Feature

THE DOG OVERPOPULATION EPIDEMIC

 The number of street dogs is only a problem because we made it. It can be solved, but not without the help of the public and the government.

 Words & Photos: Ankit Shakya

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Dogs may be man’s best friend, but we are terrible at keeping our end of the bargain. I might as well say dogs would be better off without having humans in their lives altogether.

You glance at your Labrador sitting snug on your couch, you love that fur ball to death. You look back at this article and continue reading slightly perplexed and maybe somewhat snubbed.

You care about your dog a lot; he is part of the family. That’s because humans are inherently inclined to love dogs, and we’ve been keeping them as loyal pets and companions for centuries. But somewhere, along the not so distant past, we slipped up.Here’s how.

I’ll take a shot in the dark and assume that before getting your dog, you put a lot of though into which breed to get. A Labrador is the ultimate family dog but a Rotty or a Doberman really means business. Whatever the case, your main priority is getting a pure bred, popular breed. This doesn’t immediately appear to be a problem, but the obsession over the years has led to a matter of serious concern. Because pure bred dogs are so much in demand, venders are going to great extents to meet the supply. But to many breeders, the prime focus of the business is money generation; and they go to diabolical length to make as much of it as possible. That means they put their concerns before anything else, hampering the well being of the dogs. And people will go to the cruelest of extents.

A month back, an uncle called to inform me about a German Shepherd that looked in bad shape. Assuming it had escaped from a house nearby, me and my father wandered around the area looking for the owners; the dog curled into a ball at the steps of the temple. Having talked with the locals, we learned that the dog had been seeking refuge at the temple for a couple of days already. After trying for quite some time, we gave up and called someone we knew would be of help: Dr. Pranav Raj Joshi.

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In an age where stray dogs are perceived as nothing more than a menace to the streets while pedigreed breeds remain a sought after possession to showboat one’s social status, Pranav has been struggling to rehabilitate stray dogs out on the streets with vaccinations and necessary treatments. A Veterinarian by profession at his clinic Vet For Your Pet, he heads his social operations under the outfit of Bhaktapur Animal Welfare Society – an official non-profitable and non-governmental organization involved in the welfare, safety and protection of animals in the community.

We took the German Shepherd to him in Bhaktapur for a checkup. There were multiple bite wounds she was suffering from, and she was stick thin. But apart from that, she was ok. When I asked Dr. Pranav what might have happened, it was not what I expected, or wanted to hear. Chameli, as she was later named, was most likely used for breeding. When she couldn’ produce anymore puppies, the breeders abandoned her.

Apparently, this happens all too often.There are cases where people get themselves a popular breed and can’t take care of it as the costs begin to pile up. Eventually they abandon them.

“If you want to take care of your dog properly, it will cost you around Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 35,000 per month including vaccinations, food etc. There aren’t many people who can afford that, yet there are so many people who are eager to own dogs.” explains Dr. Pranav.

People take on the responsibilities when they are clearly unable to fulfill them. But that rarely matters to some people who either want to own a dog to showcase or want to sell the dogs to such people. And things have worsened in the last few years. Never in a million years would anyone have expected a pure bred German Shepherd on the streets five years back. Today, they’re just a mediocre breed.

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People go after breeds too blindly.As long as people take dogs to as a means of showboating their status instead of a companion, the overpopulation of dogs will not cease. Breeders will bring in more exotic breeds and the existing breeds will become less popular and obsolete.

A common mixed breed dog will love you just as much as an exotic breed will, if not more. While talking on the topic, we got more saddening news from Dr. Pranav. “At the moment, Bhaktapur Municipality is planning on exterminating the street dogs because they’re hampering the tourism industry. Apparently, foreigners are having trouble with stray dogs and barking. The authenticity of it, I cannot guarantee.

There are approximately 3500 stray dogs in Bhaktapur. Each extermination costs a lot of money, and a lot of resources if done properly. The way dogs are put to sleep is also very inhumane; the drug used by the government causes excruciating pain and suffocation to dogs for several hours before they ultimately die. And once the dogs have been exterminated, what is going to be done with the carcasses There is no system for incineration in Nepal. I really don’t see how they’re planning this out.” Said Dr. Pranav. There are over 20,000 street dogs in Kathmandu and they are definitely creating difficulties for the general public to some extent. But more importantly, they’re suffering themselves.

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Street dogs are increasing in number because things aren’t being taken care of. One litter of dogs may consist of 5-6 pups. With little control over the breeding amongst street dogs, the number of street dogs will keep escalating. This is why sterilization of dogs is very important and the first step in the efforts to help decrease the number of street dogs. There are many organizations like Bhaktapur Animal Welfare Society, KAT (Kathmandu Animal Treatment) Society and others that are doing their part by sterilizing street dogs and vaccinating them.

Apart from that, they do their best to treat street dogs that are suffering from illnesses and complications. Once they’re well, they have little choice but to release them back into the streets. There aren’t enough resources for most of these organizations to house these dogs, which tally up to hundreds and maybe even thousands. Some of these dogs are kept up for adoption, but the concept of adoption is not popular in Nepal.

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People are overly obsessed with getting pure breeds, and these mixed breeds rarely get a chance. The number of street dogs is only a problem because we made it. It can be solved, but not without the help of the public and the government. Budget allocations should be made bythe government for the ethical management of street dogs; it is not something that is unaffordable to the government.

Also, it is important to spread awareness amongst people so that some may understand why it is better to adopt a dog rather than go for expensive pure breeds.

To learn more about how you can help, you can send your queries to us on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ TNM.Magazine).

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