The late former President of France, Charles De Gaulle is credited with the line “The better I get to know men, the more I find myself loving dogs.” Perhaps it is an indictment of humankind, but we can also look at it as a credit to an animal that is often called our “best friend.”
People and our best friends, dogs have lived together for thousands of years. Dogs have played a major role in our evolution. They have served as our household and livestock guards, guides, and companions. How we treat them often has to do with our culture. In Nepal, dogs enjoy a special religious significance as the guard of the Hindu God, Yama of the underworld, and dogs are honored on a special day called “Kukur Tihar”. However, historically not having a culture of keeping pets, dogs are often seen as nuisance and once a year prayer to honor Yama and his dogs hardly makes up for another 364 days of outright cruelty and neglect.
Traditionally, resource constrained societies also do not have means necessary to deal with challenges of living with uncared for dogs. Nepal is no exception and has challenges providing adequate services for its citizens let alone address the issues of stray dogs. As a result, it is estimate that there are over 20,000 stray dogs roaming Kathmandu, the capital city, alone. The actual numbers in Kathmandu and the whole of Nepal may be much greater, and this is creating many problems for both people and the dogs.
Rabies, a viral disease that kills thousands of people around the world is one of the biggest problems of having many stray dogs. Dog bites from infected animals can pass this disease to humans. If not treated properly, victims often die. According to the endrabiesnow.org, over thousands of people die every year from rabies. Historically, the victims are children and mostly girls. A point, very important for Rukmini Foundation to address.
Our approach to lessen the burden to both people and dogs was to work on reducing the population of street dogs. Clearly, the resource needed to capture, examine, and treat any ailments to house these stray dogs would be too great and the funds for such tasks are just not there at any level of society. The whole of Nepali society may not ready for taking collective action of that scope to address the challenges faced by these dogs. We need to help the stray dogs while working to change the hearts and mind of collective to have more humans providing time and resources to address stray dogs. The easiest ways to help the dogs was to spay the stray female dogs effectively reducing the numbers of offspring.
Th reality of a stray dog mother is grim. Many dogs have anywhere from 5 to 14 puppies and most of these puppies don’t survive due to starvation, accidents, and death due to human actions. Not having adequate food supplies for themselves, the new puppies create additional burden for these mothers. The surviving puppies end up making more puppies in their lives resulting in a cycle where stray dogs and people are both suffering. While there are many other things that could be done to help dogs in Nepal, the foundation focusing on reducing the number of strays through spaying. We believe this is the most effective option we have at our disposal given the cost and resources available in the area. Here are some overviews of the efforts related to our spaying campaign:
- Coordinated efforts across various canine agencies and dog lovers globally to spay the female dogs to slow the rate of population increase.
- Focus on a neighborhood by working with volunteers to identify and capture female dogs to spay
- Provide other medical care if needed
- Provide a few days of recovery along with food/water
- Release them back into the neighborhood only after they are recovered
- Continue this Neighborhood driven campaign across Kathmandu and any other locations to spay, track and reduce the future number of stray dogs
A generous gesture from one of our donors has allowed the foundation to work with individuals and agencies in Kathmandu to capture, transport and treat stray female dogs for spay operations. As a result, the foundation has spayed over 200 dogs so far. As the programs progresses along, it shows us the challenges, opportunities, and short-term effects of our actions in targeted areas. The challenges of solving the stray dogs problem while seeming unsurmountable, can be resolved if we can change how people feel about dogs. One way to change how people feel about dogs is to show our utmost care and concerns for dogs while reducing their overall numbers so the humans and dogs can live in harmony.