The ABC of stray dogs

Animal Birth Control: Its as easy as ABC (Image Courtesy PETA)

Animal Birth Control/ABC Programm involves sterilizing street dogs, vaccinating them against rabies and releasing them back into the areas where they were picked up from.

The article below is kind courtesy of  The Pioneer Newspaper, penned by noted senior journalist Mr. Hiranmay Karlekar who is also the author of a book titled ‘Savage Humans and Stray Dogs’, the article sheds light on the ‘ABC’ of Delhi’s Animal Birth Control/ABC Programme, comes in the wake of the Commonwealth Games recently organised in Delhi in which many street canines (sterilized as well as non-sterilized) were temporarily (for the period of these games) relocated to Animal shelters across Delhi and Noida from many games venues, stadia, hotels, all of whom have now been released back into the areas where they were picked up from (and those canines that were not sterilized were also sterilized in the process and vaccinated against Rabies at the shelters/hospitals they were housed at prior to being released back to their homes). There is a whole scientific basis and reasoning behind doing so and that is what Mr. Karlekar enlightens us all on below. If you still have doubts, drop in a comment underneath or mail us at

The Pioneer EDITS | Saturday, October 23, 2010, By Hiranmay Karlekar

It’s a fallacy to believe that killing street dogs will bring down their numbers. But sterilising them helps in reducing and stabilising their population

According to a report, the Mayor of Delhi has said in an interview to a news channel that the national capital’s stray dogs, which had been removed from their habitats for the duration of the Commonwealth Games, should be killed or kept where they had been taken. He, however, has also reportedly said on television that it was inhuman to kill dogs. I have neither heard either statement nor talked to him. I will, therefore, not go into what he did or did not say. Nor will I criticise him on that account. Instead, I would focus on the issues in question.

Animal Birth Control (Dog) Rules, notified in December 2001 under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960), prohibits the killing of stray dogs except in special cases, as when they are rabid or terminally ill. In these too, prescribed procedures have to be followed. Besides, the Rules provide that stray dogs can only be removed from their habitats for neutering and immunisation against rabies. Both done, they have to be returned to places from which they had been taken.

The Rules prescribe the only scientific — and also humane — way of controlling stray dog populations. Killing or removal has not helped anywhere. Dr K Vogel, Chief Veterinary, Public Health, Division of Communicable Diseases, World Health Organisation, and Mr John Hoyt, then President, World Society for the Protection of Animals, made this clear in their joint preface to the Guidelines for Dog Population Management, released by the WHO and WSPA in May 1990. They stated, “All too often, authorities confronted by problems caused by these (stray) dogs have turned to mass destruction in the hope of finding a quick solution, only to find that the destruction had to continue year after year, with no end in sight.”

In its Eighth Report (WHO Technical Report Series 824), WHO’s Expert Committee on Rabies, which met in Geneva from September 24 to 30, stated, “There is no evidence that the removal of dogs has ever had a significant impact on dog population densities and the spread of rabies. The population turnover of dogs may be so high that even the highest recorded removal rates (about 15 per cent of the dog population) are easily compensated by survival rates.” This has been conclusively established in Delhi. In his “Dogs and Dog Control in Developing Countries”, published in The State of Animals 2005, Dr JF Reese writes, “In Delhi, a concerted effort (pre-Animal Birth Control, or ABC) at dog removal killed a third of the straying dogs with no reduction in dog population.”

It has been the same experience everywhere. In his paper, “ABC responsible for decline in human rabies cases”, Dr Chinny Krishna, co-founder and chairman of the Blue Cross Society of India, cites the instance of Madras Corporation’s catch-and-kill programme that began in 1860. He quotes Mr Theodore Bhaskaran, a retired Post Master-General, as stating in an article, “In the 1970s the number of stray dogs destroyed by the corporation was so high that the Central Leather Institute, Madras, designed products —such as neckties and wallets — from dog skins.” Dr Krishna has pointed out elsewhere that the number of dogs killed by the corporation had gone up to 30,000 per year by 1995. Yet the city’s stray dog population and the incidence of rabies continued to increase.

Why does killing or removal not help? According to the Guidelines for Dog Population Management, each habitat has “a specific carrying capacity for each species”, which “essentially depends on the availability, quality and distribution of the resources (shelter, food, water) for the species concerned. The density of population for higher vertebrates (including dogs) is almost always near the carrying capacity of the environment. Any reduction in the population density through additional mortality is rapidly compensated by better reproduction and survival.”

The argument that such a situation will not arise if all stray dogs in a city or country are killed at one go, holds little water. Nowhere has such a venture succeeded. Besides, dogs are territorial. Dogs from one area do not allow those from other areas to enter their areas. Dogs from other areas will occupy any area in which all stray dogs have been massacred. This territorial character of dogs lies at the heart of the ABC programme. With sterilised and vaccinated dogs keeping un-sterilised and un-vaccinated dogs away from their areas, those implementing the programme can concentrate on progressing area by area until a whole city is covered. Otherwise, they will have to keep returning to areas where they had already been with the stray dog population continuing to grow elsewhere.

Significantly, WHO’s Expert Consultation on Rabies, held in Geneva from October 5 to 8, 2004, had stated (WHO: Technical Report Series 824), “Since the 1960s, ABC programmes coupled with rabies vaccination have been advocated as a method to control urban street male and female dog populations and ultimately human rabies in Asia The rationale is to reduce the dog population turnover as well as the number of dogs susceptible to rabies in Asia and limit aspects of male dog behaviour (such as dispersal and fighting) that facilitate the spread of rabies.”

Delhi has had a reasonably successful ABC programme since 2003. Between 40 and 50 per cent of the dogs removed from the Commonwealth Games sites to the care of NGOs were found neutered. At this rate the target of 70 per cent, required to stabilise and then gradually bring down stray dog populations, should be reached in the next few years. Meanwhile, one needs to congratulate the Government and Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the New Delhi Municipal Council and NGOs like Friendicoes, Cure & Care, Sonadi, PAWS and Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre and SPCA NOIDA for the manner in which they temporarily relocated and looked after around 700 dogs. The glitches that occurred were perhaps inevitable in an exercise of the magnitude undertaken. While Mr Rakesh Mehta, Chief Secretary of Delhi, and Mr KS Mehra, Commissioner of MCD, cut through all bureaucratic red tape to promptly take the big decisions, Dr RBS Tyagi and Dr Alok Agarwal of MCD and Dr Dinesh Yadav of NDMC worked tirelessly, almost round-the-clock. Animal lovers throughout India need to warmly applaud all of them.

3 Comments on “The ABC of stray dogs

  1. Pingback: World Spinner

  2. I am totally in support of ABC, but will it not eventually eliminate the Indian Breed?


    • Only if you think our cities can achieve 100% sterilisation rates…but that is a far fetched scenario. Even if 70% dogs in every city are sterilized, the population would be stabilised


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