Change happens at various levels.
At the city-wide level, there are infrastructure and policy issues to be overcome.
At the local community level, change can happen when a group of people organises, for example, feeding or vaccination programmes.
And at the individual level, a single person can make a real difference to the life of a street dog by their care and thoughtfulness.
All are needed, and all are valid.
What can you do to improve the lives of your local street dogs?
Make a personal commitment to care for one street dog near you. Befriend and feed them, arrange for them to be vaccinated, and generally make sure they’re all right.
If you notice any problems related to your local street dogs, raise the issue with a community residents association or talk to your local councillor.
Think about volunteering with an organisation like Mission Rabies, which does great work to vaccinate street dogs against that disease. Rabies is 100% preventable. Mission Rabies is working to prevent needless deaths from this devastating disease and they want people like you to be a part of it.
What can your local community do to improve the lives of its street dogs?
Organise a group to feed and arrange vaccination and birth control for local street dogs.
Consider raising a small fund to help pay for food and medication for street dogs.
Please do let us know of any local campaigns on behalf of street dogs (use the Facebook group). We’ll happily publicise them on here.
Animal Birth Control
Many people believe this is the most pressing need now. This will help to stabilise Kolkata’s street dog population to manageable levels and reduce rabies and aggressive behaviour. Here’s an interesting, if characteristically verbose, article by Maneka Gandhi about animal birth control in India (from 2011). And here’s a good article (from 2014) about the local SPCA’s seemingly successful birth control programme in Visakhapatnam, which may offer some ideas about what to do, the challenges you might face and the benefits of the programme.
One important reason that birth control is so critical is:
During the mating season, intense competition between male dogs for the favours of an on-heat female can make some dogs unusually aggressive, not just towards their four-legged comrades, but to people too. Fights between dogs are not uncommon at this time. Fighting offers an opportunity for the transmission of rabies, which poses a threat to people. With birth control, that aggression and fighting is reduced (and ideally eliminated), because females no longer give off biological invitations. That, in turn, helps to create a stable and more peaceful population of street dogs and substantially reduces the risk of rabies transmission.
A major problem for all dog owners is how to dispose of a recently deceased dog. Pet cemeteries are few and far between, and are typically way out of the city.
Kolkata urgently needs a pet crematorium that’s decent, accessible and affordable.
Not only will this offer dignity at the end of the dog’s life, it will improve hygiene and sanitation in various ways, including a reduction in the number of dog carcasses in the Ganges. But that needs money, land and, above all, political will from the KMC. Do you know anyone in the KMC in a position to take this important issue forward? If enough people make enough noise about this, then one day it will become a reality.
Pets and street dogs get sick or may be involved in an accident that needs urgent professional attention. How do you get them to the nearest good vet? Often with great difficulty. Although there are a small number of animal ambulances in Kolkata, they are for the most part low quality vehicles with equally poor suspension systems that can do more harm to an injured animal as they rattle and bump their way through the traffic.
The argument for an animal ambulance can be hard to make in a city where ambulances for humans and decent health care for all people still leave so much to be desired. But that is not a reason not to raise a voice for more and better ambulances for animals. The need is there and something should be done about it. What you consider important and what you do with your time, effort and money is your business; what others do (or choose not to do) is theirs. Anyone who has kept a dog or cat or other pet will understand the compelling instinct to do everything they can for them when they are sick. And that includes being able to get them to a vet quickly and safely.
Thinking about starting a campaign?
If you are considering starting a campaign on behalf of street dogs, please take time to thoroughly think through all the issues. Discuss with your friends exactly what the key message is (i.e. exactly what you want to achieve), why you should campaign, who your target audience is, and how you’re going to organise your campaign. If there’s something you’re not quite sure about, ask an expert. Anticipate the kind of questions that people might ask you. (Don’t assume the answers should be obvious to anyone with half a brain, because they usually use the other half.) Their questions might include:
- what exactly are you trying to achieve?
- why are you doing this?
- what are the benefits?
- how long will you do it for?
- how are you going to achieve your goals?
- how much will it cost, and who will pay?
- why should I join your campaign?
- how are you going to gain publicity for your campaign?
- are other people or organisations already doing the same thing?
Have the answers for these and other questions ready, and make sure everyone in your team understands them thoroughly. Do that and your campaign will be so much stronger and will have a much higher chance of achieving something good. Good luck!