fed and pampered.”
Building the veterinary brigade
The Jaipur Veterinary Training Centre has so far conducted training of more than 90 veterinarians and para-vets. State governments are very excited about and happy with this program and there is a waiting list of veterinarians from across India who want to participate.
The training, which is both theoretical and practical, is offered to vets, para-vets, ABC program managers and dog catchers. It focuses on the welfare of animals, humane handling, and sterility in procedures. Spay and neutering is the primary focus; however, other procedures for resetting fractures and removing intestinal obstructions are also taught. HSI- and Vets Beyond Borders-trained vets are the master trainers and work with state-of-the-art technology.
JVTC began with support from HSI and now has garnered support from VBB (Vets Beyond Borders, funded by the Australian Government) and the Animal Welfare Board of India.
The trainings have been so highly appreciated that one vet referred to the JVTC as “the heart of the ABC program in India.”
Dog population surveys
As cities expand, the dog population has increased as well. There is a great need to survey the dog population and plan scientific ABC programs, along with other community-based interventions.
Officials are welcoming this first step to help control this burgeoning population and are eager to reduce problematic incidents and the cruelty that these animals sometimes suffer.
With Ahmedabad and Jaipur as models, many city administrations are welcoming the dog census. The Srinagar survey was done in 8 wards and estimates a dog population of 48,949. Further planning is underway for ABC and other programs to stabilize the population and encourage community involvement. HSI plans to carry out similar surveys in Goa, Kanchipuram, Chennai and Mumbai in 2013.
The township of Jamshedpur is going a step beyond this and partnering with HSI through the Sri Dorabji Tata Trust. A program to make Jamshedpur the first Animal-Friendly City in India was scheduled to begin in March 2013.