Today is International Dogs Day
RISHIKESH, 25 Aug: Humane Society International/India has signed a memorandum of understanding with Rishikesh Nagar Nigam to expand its humane dog population management and community engagement programme in the holy township. The programme, which includes animal birth control and anti-rabies vaccinations—aims to spay/neuter at least 80% of the dog population in Rishikesh over a period of two years. This will not only improve animal welfare by reducing the number of dogs on the streets, but also facilitates a more harmonious co-existence between dogs and local residents as well as the thousands of tourists who flock to the city for yoga retreats and water sports on the River Ganga.
Rishikesh is home to thousands of street dogs, who historically have lived peacefully alongside local communities. In recent years, however, Rishikesh’s residents have cited an increase in the number of dogs roaming the streets and requested a humane solution from the municipal corporation. As, in other cities in India, increasing street dog populations can have negative impacts on tourism, and contribute to dog bites and rabies cases. When the number of dogs exceeds the community’s capacity to care for them, the dogs can also suffer from malnutrition and disease and may be targeted for inhumane relocation.
Uttarakhand employs a state-wide approach for the humane management of street dogs. Since 2016, HSI/India, in collaboration with various municipal corporations, has sterilised and rabies vaccinated more than 42,000 dogs in Uttarakhand. The expansion to Rishikesh follows successful dog management programmes in the cities of Dehradun, Mussoorie and Nainital. In Dehradun alone, HSI/India has successfully sterilised 74.9% of the city’s dog population.
The programme has been welcomed by the local municipal corporation. The project will include daily on-ground catching of dogs in Rishikesh, followed by bringing them to HSI/India’s Dehradun facility for sterilisation and vaccination against rabies, and then returning them to Rishikesh after they have fully recovered.
From the learnings of previous animal birth control projects in Uttarakhand, the approach for the Rishikesh project is more focused. Piyush Patel, HSI/India’s senior manager for the Dog Management programne, explains, “In order to maximise impact and effectively utilise resources, we have decided to take a female-centric approach where we will be sterilising 80% of female dogs in Rishikesh. Research shows that sterilising females has a far greater impact in controlling the dog population than sterilising males, and is more cost-effective. We will monitor this approach over the next few years and share our findings with the larger animal welfare community. If successful, this may shape all animal birth control projects in the future.”
The programme will also focus on community engagement to ensure public awareness, mitigation of human-dog conflict and address dog welfare concerns.