by Purviz Birdie, Contributing Writer/Volunteer
In August 2016, I learned that people in the city of Karachi, Pakistan killed nearly 700 stray dogs in a mere two days. This troubled me deeply and shook me to my core.
This is my hometown, and I spent much of my life trying to save those dogs.
Growing up in Karachi, I remember that mass stray dog “cullings” were routine. Since stray dogs and cats were found all over the city, and since there were plenty in my own neighborhood, our small community tried to do what we could to help them. We provided a haven for many of them; they knew they were safe with us and could easily find food to survive. Typically, their interactions with us were quite limited. At first, they didn’t want to get too close, but once they established trust, they would get just close enough for us to provide them with water and food scraps. They were the sweetest, bravest dogs I ever had the good fortune of loving.
Forty years ago, verterinarians were almost non-existent in the city. A handful of private practice veterinarians provided some services, but by and large humane medical treatment for animals was nowhere to be found. There was an old decrepit animal hospital built by the British SCPA several decades ago, but any treatment given to the animals was basic and primitive. With few verterinarians and countless dogs who were in constant danger, we were the only ones who could help them with their injuries.
Male dog fights were common when females were in estrous cycles and sometimes the males would get severely injured. Our primary goal was to treat the wounded dogs before their injuries caused fatal infections.
Once nursed back to health, these stray dogs became quite attached to us. The females birthed many litters of puppies, and although they were adorable as puppies, eventually the pups added to the overpopulation problem in the city. This was a heart-breaking situation, which I personally faced. Sadly, we did not have the means to spay or neuter all the dogs to alleviate the suffering.
To this day, there are still very few veterinarians in the city to spay and neuter stray dogs. Unfortunately, it appears the problem has only worsened since I was there in the 1970’s.
Such scenarios often play out in many cities around the world. According to recent estimates, there are about 600 million stray dogs and 100 million stray cats worldwide. That means that not only are hundreds of millions of dogs suffering, but humans are also facing great health risks as well.
Every year, about 60,000 people die from rabies related to dog bites, while another 15 million receive post-exposure treatment to avert the deadly disease. About 99% of the rabies fatalities are caused by dog bites. In fact, my friend’s 14-year-old son died from rabies.
Last year, Karachi’s Jinnah Hospital treated close to 6,500 people for dog bites. In an effort to control the stray dog population and possibly an epidemic of rabies in the city, the authorities typically poison the dogs – usually with strychnine, which is hidden in meat and left overnight in areas heavily populated with dogs. The locals have spoken out against this inhumane practice, but the city authorities lament that there is no other way to cope with the overpopulation of dogs.
Thankfully, there is another way. 600 Million Dogs is currently working fervently towards developing a method of sterilization in the form of a safe and single dose cookie. Using a “spay and neuter cookie” to permanently sterilize dogs and cats would dramatically control the stray animal population.
Join us in our mission to save all dogs from suffering. Consider supporting 600 Million Dogs and visit their website to learn about how you can help to curtail the global stray dog and cat overpopulation problem.