And why human intolerance is its worst enemy

The numbers of dogs that can live in an area are governed by a number of things, such as, the carrying capacity, available food, water, shelter and human tolerance. If you take away food, water and shelter, you can easily see how a dog’s welfare is impacted. But a lack of tolerance can produce equally negative but often hidden results.

How does dog population management work?

Humane dog population management works. It’s not an overnight solution and it relies on the dogs we sterilise and vaccinate to do a lot of the work. Street or roaming dogs all have an area they call home. For some dogs, it’s a small area, but it’s their area and they, like us, would object to a total stranger walking into their house, eating food from their kitchen and sleeping in their bedroom.

As we sterilise and vaccinate we return each dog to its own “patch”. The dog already has access to food (many are fed by local people), water and shelter and it knows all the neighbourhood dogs. Once a minimum of 70% of the population is sterilised, the population stabilises and then starts to decrease naturally. The existing dogs keep out large numbers of newcomers and, over time, as sterilised dogs die, there are not litters and litters of puppies to replace them – so the dog population naturally decreases and human tolerance increases.

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Dog population management and human tolerance

This is where the human tolerance and lack of understanding can totally and utterly derail the process. Imagine we have 100 dogs in our village and we have sterilized and vaccinated 80 of them. The population is now stabilizing and we have passed the 70% for herd immunity so we are all (dogs and people) a lot safer against rabies. A person decides to depopulate the area, by getting rid of 40 dogs in one go, will come back to that later, but for now, just remember we have lost 40 dogs. So for a short while, there are fewer dogs. But this is where carrying capacity comes back into play. Now, there is a lot of space, a lot more resources and in the short term, more tolerance as there are less dogs.

Ever heard the saying natural abhors a vacuum? Well, it does when it comes to dog population. Two things happen; the remaining dogs breed and they have larger litters and dogs from neighbouring areas know there are spaces and they move in. So before long we are back to 100 dogs. But now, at least 60% of these dogs are not sterilised or vaccinated. This means rabies is a risk and the dogs are continuing to breed, so population is increasing.

ear tipping sinhala leaflet

If that’s not bad enough let’s look at how an area is depopulated

Currently, the 2 methods most commonly used are poisoning and relocating.

Poisoning is simply evil. Meat or fish laced with poison is fed to dogs normally overnight and they die an unbearable death. By morning, they are found dead and those that aren’t cannot be saved. Poisoning is a direct violation of the 2006 Presidental no-kill policy. In the last 18 months, relocations have become more commonplace, however, these animals can suffer every bit as much as the poisoned dogs and the impact on humans is even more profound. Poisoning is indiscriminate. Every dog in the area is at risk, but when moving dogs it’s generally the friendly, tame ones who are caught. The ones that are tolerated by people or peoples free roaming pets. They are taken away and dumped randomly, often at rubbish dumps or just by the roadside. Dump them too close to home and they will return so often the van travels 100km before leaving the confused traumatized dogs by the side of the road.

Now, these dogs have a number of problems; they don’t know where they are, they have no idea where to get food or water, where shelter can be found. The resident dogs in that area are fearful and protective so they fight with them the human residents generally react just as negatively to a large influx of new dogs and chase them away. Without help, many of these dogs will die, from hunger, lack of shelter, injured in fights, hit by cars as they try desperately to find their way home. They may not die as quickly as the poisoned dogs but they die never the less.

So all the time and money that has been spent on sterilizing and vaccinating has been wasted. Animal welfare decreases, animals and people are at risk of rabies and human tolerance has not changed; meaning the situation escalates and people are dumping and re-dumping dogs on each other. We need to change our attitude to street dogs and humane population control and understand that we have to work together and not punish the dogs for what is, after all, a man-made problem.