“My name is Vladimir. I live in the Museum of Metalworks.” People in cities with community dogs care about them, feed them, protect them, and consider them communally ‘owned’ pets. When community dogs in Havana, Cuba, were threatened with impoundment and killing, caretakers mobilized to save them. The Associated Press reports that “More than a dozen state institutions, including Cuba's Central Bank, have taken community dogs under their wings in recent years, assigning them official IDs and housing and granting them year-round medical care and protection from the city dogcatcher.”
A study in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior finds that sterilizing community dogs actually encourages kindness toward street dogs as caretakers provide positive role models for others to emulate. This resulted in “affection toward dogs” and people “tolerated and perhaps enjoyed the presence of these community dogs.” It calls community dog sterilization “a promising step toward improving the welfare of street dogs.”
Moreover, if they do end up in shelters and are not returned to their neighborhoods, another study found that the vast majority of community dogs, including those who are wary of people, can be turned around via training in the shelter. Specifically, it found that “most of the dogs improved after the application of the rehabilitation program. This result was consistent with previous studies suggesting that training improves the dog’s behavior as well as its interaction with people.”
Unfortunately, throughout the U.S., approaches regarding what to do about these dogs have been as extreme and disturbing as the numbers of dogs reported have been exaggerated. Local shelters and city officials have, to date, largely focused on lethal methods of addressing these populations of dogs, including the shocking and cruel suggestion by one American city council member to employ helicopter gunships to shoot and kill them. Indeed, the majority of community dogs do not die from disease or car accidents, they are killed by the local shelter after animal control officers round them up in order to put them to death.
It is both tragic and heartbreaking, especially since there is a humane, non-lethal, and effective way to protect and assist these dogs. Sterilization of community dogs, in lieu of killing, is being done successfully by rescue groups in U.S. cities, on reservations, in U.S. territories like American Samoa, the Bahamas, and Puerto Rico, throughout Europe, and in other countries.
Learn the hows and whys of community dog sterilization - the next frontier of the No Kill movement.