New programme has been rolled out
Last week, Sufyan, a resident of Karachi’s Defence, was out on his routine walk when he came across bodies of a dozen stray dogs on the street adjacent to his house. They were all poisoned to death.
“During the coronavirus lockdown, I had befriended these animals,” he said. “I fed them food twice a day and they accompanied me for my evening walks.”
He shared that stray dogs were like a family to him. “Imagine watching someone beloved suffocate to death while their organs shut down one by one.”
Every year, the Sindh government kills hundreds of stray dogs in the province, especially Karachi. They are either shot dead or poisoned. Multiple people like Sufyan have lost countless of their four-legged friends.
Every time a rabies case is reported or a dog bite incident runs on the television, a campaign to kill stray dogs kicks off. But time and again, the mass killing of stray dogs has proven futile in controlling their population.
“There are 2.8 million dogs in Sindh,” Sindh Rabies Control Programme head Afzal Zaidi said.
“Globally, stray dogs give birth twice a year, but in Pakistan, for some reason, the animals have three reproduction cycles in a year. The litter size of one dog ranges between six and 16.”
According to the former Karachi deputy commissioner, a reason for the multiplying population of these animals is the availability of food in the streets. Animal rights activists and experts reason that dogs are territorial animals. When they see their species decreasing, they start reproducing rapidly. It’s like the survival of the fittest.
“The courts are against the idea of culling stray dogs,” Zaidi told SAMAA Digital. “We went through other practices across the world to control the population of stray dogs and decided to adopt the Turkish method of trap, neuter, and release.”
For this, the Sindh government has rolled out an Rs900 million Sindh Rabies Control Programme to help municipalities manage their stray dog population. “We want to develop a functional system where dogs can be neutered.” Once spayed, the dogs will be released back to their areas.
For now, the animals will be chemically castrated, especially the females. Their ovary and uterus will be removed. “The process will require the dogs to be kept at a facility overnight because their wounds need to be monitored.”
The government is planning to set up a facility for the spaying and neutering of dogs in Gulshan-e-Maymar. Teams with trained staff will be formed as well.
In the first phase, stray dogs will be neutered in poorer districts such as Surjani Town. For now, the programme won’t be extended to Defence and Clifton. “Once we begin neutering stray dogs in Karachi, a plan for other parts of Sindh such as Sukkur, Larkana, and Hyderabad will be chalked out too,” Zaidi said.
He pointed out that there were a number of issues that still needed to be addressed. For one, hiring people who are willing to catch the dogs. “Muslim men are usually reluctant in taking up jobs like these because of religious restrictions.”
Another problem is the tagging of dogs. Collars are not a good option because dogs usually outgrow and choke on them.
Zaidi added that the “real challenge” is to protect community-owned dogs. There are multiple instances where people in a locality adopt a stray dog. But because there’s no identification, they mostly become a victim of the authorities’ wrath. This is exactly what happened with Sufyan.