July 11, 2023
Animal welfare helps improve the quality of life of stray animals, including their ability to cope with their situations and surroundings. Human relationships with animals and their responsibility to coexist peacefully and treat them humanely are essential to animal welfare.
The animal community faced hostility and was subjected to mistreatment and abandonment across societies. In several countries, including India, there is a problem of stray animals largely unregulated. Most of the homeless animals seen on the streets are dogs who are often left open to the surrounding perils.
Role of NGOs
There are many NGOs that look after injured and ill animals. These NGOs undertake many projects related to animal welfare and conduct drives such as vaccinating, neutering, providing other health facilities, and adopting. The NGOs also spread awareness about animal welfare importance and conduct charity events to raise funds for meeting expenses.
The animal welfare board set by the Government of India in 1962 is a statutory board that advises on Animal Welfare laws and encourages animal welfare. The main functions of this advisory board are to
- Advise the Government of India to enforce the law and make rules to prevent the cruelty to Animals Act.
- Cooperate with NGOs for the protection of birds and animals, including stray dogs
- Promote awareness through posters, books short movies on animal suffering and impart education on the humane treatment of animals.
Relevance of NGOs for street dogs’ welfare
There are many incidents throughout the country in the past and still happening where stray dogs have been brutally mishandled and tortured. Many ill and injured stray dogs have no recourse but to accept their fate and live in dire conditions. During the lockdown in the pandemic, many stray dogs were left on their own as the food they were receiving from the restaurants and shops was stopped as the outlets were shut down. The street dogs were left with no source of food supply or medical help as there were restrictions on the movement of local feeders. During such times, NGOs came to the rescue of these street dogs.
Recognized and Registered NGOs play a vital role in animal welfare in the following areas:
- NGOs work as a no-profit organizations, and this basic vision and mission allow them to work selflessly towards animal welfare.
- NGOs spread awareness about animal welfare at large, which goes a long way in promoting animal rights and animal welfare.
- NGOs recognize the basic fact that each animal is entitled to a healthy and decent life. They ensure this right with their nonstop service towards stray animals with food, shelter, medical facilities, and nutrition provisions.
- NGOs are active in their fight for animal rights. There have been many writ petitions filed against cruelty to animals in society.
- The most neglected animals in society are stray animals. NGOs ensure that these stray animals, especially street dogs, receive help during sickness and accidents.
Efforts to save the Street dogs in India
As per estimates, millions of stray dogs live on the streets of India. As per the latest reports, the country has 6.2 crores of stray dogs. It says that 77% of the country’s population sees a stray dog weekly. According to data from the State of Pet Homelessness Index, India has recorded a high prevalence of stray animal population, bringing down the ‘All Pets wanted to score’ to 2.4 on a 10-point scale. According to an NGO, People for Animals (PFA), which advocates animal rights in India, there are 3 street dogs for every 100 Indians.
Most stray dogs on the streets are direct descendants of feral canines, a breed older than the American Kennel Club breed. There is an increase in popularity among Indians to have full breed dogs as a pet, and as a result, more and more pet dogs who have bred with pet breeds have been abandoned as street dogs.
Indian street dogs are not dangerous mostly, and though there are widespread fears that they carry rabies, they are not aggressive and do not bite unless provoked. On the contrary, many dogs are fearful of humans, and sadly many incidents have proved those fears as well-founded.
Street dogs in India have been closely associated with municipal sanitation neglect. These homeless dogs survive scavenging garbage. On the one hand, they are a boon for public sanitation as scavenging perishable food, the source of contamination in the garbage gets reduced while more exposure to trash means more healthy dogs and more puppies.
The fear and ignorance of the Indian public, who sees street dogs as a nuisance, leads to beating and poisoning. More street dogs killed does not reduce the population. Typically, others come and take their place.
NGOs carry out many scientific and humane methods to control the population of street dogs. NGOs, commonly known as Animal Birth Control (ABC), using neutering and mass spraying to reduce the street dog population.
The ABC programs sterilize the dogs within a region or community and then release them back to their territories. This result is breeding getting stopped, and the street dog population declines.
NGOs such as Help animals of India fund ABC programs across India to collaborate with their partner NGOs. Millions of street dogs have been sterilized under this program by NGOs in India, such as Varanasi for Animals, Sainath Animal welfare, Rahat, CUPA, Just Be Friendly, Hope and Animal Trust, Karuna Society for Animals, and many more.
Another NGO, Sarvodaya Sevabhavi Samstha, has a mobile veterinary team that conducts ABC operations across the country. They also educate and raise awareness among the communities on how to live peacefully and safely with street dogs. Help Animals India’s funding helps develop ABC programs across the country, which is challenging. The first project in Sarnath, the birthplace of Buddha, resulted in the transformation of community attitude towards street dogs – changing to a caring attitude when earlier they dreaded street dogs.
NGOs like Let’s live together conduct free Neuter drives where people can bring their dogs to get sterilization. They also conduct Street clinics where street dogs are dewormed and vaccinated while the injured dogs are given treatment. Regular adoption drives are conducted so families can meet the puppies and dogs and adopt them.
Challenges faced by NGOs
ABC projects for street dogs required community support which was non-existent in many places. This was an uphill battle. NGOs ensured that they had qualified people in their team who could ensure that ABC programs were successfully implemented. For example, resistance by local communities is encountered by the NGO team. In Sarnath, Buddhists opposed the sterilization program and regarded sterilization as equivalent to taking a life. Many Buddhist communities are resistant to ABC programs. However, the community education carried out by qualified ABC Project Coordinators is changing the Buddhist enclaves’ attitude. This has resulted in the communities getting safer for dogs and people as anti-rabies vaccination is a part of every ABC program.
Indian street dogs suffer from rabies, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that nearly 20,000people die yearly. This accounts for almost 36% of the world’s rabies death though these numbers are contested.
NGOs play a savior role.
NGOs have been winning minds and hearts with their tireless effort to control rabies apart from saving lives. The anti-rabies vaccination component of the ABC programs is publicly visible, which has helped build community support. People who are less fearful of street dogs are more likely to nurture them and less inclined to destroy them.
Role of the Indian Government
The Indian Government carries out activities regularly to reduce the number of street dogs through the ABC. Local government administrative bodies like Gram Panchayats, Municipalities, Municipal corporations, etc., used to kill stray dogs by giving poisoned meat. Gradually better awareness led them to undertake a sterilization program to reduce the stray dog population.
In 2001, the Indian Central government framed the Animal Birth Control (ABC) Rules for stray Dogs. The local bodies carry out the ABC program. The Animal welfare Board of India implements the scheme for ABC and immunization of street dogs by providing grants as an aid to NGOs that act as animal welfare organizations and other local bodies who carry out the ABC programs in their regions.
The Animal Welfare Board of India also provides grants to shelter house schemes for these animals. The scheme’s objective is to build and maintain shelter houses for stressed stray animals in the country. Many states are implementing various programs for the control of stray dogs.
For example, the Government of Goa Department of Animal Husbandry implemented 2014 the “Goa Small Animal Rescue Management Scheme.” The Government has a scheme for stray dogs to help facilitate Local Bodies such as Panchayats/ Municipalities and NGOs to curb the stray dog issues.
Even the Supreme Court recently issued guidelines by the Delhi High Court regarding feeding street dogs and observed that citizens have the right to feed community dogs.
Last year the Indian prime Minister proposed the adoption of indigenous breeds of dogs in his Mann ki Baat program. The animal husbandry ministry has floated a proposal with the union minister embarking on a mission to take charge of stray and domestic dogs, develop and conserve their desi breed and export them. The ICAR, or the Indian Council of agricultural research, studies how to make Indian species more useful.
The animal husbandry department has pointed out that the dog bite cases by street dogs have been rising in cities and the Government of India aims to eradicate rabies caused mainly by street dogs by 2030. According to a report published by the IDSP or integrated Disease Surveillance Programme of the Health Ministry, in
In 2018 alone, 55, 74,644 cases of dog bites on humans were reported.
India’s role in the global effort
In 2017, the United Nations (UN) announced a new initiative that strived to end deaths resulting from dog bites transmitted rabies by 2030. India is a part of this global project, which is also one of the key reasons for the conservation and export of local breeds.
As a member of the UN and the world organization of Animal Health, the Indian Government has a holistic plan to control and eliminate street dogs transmitted rabies in the country.
Steps by the department of Animal Husbandry
The proposal containing the plans and strategies include identification, registration, categorization, survey, and conservation of indigenous breeds of dogs and establishing training units. The animal welfare Board of India focuses more on taking action against cruelty against animals, including street dogs but does not involve themselves in developing indigenous breeds. While stray or street dogs and cats have been covered under the environment ministry, no development work was carried out until the Prime Minister spoke on this issue in August 2021.
The proposals by the ministry also include dog population control with a particular focus on stray dogs. The management of stray dogs includes
- Controlling reproduction through sterilizations,
- Promoting responsibility for dog ownership, and
- Strengthening regulatory systems to reduce dog bite cases among humans.
The animal husbandry department plans to rope in several veterinary colleges and Universities, ICAR, and promote research activities on domestic pets and stray dogs.
It is heartbreaking to see animals treated and exploited in various ways, especially stray dogs. The work done by NGOs and, government organizations; charitable trusts are commendable as they contribute selflessly to the betterment of animals. NGOs have long existed and provided animal care, welfare, support, animal rights, and protection of stray animals from human cruelties.