Center for Animal Welfare Legal Protection    
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Autonomous non-profit organization
Center for Animal Welfare Legal Protection

Brief survey of world experience in the solution to the problem of homeless animals

(Comment by site editor:
See also
Detailed survey of world experience in the solution to the problem
of homeless animals
)

      The development of the problem for reduction of the numbers of city homeless involves investigation of the world experience, taking into account a set of factors associated with some particular conditions of the world environment.
      1. Developed countries have a more successful experience. They have systems of number regulation and maintenance of domestic animals uniting municipal services (Animal Control) and NGOs. The countries of EU, United States and Canada are characterized by a considerable number of pet animals (dogs and cats) maintained in the owners houses and apartments. Western specialists believe that pet overpopulation is determined by some very high rates of breeding of homeless animals. The pet overpopulation is due to the incompatibility of supply and demand and, "extra" animals find themselves in the street. The homelessness of animals is regarded as a negative feature, and, among other things, on humanness grounds, hence, an optimum situation would be the one of minimum numbers or absolute absence of homeless cats and dogs.
      The major form of handling neglected and homeless animals in western countries is no-release capture with the animals to be in shelters (The shelters act as centers of collection of "extra" animals from the owners and centers of handing over animals to their new owners). After a mandatory period of stay in the shelter, during which the cats and dogs are to be handed over to their new owners or to public shelters for further maintenance, the animals that were not claimed are to be drugged to sleep. The lethal injection (euthanasia) is regarded as an inevitable measure because shelters, fulfilling municipal programs ( the so-called "open-admission shelters) are to have sufficient carrying capacity and be always ready for the admission of new animals. The biggest animal protection organizations (The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA); HSUS and PETA in the United States believe that it is more humane to put an animal away rather than to cast it loose and doom for early and cruel death. In fact, along with "open admission shelters", there are shelters belonging to organizations which do not believe in putting healthy animals away. Those are "limited-admission shelters, which terminate admission in case there are no vacancies. They have an important but an auxiliary role to play in animal population control.
      In order to reduce the numbers of homeless animals and thereby decrease the number of lethal injections in the shelters, an important preventive measure is to encourage pet owners to ensure cessation of breeding. This is attained via reduced taxes on neutered animals, massive education campaigns of animal protectors and free neutering of the animals belonging to poor people. Only licensed breeders are entitled to have non-neutered animals, and those breeders have to pay appropriate taxes for the right to engage in this activity. Along with that, measures are also taken to counteract uncontrolled free-ranging of dogs. When the proportion of neutered pet dogs reaches 70 80% of the total number, the number of captured animals begins to decline considerably. That permitted some cities to bring the number of lethal injections to a minimum, supply virtually becoming equal to demand. A positive dynamics associated with mass neutering of pet animals is recorded in various countries. In fact, in the United States, over the last 30 years, the number of lethal injections in the shelters has declined fourfold. In Great Britain, about half of captured dogs are lost pet dogs that are returned to their owners within a week. Most of the others are handed over to new owners and only 10 15% of the captured animals are put away.
      The only pattern of handling homeless dogs in developed countries is no-release capture, whereas in respect of homeless cats a different approach is used. Some GB and US cities use the "trap /neuter/release " strategy (TNR). This policy is financed by charity funds in addition to municipal capture and is only applied with respect to some isolated "colonies" (family groups) of homeless cats dwelling on the outskirts, in enterprise areas, university campuses, etc. The "colonies" should have responsible guardians to ensure the monitoring of the cats and veterinary care. Animal protectors ensure concurrent neutering of all the cats in the "colony", and unless some new animals are admitted, the numbers gradually decline. This policy is not applied to dogs as they are more "problem" animals, that do not form compact isolated "colonies".
      It is thought that a decline of the number of homeless dogs and cats occasionally brings about penetration into peripheral districts of cities of wild animals claiming the same forage resource (i.e., food waste). In fact, in some regions of the United States those are coyotes and the common raccoon; in England, foxes; and in some regions of Germany, these are also raccoons. However, the number of those animals the scale of the problems they cause are much lower compared with the populations of feral dogs and cats. In addition, the emergence of such animals is determined by specific conditions of the environment. For instance, in England, foxes were attracted by sparse low-rise housing with a large number of hedges, lawns, shrubs and accessible domestic garbage in frail plastic bags. Inconsiderate actions also encourage the penetration of animals, including supplemental feeding of foxes by some citizens in England or an artificial introduction of a species that does not have any natural enemies (as American raccoons in the FRG). Applicable to wild animals are normal hunting methods for number reduction, limitation of access to forage, etc.
      Partial utilization of the NR strategy for homeless dogs in Europe is done by charity organizations in some cities of Southern Italy; and local experiments, in Bulgaria and Greece. But firstly, those subtropical regions are on the boundary of the historically evolved range of the so-called pariah dogs (see below) and secondly, capture continues to be used there jointly concurrently with CNR (no-return removal from the environment) and there are shelters.
      2. Southern developing countries. TNR as the main method of handling homeless dogs is used in some human settlements of India, Turkey, Thailand, Indonesia and Egypt. The territories of Asia Minor, Middle East, India, South-East Asia, North Africa belong to the range of geographical distribution of dogs known as pariah dogs. Those are wild dogs dwelling near humans that must have emerged with the advent of urban civilization in those regions.
      Their high numbers (up to several hundred thousand in some big settlements) are promoted by: warm climate; large amounts of food waste; supplemental feeding by humans, the diversity of the locality, which is an intricate low-rise housing with street bazaars, large slums, numerous fences, inner yards and wastelands. Under such conditions, ecological niches also remain for other species, e.g., homeless cats, rodents, etc. But the status of dogs and cats does not quite meet the concept of "homeless". There are actually no pet dogs and cats there (they only occur in Europeanized districts). Hence, the problem of animal "overpopulation" has been taken out into the street". Populations depend on the available forage in the presence of intra- and interspecies competition (the latter being weakened by a mosaic pattern of the environment).
      In that region, the dogs are regarded as a source of danger, above all, because they spread rabies. Other disadvantages, including bites, are only considered in most Europeanized districts, where the TNR strategy is not welcome and not used. To suppress or prevent rabies outbreaks, dogs are shot and poisoned on a massive scale, or occasionally mass capture with lethal injections is practiced. In this case, however, the numbers are rapidly recovered until the next shooting or poisoning. Actually, the organizers do not set themselves the task of eliminating street dogs, their only specific objective being suppression of a local rabies outbreak.
      As an alternative measure of rabies control, Indian animal protectors have proposed the TNR procedure for dogs. In this case, their purpose is not elimination of dog homelessness as there are very few pet dogs there. The objective is stabilization of the population and rabies vaccination. During the last 10 years, some rapid and cheap technologies have been used in some Indian cities in the absence of a prolonged post-operative control. Dogs remain outdoors, their mass mortality being caused by "natural" factors. In the city of Jaipur, the dog population was reported to be stabilized, its number may have been somewhat reduced. That happened when the number of neutered dogs reportedly (non-confirmed evidence) reached about 70% of the population. In other bigger cities, final stabilization has not been attained: huge populations make it impossible to attain the required proportion of neutered animals. In this case, no-release removal and putting away of "problem" (aggressive, etc.) dogs is funded by the municipalities. There are no municipality-owned shelters there. The practice of killing dogs in a district where there is an outbreak of rabies still exists.
      3. In Russia, pariah dogs are not common, because this country has different nature and climate conditions, a different urban environment pattern and a historically-developed culture of animal maintenance of its own. Like in Europe and the United States, the majority of dogs and cats and in our cities are pet animals. Whereas in South Asia, the bulk of the urban dog population are out in the streets, in Russia they are maintained at home. Homeless dogs in Russian cities are abandoned pets or their offspring. In Russia, there are no "purebred lines of homeless dogs" existing for centuries. A large number of homeless dogs there is an index of declining responsibility of the owners and incompetence of the authorities. Whereas in South Asia, dense populations of pariah dogs have been in existence for centuries, in Russia, a sharp increase in the numbers of homeless dogs is only recorded during the last 10 - 15 years. Our cities have not been adjusted to a non-conflict presence of neglected dogs, including interspecies relations: the urban and rural environment in Russia is by far less mosaic compared with the South. Dogs can penetrate almost anywhere. There are relatively few shelters for animals that are potential competitors or prey to dogs (except synathropic rodents). As a result, when homeless dogs are numerous they kill cats on a massive scale in high-rise housing blocks and domestic animals in forest parks and suburbs.
      Analysis of a set of facts reveals that the optimum for Russia is a version of western approach envisaging an active professional impact on homeless animal populations by no-return capture, a network of shelters, a network of open admission shelters and supplemental TNR application (e.g., cat "colonies", small groups of dogs in enclosed enterprises), but the major factor for population reduction could only be prevention from pet breeding.
      April, 2005

How birth control does good to dogs, cats and veterinaries.
Address to the National College of Veterinaries
in the city of San Jose in Cost Rica on 25.10.2001
Merit Clifton, the newspaper "Animal People" (translation of some excerpts)
"Animal People", Congress of the National College of Veterinarians,
San Jose in Cost Rica on 25.10.2001

      "Programs for neutering homeless dogs and cats in order to reduce their numbers commonly face great problems because with fewer than 70% of pet dog or cat females are sterilized those programs result in an increase in the population rather than its reduction. A decline in the number of newborns has the tendency of augmenting the survival of the population. Pregnant and nursing females that are not neutered face fewer competitors, and, hence, stand greater chance of getting prey. Pups and kittens getting higher quality and more abundant forage are less susceptible to disease since they stay longer with the mother and face fewer external threats. Until 70% of the population of dogs and cats have not been neutered, neutering of some of the population rather than the entire population may result in a reproductive explosion. And that often desolates individuals and animal-protection organizations who attempt to neuter animals individually, thinking that they can change the situation neutering the small number of animals they can afford. If that fact, which reduces the causes of young mortality, is not taken into account, the TNR ("trap/neuter/release") projects can fail completely, particularly in case animal protection organizations have promised more than can actually be achieved. We see that happen again and again throughout the world when neutering projects fail to cover 70% of the cat and dogs populations or in the locality where neutering is performed before the onset of a new season during the season of mass breeding, the populations of dogs and cats increase rather than decline."
      "Where homeless dogs are abundant, alley cats are normally in small numbers. They live on the roofs and lead a nocturnal mode of life because there are dogs outdoors during the daytime and hence, the cats are ousted by the dogs with respect to forage sources. Likewise, dogs affect the homeless cat population by killing homeless cats, particularly kittens."


      Prepared by Vladimir Rybalko, biologist
      April, 2005

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