Politics, Community & Society > Asia's Feral Dog Problem.

Asia's Feral Dog Problem.

By GREGG CALLOW
Published: May 12, 2009

Feral dogs in parts of Asia have become such a huge problem that it is now at a stage where city governments are going to inhumane lengths to remove dogs and the diseases they carry such as rabies.

Tourists in Bali will often return home with stories of beautiful beaches and amazing night life. They may also mention the high number of street dogs which live around the tourist spots and live off the excessive food waste created by humans.

Due to the sheer number of dogs most Balinese consider street dogs as a pest and are not given the respect some western countries show dogs. The street dogs are given even less respect after the Indonesian Government announced a rabies epidemic in 2008 and blamed the street dogs for spreading the disease.

Bali is so desperate to remove rabies that it announced a massive culling program by lacing meat with strychnine which causes a slow painful death. The public are so scared of contracting rabies that they are turning to severe and often inhumane lengths, such as slashing dogs throats to control the problem. Ten years ago the dog population of Bali was up to 1 million. A culling program reduced the number down to the current 600,000 but it did not control the rabies situation.

No one has personal responsibility of the street dogs so spaying is not enforced and vaccination is non-existent. The neutering of pet dogs is too expensive for the average Balinese and pet care is often forgotten. Organisations such as the Bali Animal Welfare Agency (BAWA) and Bali Street Dogs are trying to vaccinate dogs for rabies and are lobbying the Indonesian Government to use humane ways to fight rabies. So far the government is only vaccinating dogs in affected areas and are hiding the culling from tourists.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 70% of the dog population has to be vaccinated in order to control the spread of rabies. This is not possible with little funding from Governments. The WHO also says that countries who have employed mass culling still fail to control rabies because the surviving un-vaccinated dogs still spread diseases. The problem is also escalated due to the impossible task of vaccinating and de-sexing every dog. Both BAWA and Bali Street Dogs are going through communities using vans to de-sex and vaccinate dogs for free. These groups rely on donations for their work. They work in a country with no animal cruelty legislation or animal welfare subsidies. This allows people to kill dogs randomly as they are only seen as disease carriers.

Parts of India also have dogs population problems. In 2008 the Mumbai High Court announced that stray dogs are a menace. This is due to the fact that they defecate on the streets and cause 60% of the world's rabies deaths which occur in India. The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) says that at least 70%of the dog population must be sterilised for population control to be effective. The problem is that India like most countries have a very limited capacity for mass sterilisation. It takes at least 10 days for a dog to recover from the operation. The dogs need follow up treatment while recovering and this causes a bottle neck situation in shelters.

The AWBI also recognises that street dogs feed off the food waste left behind by people. This is the reason so many dogs roam freely in populated areas. It recommends local governernments clean up streets and manage the waste problem in order to reduce the food supply and interaction between the dogs and people. The welfare and suffering of street dogs is not even considered as the problem is so out of hand. In the city of Bangalor, untrained workers are reported to have strangled, stoned and beaten dogs. In Srinigar City of Indian Kashmir 100,000 dogs were baited for rabies.

When governments fail to control the dog situation then the people must find a way to fix it. The Selangor Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals announced the dumping of over 300 dogs onto two uninhabited islands off the Malaysian coast. The villagers of Pulau Ketam thought the dumping was the most humane way of ridding their village. These dogs were so use to living off scraps off the streets that it left them unprepared for life on the island. This lack of judgement left dogs being unable to eat the wild life and becoming emaciated. Some turned to cannibalising the weaker or dead dogs to survive. The SPCA is trying to rescue the dogs but it has become difficult because the timid dogs run away from the rescuers and hide in the mangroves.

The problem is so out of hand that governments have to juggle controversial killing and disease control methods while also respecting the humane rights of the dogs. For a while it seems as though any method no matter how harsh or controversial will be employed to find a balance between the humans and the dogs.

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