In Delhi, India, stray dogs are a pervasive feature of the urban landscape. They are inescapable — each neighborhood has a colony of dogs which scavenge, play, defend, and give birth on the streets. To some people, such as myself, they are friends and guards which are kept close and fed regularly. To others, they are a hazard to society, only spreading disease and biting children.

Regardless of their feelings toward dogs, everyone will agree that there are simply too many of them. The population swells multiple times a year as pups are born. Most puppies in a litter will die before adulthood, suffering in road accidents or disease. Adult dogs are not immune, infections are rampant and accidents common.

What is being done about overpopulation?

Sterilization is the most sound method for population control (culling actually causes more dog bites and spreads rabies). Yet, most organizations and NGOs are too swarmed by rescue cases and abandoned animals, leaving little time to make a concerted effort for sterilizations. Even if the 10 or so major organizations were working at full capacity doing spaying and neutering, it would hardly make a dent in the overall population of stray dogs. Though it seems hopeless, to call this a lost cause would be to leave the millions of Indian dogs to their painful and miserable fate.

How do we reduce the suffering seen daily on city streets? 

Some of us working for animals here in Delhi think we have found a solution:

  1. First, to prevent puppies from being born, nearly all of the stray dogs in a breeding population must be sterilized. This means getting one or two out of fifteen dogs will have no impact on numbers. Organizations and individuals must catch and sterilize by area rather than randomly so that the effect is not diluted.
  2. Next, there must be someone on-the-ground in every area to ensure that any new dogs which come in are sterilized. Strays’ territories fluctuate regularly, so dogs can wander in and out of an area during the year. A “watch dog” must be responsible for each sterilized zone to ensure that the effects of sterilization programs are lasting.
  3. Lastly, instead of relying solely on organizations and NGOs, individual people must contribute. They can do this not only by monitoring their areas, but by actually participating in the sterilization process! This means people can catch dogs, transport them to the vet, foster dogs post-operatively, and release them to their territories.

With the cooperation of many, the task of preventing wide-scale suffering doesn’t seem too far off. All it takes is a spark, someone to connect people – dog lovers or not – to each other so that they can share information and resources. This is a model which can be followed all over the world, empowering people to help the dogs and humans of their communities.

Where can you start?

If you live in a place with stray dogs, you can start by having all the dogs in your area sterilized! There are many NGOs all over the world which can do it for free, or for reduced cost. If you can’t pay for it by yourself, ask your Residents’ Association or neighbors for a donation to help. Talk to people who feed dogs for help in catching.

If you live in a place without large populations of stray dogs, you can help by donating to the many organizations working to spay and neuter strays. If you are traveling to a place with strays, you can either adopt one or help transport a stray puppy to your home country for adoption.

Image source: Joellen Anderson