Stray Animal Population Sparks Concern in India and Russia: Divergent Approaches and Public Safety Risks

The issue of stray animal populations is a growing concern in several countries, including India. Stray animals pose public health and safety risks, such as the spread of rabies and dog attacks, which can have severe consequences. In February 2023, a vicious attack by stray dogs on a 4-year-old boy in Hyderabad, India, was caught on a security camera, causing widespread shock and horror.

The presence of stray animals also has economic and environmental repercussions. They can cause damage to public and private property, and their presence can negatively impact the local ecosystem. In Russia, for example, concerns have been raised about the increasing number of stray dogs and their impact on Arctic foxes and other wildlife.

India’s Approach: Animal Birth Control Program

In recent years, both India and Russia have implemented policies to address the problem of stray animals, although their approaches differ significantly. In India, the government has implemented a national program for the sterilization and vaccination of stray dogs called the Animal Birth Control (ABC) program. This program aims to control the population of stray dogs through a humane and sustainable method. Under the program, stray dogs are sterilized and vaccinated against rabies and then released back to the exact location where they were picked up.

According to a report by the Animal Welfare Board of India, the ABC program has been successful in reducing the stray dog population by 28% in Jaipur, 50% in Chennai, and 70% in Delhi. Moreover, the program has also led to a decline in dog bites and rabies cases in these cities.

International organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), have commended India’s efforts to control the population of stray dogs humanely.

Russia’s Approach: so-called “humane euthanasia”

In contrast, Russia has proposed a new animal law that seeks to replace TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) programs with “humane euthanasia” to control the number of stray animals. While the bill aims to ensure the safety of citizens in regions with a high number of stray dog attacks, it has been met with mixed reactions. Moreover, the proposed law does not mention any adoption or shelter programs for stray animals, and there are concerns that it may lead to the uncontrolled shooting of stray animals, as it is the cheapest way for regions to deal with the problem. Furthermore, the majority of Russians are against euthanasia as a means of dealing with stray animals, preferring alternative methods such as sterilization and adoption programs.

In contrast, It is illegal to kill stray dogs in India. A 2001 law states strays should instead be picked up, neutered, and vaccinated against rabies, before being released. But in light of the gruesome attacks, many of which have happened to children, some have attempted to challenge the law.

The ABC and TNR programs have success in the regions where they are used

In some regions of Russia (Astrakhan, Buryatia, Saratov, Volgograd, and other regions), advocates for shooting stray animals have emerged due to the announcement by the regional authorities “failure of the TNR program”. However, according to the experts, it is the regions where the TNR  program is not being implemented, and the allocated funds are being misused by local authorities. In these areas, shelters are not built or are in poor condition, and vaccination and sterilization exist only on paper.

The situation in India is similar, where not every city has the resources to implement this model. There are also concerns about the quality of the program, with some animal welfare organizations reporting poor conditions in animal shelters and inadequate veterinary care.

Noida, a satellite city of more than half a million on the outskirts of Delhi, remains “very disorganized,” and her organization is the only non-profit covering the entire city – a colossal and tedious task for a small team. Operations are even more difficult in rural India, where electricity is lacking, and maintaining cold storage for vaccines is an issue.

Russia and India have implemented policies to address the problem, but their approaches differ significantly. India’s policy focuses on humane methods such as sterilization and adoption programs, while Russia’s proposed policy relies on euthanasia, which is considered inhumane by many. The effectiveness of these policies and their implementation remains a challenge, but it is clear that urgent action is needed to control the population of stray animals and ensure public safety.

According to Russian media, a meeting on the draft law was held in the State Duma the other day. The majority of participants supported the document, which indicates a high chance of its adoption. At the same time, animal rights activists reacted ambiguously to the list of speakers at the meeting, considering that supporters of different positions were disproportionately represented.