The sufferings of sterilized stray dogs

Anushka Nepal

Anushka Nepal

The sufferings of sterilized stray dogs

Dogs get involved in fights, which, activists say, increases the risk of stitches tearing up, resulting in severe, often life-threatening conditions

A few weeks back, Irfan Khan, an animal rights activist and founder of Paaila, a team that works for animal welfare, rescued a stray dog from Imadol, Lalitpur. The dog was suffering from hypothermia and was in critical condition. The illness was the outcome of releasing the dog into the street on the same day it was neutered (surgery done to prevent reproduction). The dog recovered but the pain it had to endure, he says, was unimaginable.

There are many instances, Khan says, where he has had to rescue stray dogs after their condition worsened after castration. “Most of those dogs were released before their wounds would heal. The situation is worse if it’s during the summer/rainy season,” he says.

The problem is not just limited to infections but is much more critical. Sneha Shrestha, the founder of Sneha’s Care, an organization working for animal welfare, says that she has gotten several calls in the past, looking for assistance after the surgery wounds got worse. “There are times when we have found dogs with their intestines exposed,” she says.

Beena Pant, animal rights activist and a member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Nepal, an organization working for animal rights, says that a dog needs to be kept for at least three days before it’s released back into the community. In the case of stray dogs, most of them don’t have a caretaker in their community. Furthermore, they get involved in dog fights, which, activists say, increases the risk of stitches tearing up, resulting in severe, often life-threatening conditions.

Pant adds that when dogs are released on the same day as they are neutered they might still be disoriented from the general anesthesia used during the surgery. This increases their risk of being prone to accidents. “We came across an incident where a dog was released immediately after surgery and got hit by a truck and died on the spot. It was still reeling from the aftereffects of the anesthesia,” says Shrestha.

However, there are many countries/organizations that follow the catch-neuter-vaccinate-release (CNVR) scheme, where a dog is neutered, vaccinated, and released on the same day unless there are any visible complications. But that might not be the most ideal method in the case of Nepal, says Shrestha. “The scheme is good for population control and rabies prevention but there are factors that complicate it,” she says.

When released on the same day, stray dogs are under the influence of antibiotics to heal their wounds, whose effects last for 72 hours. “Antibiotics make them weak, and they are in need of nutritional food, which they don’t get when out on the streets,” says Shrestha. One way this method could work, she says, is if the organizations are to coordinate with locals from every community. “There are many dog lovers willing to help the organizations out. If there are people in a community who can take responsibility for feeding as well as taking care of these dogs, the CNVR scheme would have a better outcome,” she says.

It might not be the same for every locality. There are only a handful of people, Pant says, who look after stray dogs in their community. “Most of them [people] are ignorant. In that case, no matter how hard we try, it’s still not possible to get assistance from the locals,” she says.

Unfortunately, this ignorance goes beyond not taking care of the dogs. Radha Gurung, communications officer, Animal Nepal, an organization working for animal rights in Nepal, says that sometimes female dogs are injected with birth control shots meant for humans, which can be detected when performing a midline surgery (surgery done by making an incision in the abdominal area) during castration. “Sometimes, it’s the veterinary professionals who suggest the use of this vaccination,” she says.

Shrestha adds that there are instances where veterinary technicians who aren’t authorized to perform surgeries neuter dogs. Besides being illegal, the chances of complications are high when surgeries are performed by inexperienced technicians.

“Even for people who work in this field, not everyone is sincere,” says Pant. Many dogs have been dropped off at the wrong locations post surgery. Bijay Shrestha, a 32-year-old local from Boudha who takes care of the stray dogs in his community, says one of his dogs got misplaced a year back. “Fortunately, I was able to retrieve my dog, which was dropped off a few kilometers away, after getting in touch with the person responsible for releasing him,” he says.

It’s the knowledge and empathy that people lack towards animals, Pant says, that’s responsible for such carelessness. Dogs like to mark their territory, and they don’t prefer to wander off beyond that, as they fear getting attacked by other dogs. When dogs are picked up from the same area, she says, it’s important to also know in which locality they belong. Not having this information, activists say, dogs are dropped off at one place, assuming they will reach the community they belong to. “They [dogs] have to go through a lot of psychological and physical trauma just for survival,” says Pant.

Shristi Singh Shrestha, animal rights activist, says that the failure of organizations to communicate with one another is an issue too. Most organizations, she says, are unaware of the areas where other similar organizations have worked or are still working on castrating dogs. Although neutered dogs are given a mark (a visible and permanent cut) on their left ear, there are times, Shrestha says, when neutered dogs are accidentally captured for surgery. “While the professionals find out about it later, the dog has to go through a lot of psychological trauma from being captured repeatedly,” she says.

However, Shrestha from Sneha’s Care, who is also the president of the Federation of Animal Welfare Nepal (FAWN), a national association of organizations working for animal welfare, disagrees. Most of the organizations working in this sector, she says, are registered at FAWN. “We have a group message where all of these organizations keep us posted on the works they do,” she says. She believes that it’s the groups that work on castrating dogs independently, as well as technicians performing surgeries illegally, that fuel the problem of repeated animal captures.

Neutering dogs might be the best solution for population control, but the problems surrounding the solution are far worse. The government is well aware of this, says Dr Awadesh Jha, Senior Veterinary Officer at the Division of Agriculture and Livestock, under the Kathmandu Metropolitan City. “While we are trying to perform castration as systematically as possible, there are a few problems we have been facing,” he says, one being the tedious process of procuring medications needed to neuter dogs. The process is tender-based, and it takes nearly three months to procure these medicines. The distribution takes another couple of months. “Sometimes, we don’t receive the medicines at all, forcing us to blacklist the responsible party, ” he says.

But the new plan they’re proposing, Jha says, should solve all the issues faced during castrating stray dogs. This strategy is the extension of their old project called ‘Manumitra’, a project solely dedicated to controlling stray dog population in Kathmandu. The project has been dormant for more than a year. The new plan is to mobilize any non-governmental organization interested in working with the government to different wards, starting with Kathmandu Metropolitan City. There are a few criteria these organizations must meet, which include being able to provide shelter for at least two days post operation, a good surgical team, and a vehicle for capturing the dogs.

“They will be assigned a particular ward, and they can move on to the next only if the particular ward’s chairperson gives a written notice that every dog in that ward has been castrated,” he says. For each dog neutered, the organization will receive Rs 2,500 but it will be solely responsible for procuring the required medications. The plan, he says, should be up and running by the end of the current fiscal year. As of now, there are six organizations that have agreed to assist them in this strategy. “I believe it will eventually be adapted in other metropolitan cities and municipalities,” he says.

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