In search of solutions for dealing with menace of stray dogs

  • By Dr. Myint Than (Nyaung Lay Bin)
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    An animal shelter helps with sterilisation of stray dogs. Photo : Phoe Khwar

Street dogs, known in science literature as free-ranging urban dogs or urban free-ranging dogs, are unconfined dogs that live in cities. They live virtually wherever where cities exist and the local human population allows, especially in the developing world and the former USSR.
In reality, street dogs may be just stray dogs, animals that have strayed from or are allowed freedom by their owners, or may be feral animals that have never been owned, and that they are growing fast.

(1) Dog bites
Like wolves, to survive, street dogs need to avoid conflict with humans. However, dog bites and dog attacks can occur when dogs are trying to mate or fighting among themselves, and pedestrians and other humans in the vicinity may be bitten by fighting. The bites caused rabies (Hydrophobia) and that Lyssaviruses disease killed individuals.

(2) Nuisance to environment
Barking and howling and dog fights over mating among dogs can be very disturbing to people, and the smell of dog urine (leptospirosis biohazard) which is an unsavory product of territory marking can become quite pungent, especially among unsprayed or neutered dogs, not to mention the presence of feces (toxocariasis biohazard).

Stray dogs’ population control
Killing or removing the overpopulated stray dogs seemed to be the most appropriate ways and means, it is believed, but in reality the method is not effective. Preferred their own habitat, they wanted to stay in the same place, and that when their group had been killed or removed, the new breeds moved in and taken up the places. It is due to the fact that food and water are available in the old habitation.
Birth rate of dogs is high and rapid, and that a pair is born on average every year, spreading about 300 dogs on the streets by the pair. They moved into the free spaces, bite and attack among themselves, and occupied the territory.
When female dogs are fighting over rank and breeding rights, things can get bloody quickly. When getting in between two fighting dogs at what time they are both aroused indeed, may cause them to bite people as well, a very dangerous situation.

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A woman feeding stray dogs by the roadside in a suburban area. 

International tendency
In many countries, the stray dogs are killed.
Mumbai of India has over 12 million human residents, of whom over half are slum-dwellers. At least five hundred tons of garbage remains uncollected daily. Therefore, conditions are perfect for supporting a particularly large population of stray dogs. India has the highest number of human rabies deaths in the world, estimated at 20,000 per annum.
In 2001, a law was passed in India that made the killing of stray dogs illegal, and residents often feed the animals as well. In August 2014, the Delhi Police announced plans to recruit some of the city’s stray dogs as police dogs, after training them.
Several dog shelters are organized throughout India that emphasis on the rescue of stray dogs especially in South and North eastern part of India.
“Nowzad” is an organization in Afghanistan that works to rescue stray dogs in that country. A group of stray dogs became famous in Afghanistan after confronting a suicide bomber, preventing fifty American soldiers from being killed. However, one of the surviving dogs, “Target”, was mistakenly euthanized when she was brought to the United States.
In Pakistan, several dog breeds exist including the Gaddi Kutta, Indian pariah dog, Bully Kutta, among others. In the city of Lahore, the Public Health Department launched a campaign to kill 5,000 stray dogs.
In 2009, total of 27,576 dogs were killed within the city of Lahore; in 2005, this number was 34,942. In 2012, after 900 dogs were killed in the city of Multan, the Animal Safety Organization in Pakistan sent a letter to Chief Minister (CM) “Shahbaz Sharif” recommending that stray dogs be vaccinated rather than killed.
In Romania, free-ranging urban dogs (called in Romanian câini maidanezi, literally “wasteland dogs”, câini comunitari “community dogs”, etc.) have been a huge problem in recent decades, especially in larger cities, with many people being bitten by dogs.
The problem originates primarily in the systematization program that took place in Communist Romania in the 1970s and 1980s under Nicolae Ceaușescu, who enacted a mass program of demolition and reconstruction of existing villages, towns, and cities, in whole or in part, in order to build standardized blocks of flats (blocuri).
The dogs from the yards of the demolished houses were abandoned on the streets, and reproduced, multiplying their numbers throughout the years. Estimations for Bucharest vary widely, but the number of stray dogs has been reduced drastically in 2014, after the death of a 4-year-old child in 2013 who was attacked by a dog.
The Bucharest City Hall stated that over 51,200 stray dogs were captured from October 2013 to January 2015, with more than half being euthanized, about 23,000 being adopted, and 2,000 still residing in the municipality’s shelters.
In Russia, stray dogs have been captured by dog hunters’ vans and destroyed since 1900. Their sad lot was dramatized by Anton Chekhov in the famous short story Kashtanka, by Mikhail Bulgakov in the novella Heart of a Dog, and by Gavriil Troyepolsky in the novel White Bim Black Ear.
Each year in the United States, approximately 2.7 million dogs and cats are killed because shelters are too full and there are not enough adoptive homes. In 2016, between 592,255 and 866,366 street dogs were euthanized in the US.
Locally known as “Askals”, street dogs in the Philippines, while sometimes exhibiting mixing with breed dogs from elsewhere, are generally native breed mongrel dogs.
Street dogs, commonly “soi dogs” (in Thai soi means ‘side-street’, ‘lane’, or ‘alley’) in Thailand, are ownerless, free-ranging dogs. These dogs are sometimes rounded up and sold as meat in Vietnam and China. It is estimated that there are about 8.5 million dogs in Thailand, of which about 730,000 are abandoned by their owners. Bangkok alone is estimated to have from 100,000 to 300,000 street dogs. Few have been vaccinated against canine diseases.
In the 1990s, more than 200 dogs were euthanized each day. In 2000, however, the Animal Guardians Association campaigned against the practice, which they argued violated Buddhist principles. They launched a sterilization program in Bangkok. The campaign generated substantial public outcry against the euthanasia, and the city adopted a pro-life dog policy including sterilization. A regulation has forbidden the feeding of stray dogs in public places.
In September 2005, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration began a program of mandatory registration for dogs. The program was aimed to deter the abandonment of dogs, which could be traced to their owners. Requirements for registration include the implantation of a microchip identifying the owner, rabies vaccination status for dogs less than one year old, and sterilization.
Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) is the animal protection organization in Singapore. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Singapore was in existence in the 1800s. A report from the Straits Times Press dated 3 October 1878 said, “The number of cases brought under the notice of the Singapore “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” during the first quarter ending 30 September 1878 was 84. Not only dogs, but also cats, cows, goats, chickens and birds are being protected.
In 1994, SPCA proposed to the government to increase the penalties for those found guilty of cruelty to animals. This resulted in an increase from a $500 fine and 6 month jail term to a $10,000 fine and a one year jail term in 2002. The 24-hour emergency service has been established and shelters for the stray dogs with animal feeds are functioning.
School Based Education Programs are included in the school curriculum and the students are visiting on study tour to establishments similar to SPCA.
Singapore SPCA has been granted budget funds $ 24, 00,000 each year, and that it could spend ten dollars for each dog. About 100 animals are being rescued and saved each month. The SPCA is offering assistances such as that of search and rescue animals; that of checking microchips; that of authorization of animal adoption; that of advertising to public for possible adoption; that of releasing assortments of information relating to animals.
Many countries in the world have adopted their appropriate ways and mean in the management of stray dogs. Killing method of the past has been gradually substituted with sterilization system, which is generally accepted and endorsed. Advantages and progress have been witnessed due to sterilization of dogs.
When dogs are sterilized and put back in their own area, the population and the problems caused by dogs both reduce. Results are being seen such as that of each dog guards its own territory and does not allow new dogs to enter; that of they are all neutered, they no longer mate or multiply; that of the main factors leading to dog aggression, migration and mating are eliminated, so dog-fights reduce dramatically; that of the decrease in fighting and the bites to humans also decrease; that of females no longer have pups to protect, this source of dog aggression is also eliminated; that of over a period of time when the sterilized dogs die natural deaths, the population is greatly reduced.
Stray Dogs Management Program Singapore has been providing with many programs for the dogs.
It is difficult to put a number on how many stray dogs there are in Myanmar. A state-run media report published recently, citing figures from as far back as 2003; put the figure at 3.8 million and that the number of dog bites hits 6, 00,000.
A total of 191,619 people suffered dog bites nationwide last year, with most of the incidents in Yangon Region. The Rabies Control and Prevention Program records for last year showed that 70 people died from contracting rabies in Myanmar.
A 12-year-old student living in Thaketa Township developed fever, difficulty in swallowing and drinking, and aerophobia on 16 April 2019. He received treatment at Yangon General Hospital on 21 April 2019. On 23 April 2019, he died from rabies infection.
In 2017, there were 18 0,367 cases of dog bites in the whole country and 190,000 cases in 2018. It was recorded that at least 60 to 90 persons died of rabies according to the statistics of the Ministry of Health and Sports.
The Ministry of Health and Sports is purchasing anti-rabies vaccines and rabies immunoglobulin annually. It spent K5.4 billion on the vaccines in 2018-2019, being distributed and utilized across the country. Vaccines are being administered at hospitals in Yangon Region, and other regions and states.
Local dailies Myanma Alin on 25 May 2019 featured an article in connection with the animal sanctuary which really needs foods for the animals at the animal shelter. It is called “Myit Tar Saint San” animal shelter on 15 acre of lands at Pantaingchon Village in between Pakokku Township and Yaysakyo Township in Magway Region established since 2011.
The shelter has 540 animals of 13 varieties being sent from many parts of the country such as 312 cows, 11 buffalos, 57 dogs, 46 goats, 5 monkeys, 20 rabbits, 28 pigs, 15 chickens, 2 tortoise, 29 cats, one rare species cat, 5 ducks, 10 swans, and one golden deer.
They have so many animals to feed. Animal feeds accounted for over MMK 7 million and that donation received is merely MMK 2.8 million, resulting with budget difficulties at the shelter.
Now more difficult situation for the dogs’ shelters across the country is being reported.
Many countries on this planet are doing their own jobs of establishing shelters for the animals, and that Myanmar could catch up in her own way for successful establishment of animal shelters.
In the management of stray dogs in Myanmar, it is carrying out in line with the religious concept and cultural outlook, and therefore, the most suitable and appropriate ways and means are being applied. At this juncture, the governments, the well wishers, and the people should come together in this endeavor.

What to do for dog bites
It is advisable to do the following when bitten and scratched by dog and rodent.
1. Wash the bite carefully with soap and water for 15 minutes, and then wash again with soap.
2. Keep clean and apply antibiotic ointment to the injury every day to prevent infection.
3. Urgent need for injection is required as Capnocytophaga canimorsus bacteria in dog saliva can cause severe disease and death in humans, and therefore advised to report and take treatment at hospital and clinic at the earliest.
4. When the situation requires for stitches on the wound, then injection of Immunoglobulin (Readymade antibody) must be administered around the wound, and stitch after one hour. Tetanus Toxoid should also be given.
Best thing to do is to rush to the nearest hospital and clinic.
Saliva of the stray dogs is filled with rabies virus, and therefore, appropriate vaccine and anti-biotic treatment is necessary immediately. Young or old including pregnant women must take the shot, and that it is not to be taken lightly due to the possibility of high risk. Remember, there is no second chance in taking the treatment. If one is infected there is not a single way of cure at all on this planet.
In quest of solutions for stray dogs menace, all the citizens must come together with alertness and awareness to manage and contain the scourge among us.
Translated by UMT (Ahlon)

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