Stray dogs are badly affected by the coronavirus lock-down in India
Islamabad has decided to stop culling stray dogs in the city. Image Credit: Pexels

Islamabad: Islamabad city authorities have decided to ban the inhumane culling of dogs and to begin spay, neuter and vaccination programmes.

The decision was taken in a meeting held on Monday at the Capital Development Authority (CDA) headquarters attended by Chief Commissioner Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and CDA Chairman Amer Ali Ahmed, Deputy Commissioner (DC) Hamza Shafqaat, other city officials as well as members of the animal welfare groups.

No more dog shootings

There will be no more dog shootings in Islamabad, DC Islamabad Hamza Shafqaat told media. The officials have decided that municipal by-laws will be amended to remove the clause stating elimination of dogs and that the CDA and Islamabad city administration in collaboration with animal welfare groups will work to spay, neuter and vaccinate stray dogs. The city administration would also collaborate with non-profit organisations such as Rabies Free Pakistan, Animals Birth Control and pet lovers to make Islamabad a rabies-free city, the CDA chairman said.

Animal rights activists and pet lovers of Islamabad heaved a collective sigh of relief when the decision was announced. “I lost my street dog to this callous practice of shooting dogs. It’s time we put an end to this needless killing of animals and adopt the global animal welfare strategies,” said Sarah Zahid, an animal lover in Islamabad.

Inhumane culling

Packs of street dogs are commonly found in the large cities of Pakistan. The culling of stray dogs through poison or shooting is considered the only solution by local governments to reduce the dog population due to the fear of rabies. Thousands of dogs are culled every year in different cities and towns after complaints from citizens about stray dogs in their neighbourhood. But the practice of culling is described as inhumane and ineffective by animal rights activists who have in the past also sought legal action to end the painful mass shooting of street dogs in Pakistan.

Fear of rabies

Rabies is one of the oldest fatal zoonotic diseases (transmitted from animals to human) that kills nearly 60,000 people worldwide each year of which more than half are in South and Southeast Asia. In Pakistan, the number of cases is believed to be around 2,000 to 5,000. Pakistan, India and Bangladesh belong to the top five rabies endemic countries of the world due to low vaccination coverage of both people and stray dogs in the region, studies suggest. Bhutan and Sri Lanka are nearest to achieving the goal of zero human deaths from rabies by 2030 through mass dog vaccination and an efficient vaccine delivery system.

Effective measures

Sterilisation, vaccination and tagging of dogs have proven to be the most effective way of controlling dog populations worldwide. Such sporadic campaigns have been initiated in Islamabad, Karachi and Peshawar in the last years but could not be sustained.

All major global animal welfare organisations advocate Animal Birth Control (ABC) through Trap, Neuter and Release (TNR) method under which strays are to be captured, sterilised, vaccinated, tagged and then released into the same area from where they were captured. Health officials estimate that more than 70 per cent of street dogs need to be sterilised and vaccinated to halt the spread of the disease.