Dog Culling: Is It Really Necessary
In Pakistan, particularly in the bigger cities such as Lahore and Karachi, dog killing has become a serious issue as it appears that the only solution to the growing dog population and dog bite cases is to kill the animal. So far rabies and dog bites appear to be the only justification offered by the government for initiating drives to shoot or poison dogs. But the question is, is this the real reason or are we just intolerant towards dogs and insensitive to how we treat them? The problem actually goes way beyond being cured by a simplistic approach of killing. First of all, there is no data on the basis of which it is evident that there is a rabies epidemic that necessitates the killing of dogs. Secondly, there is no coordination between government departments to identify the issues related to and associated with the growing dog population. Finally, there is no real conviction to resolve the problems compassionately, in a humane way.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1890 is the main legislation regarding animals, which covers pet dogs as well as stray dogs. The Act criminalizes the killing of any animal unnecessarily. Section 5 of the Act prescribes a penalty for killing animals unnecessarily or cruelly, with a punishment of PKR 200 as fine and up to six months of imprisonment. Section 10(2) says that if any police officer above the rank of a constable finds any animal which may be severely injured or in a horrible physical condition, then they are allowed to call the veterinary officer of that area to examine the animal, and if the animal is fatally injured then the veterinary officer may allow the animal to be put to sleep.
Although there are laws dealing with animals and their rights, there is still little to no talk about the ever-growing dog population and what should be done with it. In my opinion, this is the reason why the local government resorts to killing dogs in such an inhumane way. The development regarding animal welfare and control of the dog population to a certain level is very minimal and is something the public has not been made aware of. That is why the public views these dogs as threats and considers killing them as the only solution.
One of the most vital issues in this case is the attitude of the public. Educating the public is a vital part of solving the problem. It is clear that culling is a very short-term solution which causes no dent in matters, as is also evident from the fact that dog culling has been practiced for over two decades yet the difference it has made remains questionable. If we are to ever work towards a long-term plan and establish a more inclusive and compassionate community then we need to work on animal welfare laws and we need to involve all relevant stakeholders including local governments, NGOs, government-funded foundations as well as individuals. There needs to be a system to work through the problem with the support of the public. Changing public attitudes towards animals, particularly dogs, is vital for which there must be media campaigns as well as awareness programs at grassroots level. Public involvement to keep neighbourhoods clean and pitch in to feed stray dogs will help develop compassion towards dogs. Schools can also hold programs on how to save hungry or homeless animals.
It is also important to conduct a count of the dog population, including stray and pet dogs, with emphasis on area-wise distribution. On the basis of this count, efforts can be made to initiate a “Collect, Neuter, Vaccinate and Return” (CNVR) project and maintain a record of the number of dogs vaccinated and those left stray in a particular area. It will definitely help control and maintain dog population in heavily populated areas.
As is being done in the United Kingdom, the registration of dogs is also very important, especially through micro-chipping. Many stray animals are likely to be lost pets and being chipped or registered allows the authorities to find out if they belong to someone and contact the owner. In case the owner cannot be found, the dogs should be kept at local shelters for adoption.
In many countries, there are numerous animal welfare organizations working with stray animals. In recent years, several such organizations have also come up in Pakistan, one of the biggest ones being ACF Animal Rescue Foundation in Karachi or Todds Welfare Society in Lahore. These organizations work on projects like “Rabies Free Karachi” and work to spay, neuter and vaccinate their animals as well as find homes for strays. However, such organizations often find themselves struggling to pay for all the supplies needed as some solely depend on public donations and since people aren’t too aware of how to provide for animals the donations can be less frequent. Therefore, It is important that the government establishes its own organization as well to support this work in collaboration with established centers.
As far as the rabies problem goes, surveys need to be done on the number of dog bite cases in one year as well as to ascertain the reasons for these dog bites. It should be mandatory for all dogs to be vaccinated irrespective of whether they are pets or strays. Education and awareness can also play key roles. Breeders need to learn not to over-breed an animal beyond its capacity and owners need to be more responsible in caring for their pets. There needs to be more public involvement in issues like this. The current dog population does pose a problem for the people since they are the ones most affected by it, therefore, it is necessary to find sustainable solutions, both in the short term and long term.
As citizens, we need to develop more compassion towards living beings sharing this land with us and our practices need to be more humane and sustainable. The culling of dogs is an unnecessary, cruel and temporary solution to a rising problem. We need to make efforts to initiate projects to vaccinate and spay/neuter the dogs to maintain their population. We need to encourage people to support the organizations working in this regard and assist local authorities in promoting their efforts as well as formulating policies to improve conditions. Dogs, like humans, are living beings and their population is continuously rising, which may not be pleasant for us but is also not sustainable for the dogs who have to starve and live on the streets. We cannot simply address the issue by killing them. We have to put in time and effort to solve the problem in a substantive manner.
An earlier version of this article appeared in Daily Times. Republished here with permission.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any other organization with which she might be associated.