A horrible story coming out of Bangladesh has shocked people worldwide: a security guard and his accomplices unleashed what one local news outlet described as a “killing spree” against street dogs over an accusation that one of the dogs had bitten a child. The men rounded up two adult dogs and 14 puppies, beat them with sticks and stones, stuffed them into plastic bags and sacks, and buried them alive.
Animal activists unearthed the bodies of the animals and led local police to the scene. The trial of the accused men is now in progress and we are expecting a jail term to be handed down — a first for Bangladesh.
Millions of homeless dogs wander the streets around the world, and life for these animals is seldom easy. In some communities dogs are beaten, culled or abused because they bark too much, chase vehicles, or just sit on someone’s porch. Then there is state-sponsored cruelty, involving inhumane mass culls by shooting or poisoning.
That is why Humane Society International runs its Street Dog Defender program, with the aim of improving the lives of 300 million street dogs around the world. Our teams are active in places ranging from Chile, Bolivia, and Puerto Rico in Latin America to India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China and the Philippines in Asia, and in Mauritius and soon in Liberia in Africa. We conduct spay and neuter programs, provide veterinary services, train local veterinarians and educate the public about street dogs. When necessary, as in the Bangladesh case, we intervene to ensure that the perpetrators of animal cruelty are punished.
The public education piece is especially important in helping communities learn to tolerate and coexist with homeless animals. Also, we know from experience that mass culls are not just cruel, but that they do not work. Sterilization is a the effective and humane way to control street dog populations.
Here are a few examples of the work we’ve done in recent months with street dogs around the world:
- In Chile, our team conducted more than 4,000 spay/neuter surgeries in 2017 and provided other veterinary services to hundreds more dogs.
- In Guyana, where we have trained a team of veterinarians and veterinary technicians to provide high quality spay/neuter services, we recently surpassed 900 surgeries.
- In Bolivia, we helped more than 3,400 dogs and cats, providing veterinary services and rabies vaccinations.
- In Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria, we provided spay/neuter and vaccination services to more than 3,500 dogs and cats.
- In Mexico we have helped train private and government veterinarians, increasing the amount of spay/neuter surgeries they can provide in a week, thus helping to save more lives and bringing down the number of homeless animals.
- In India, in just over a year, we have vaccinated and sterilized more than 15,000 dogs, and we intervened to save dogs that were going to be killed by communities.
- In the Philippines, we have helped stop the gassing of dogs, and have trained more than 200 veterinarians throughout the country to conduct spay and neuter surgeries. We are now working to eradicate rabies in three provinces, and we have been providing training to more than five provinces on how to conduct surveys and plan mass dog vaccination projects. In Cebu City, we are currently conducting mass dog vaccinations and we’ve already vaccinated more than 18,000 dogs over just two months.
- In Bangladesh and Mauritius, where mass culls of street dogs are often carried out, we have ushered in dog population management through mass sterilization and vaccination pilots. In a recent pilot in Dhaka, we worked with a local animal welfare corporation to sterilize and vaccinate nearly 4,500 dogs. The projects provided the city’s authorities with a blueprint of how they can conduct a proper, humane dog management project and then expand it. In Mauritius, we began a pilot project in April 2018, and we aim to sterilize 10,000 dogs in 12 months.
Life for street dogs does not have to be filled with cruelty and horrors, and through our work, we are showing the world a better way of dealing with the problems that confront these animals. Through a compassionate and comprehensive approach, we can create a better world both for the animals and for the communities they live in.