From vaccines and spay/neuter to puppies stuck in tar, HSI helps hundreds of thousands of street dogs
In January, our Humane Society International/India team learned about eight puppies who were stuck in tar in the town of Tirur in the south Indian state of Kerala. The puppies, as you can see in the video below, were completely covered in the sticky black stuff that was fast hardening up around their tiny bodies. When our team members found them, after receiving a call for help from the local government, the puppies could barely move. The local community turned out in force to help, and had they and HSI’s rescuers not intervened, the pups would have almost certainly died in a horrible manner.
For the hundreds of millions of homeless dogs who wander the streets around the world, life is full of such hardships. In some communities, these animals are beaten, culled or abused because they bark too much or chase vehicles or rest in some place where they aren’t wanted. Sometimes, they become victims of government-facilitated cruelty, involving inhumane mass culls by shooting or poisoning.
In other cases street dogs can fall victim to life-threatening accidents as a result of their precarious existence, as was the case with these puppies.
That’s why HSI‘s Street Dog Defender program exists, with its ambitious goal of improving the lives of 300 million street dogs around the world. In 2018 alone, our HSI teams around the globe provided services to around 200,000 street dogs.
The program has grown rapidly and we are now working in dozens of countries to improve the lot of homeless dogs and cats, including Chile, Bolivia, India, Bhutan, China, Philippines, Liberia and South Africa.
The heart of the program is service. We conduct spay and neuter programs, provide veterinary services, train local veterinarians and educate the public about street dogs. We partner with local organizations, with communities where the animals live, and with government and institutional authorities to forge approaches and solutions to public health challenges like dog bites and rabies.
This week, HSI/Africa Humane Society International/Africa joined forces with a local organization, Hoedspruit Animal Outreach (HALO), in South Africa to improve the lives and welfare of community cats and dogs. HSI/Africa is providing HALO with grants in 2019 totaling approximately ZAR150,000 to increase spay/neuter efforts and to provide medical care to more cats and dogs in the area.
Last year, in Mauritius, a nation visited each year by many tourists, we helped spay thousands of dogs and puppies to help the government humanely reduce the number of dogs roaming the streets, beaches and hotels. In the Philippines, where authorities have in the past conducted mass dog culls to fight rabies, we are using a unique smartphone app for our vets to geo-track every dog they vaccinate so that they can stay on target to vaccinate 70 percent of the street dog population – the target required to stop the spread of rabies.
When we work globally, it’s important for us not just to go in and conduct sterilizations and vaccination clinics, but also to educate local communities and governments in understanding street dog welfare as well as providing humane options to manage dog populations. For instance, in December, we launched an initiative in India, “Abhay Sankalp,” to ensure peaceful coexistence between street dogs and communities they live in. Representatives of 52 resident welfare associations and societies from across the city of Vadodara in the Indian state of Gujarat signed up to participate in the campaign.
We hope to expand this campaign to three other Indian cities, with the goal of getting 400 residential societies signed up and actively involved in coming months to support the humane management of dogs in their communities as well as bring about more responsible pet ownership among their residents.
Invariably, we find that the citizens in most communities where street dogs live are willing to work to coexist peacefully and even lovingly with the animals. The community in Kerala where the tar-covered puppies were found had been taking care of these dogs before their mishap, and asked that the animals be returned to them. They will work on finding safe homes in the community for the pups, who are now once again happy and healthy.
Wherever we work, we better the lives of street dogs. We work with stakeholders to develop humane and effective ways to manage street animal issues and to implement a responsible approach that produces the best outcomes, both for animals and people.