By Gaby Dufresne-Cyr, CBT
In light of the Sochi dog cull and the media attention it has received, I urge people to inquire and research the stray dog topic in order to look at these events with an educated mind. The dog sleeping in your bed is a poor representation of the dog population around the world.
In 1990, the World Health Organisation published a document in order to establish guidelines for dog population management. In this document, the WHO states "Dog populations may rapidly grow to a point where the health risks of humans becomes serious and the environment begins suffering considerably." (1990).
If you have visited any of the Central or South American, African, Indian, Asian, Australian, or certain European countries, I need not explain this reality any further. Heck, ask any Detroiter what their stray dog population looks like and they will tell you they are everywhere. Detroit residents consider stray dogs as dangerous and unhealthy.
The free roaming unrestricted dog population poses a serious health risk to humans (OIE, 2009). In Central and South America, people die from rabies every day. There is simply no economical, social, or cultural reason to own or adopt a dog for residents of these countries. In many parts of the world, dogs are simply considered pests and dealt with as such.
I do not support the unnecessary killing of dogs; however, I have seen many unrestricted dogs cause environmental damages and transmit parasites to tourists unaware of the problem. The reality of the matter is, the global stray dog population does pose a health threat to humans and the environment in which they live. Dogs on the prowl kill livestock, spread waste, kill wildlife, destroy the environment, transmit diseases, and propagate parasites.
Sochi might have demonstrated poor judgement in regards to its dog control and management strategy; conversely, if we cry wolf and do not offer tangible solutions, we are as guilty as they are. When the Olympics end and everybody has left, stray dog populations will return to Sochi once again and when this topic ceases to make headlines, the world will turn its proverbial head and pretend the problem has disappeared. In order to prevent this, we must set aside our socio-cultural, political, and religious beliefs and address the problem of stray dogs on a worldwide scale.
Our responsibility as an educated population is to analyse and offer long term solutions. The WHO and OIE have proposed solutions to help us achieve our goals, and it is our responsibility to implement these practices in our own civilised communities before we can condemn others for doing something we do not agree with.
The stray dog population control controversy triggers an emotional response in us, in me; however, without proper education on responsible ownership, adequate infrastructures, and effective management strategies, the problem will remain.
One thing is for sure, we cannot save the entire stray dog population, so what do we do? We capture stray dogs and place them in fancy no kill shelters in the hopes someone, somewhere, will adopt them? Then again, how can capturing stray animals and condemning them to years of incarceration be considered humane?
- World Health Organisation and World Society for the Protection of Animals. (1990). Guidelines for Dog Population Management. Geneva. WHO/ZOON/90.166p.
- OIE, World Organisation For Animal Health. (2009). Stray Dog Population Control. Terrestrial Animal Health Standards Commission. Paris. 309p.