What are street dogs?
Most free-roaming dogs belong to an ancient canine race known as the Pariah Dog. Dogs have existed all over Asia and Africa ever since humans started living in settlements. The word ‘stray’ is used for street dogs in the context of the animal not being an ‘owned’ dog or a ‘pet’ dog.

Not all street dogs are in fact stray or ownerless animals. There are street dogs which do not have owners or are feral household but may still be accepted by the neighbourhood as belonging to the community. These animals are ‘community owned’. Members of the neighbourhood assume occasional responsibility for these dogs by feeding them, treating them when they are ill and getting them vaccinated, and also by protecting them from people who intend to harm them.

Why do street dogs exist?
The size of the street dog population usually corresponds to the size and character of the human population of the area, before an animal birth control programme is put into place. Some of the reasons which create and sustain street dog population:

  • Large amounts of exposed garbage, which provide an abundant source of food.
  • Large human populations living on the streets or in slums who keep the dogs as free roaming pets/neighbourhood dogs.
  • Irresponsible Pet Ownership.
Why do street dogs numbers need to be controlled?
The need to control the number of dogs, especially stray dogs, is motivated in part by public health concerns, particularly in relation to rabies transmission. In addition to disease transmission, dog bites and the fear of aggressive dogs also pose a risk to human health and well-being and can lead to panic and the inhumane culling of dogs.
When do street dogs bite?

Dogs don’t generally bite unless provoked. We need to understand the reasons why dogs may bite. Animal behaviourists list out the following reasons which could be classified as provoked bites:

  • Touching a dog when it is eating or sleeping.
  • Teasing or hurting a dog.
  • If the dog is ill or in pain.
  • If the dog perceives that it is being attacked.
  • If the dog is fighting with another dog over territory or mating and any person gets in their way.
  • If a stranger touches a pet dog.
  • A female dog will bite if she perceives that her pups are being threatened.

Unprovoked bites might occur when:

  • Male dogs are chasing a female which is on heat, and may tend to bite passers-by. Sterilisation eliminates this behavior.
  • Dogs in packs follow their leader (alpha male) andtend tobehave accordingly. When the alpha male dogs are sterilized and cared for, they tend to become more friendly towards other dogs and people. In this manner, the pack usually calms down.
Why cannot street dogs be removed or killed?
In countries such as India, where exposed garbage and slums encourage the existence of street dogs, killing or removing them has proved ineffective in controlling rabies or the dog population.This is because the street dogs that are removed or killed are easily replaced with new dogs from other territories.

Here is what happens when street dogs are taken away or removed from an area:

  • Their territories become vacant and street dogs from neighbouring areas move in to occupy them.
  • The street dogs which escape the catching squad continue to multiply, and therefore the territorial vacuum is soon filled again.
  • Dog fights increase since every time a new street dog enters a territory he is attacked by the dogs already in the neighbourhood.
  • Dog fights continue to take place over mating. Dog bites also increase as during dog fights passersby may get accidentally bitten.
  • Rabies may continue to spread, if vaccinated street dogs are removed and their place is taken by unvaccinated dogs.
  • When street dogs are being removed en masse, it is usually the friendlier and sterilized dogs that get caught / killed / dislocated first. The street dogs that remain may be unsterilized and unfriendly. This unintended trait selection may lead to an overall change in behavior of the street dog population in that area.

Elimination of dogs would also increase fecundity of remaining adult dogs due to better nutrition, giving rise to more puppies, and their increased survival, resulting in a population with a younger age structure that is not immune to rabies.

What is the ABC Program?
The Animal Birth Control (ABC) Program is mandated by the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001. The Supreme Court and several High Courts have, in their judgments, emphasized on the need for implementation of the ABC Rules, 2001, in letter and spirit.

Based on empirical as well as observational data, it has been found that ABC conducted in the prescribed manner works effectively for the following reasons:

  • Street dogs are sterilized and put back in the same territory.
  • Since territories are not left vacant, new dogs will not enter.
  • Mating and breeding also cease.
  • With no mating and no puppies, street dog fights and accidental bites to humans also becomes scarce.
  • The street dogs are immunized and hence they cannot spread rabies.
  • Over time, street dogs die a natural death and their numbers dwindle.

As a result, the street dog population becomes stable, non-breeding, more friendly and rabies free, with a gradual decrease in numbers over a period of time.