Free-roaming dogs and cats around the world face a life battling against hunger, indiscriminate breeding, disease and abuse. With large numbers of street animals comes the increased risk to human and animal welfare, including the spread and transmission of zoonotic diseases (ones which can spread from animals to people), most notably rabies. Free-ranging animal populations also create public health issues, from dog bites and noise pollution to waste contamination and road traffic accidents. This has led to free-roaming animals being viewed with fear and concern in many countries.
We believe that free-roaming animal populations can live healthily and safely side by side with people, and Mayhew International works closely with local communities to help find practical solutions to their concerns, ultimately changing attitudes towards the animals living alongside them.
We work in Afghanistan, Georgia, India and Russia, all countries with very high numbers of free-roaming animals, to help maintain a healthy and controlled population of street dogs and cats through multi-faceted population management programmes.
There are many reasons for high numbers of free-roaming or homeless animals, ranging from unneutered owned pets leading to indiscriminate breeding, poor waste management allowing animals to scavenge for food easily, a lack of coordinated veterinary input and/or knowledge, deficient legislation and poverty.
Large free-roaming animal populations are related to the density of human populations in an area. With people comes access to food, water, shelter and conditions for unneutered animals to reproduce and multiply.
These large populations of free-roaming animals can cause health and welfare problems for both animals and humans. With greater animal numbers, public health and sanitation issues arise, the risk of disease increases and, in certain places, animal abuse that is born out of fear increases too.
The risk of contracting diseases that are transmittable from animals to humans creates a deep-set fear of free-roaming animals. This can lead to neglect and abuse of these animal communities.
In optimal conditions, an unneutered female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies in only six years. An unneutered female cat and her offspring can produce as many as 370,000 kittens in seven years, so it’s easy to see how these populations increase rapidly if left unchecked.
Sadly, government authorities in some countries have resorted to indiscriminate and inhumane methods to stem the visible free-roaming dog and cat populations. However, these culling programs only create short-term respite in the number of free-roaming animals in the community, as other animals will then migrate to this newly uninhabited area and reproduce. Not only that, they are often inhumane and cause undue pain and suffering to the animals.
A successful dog or cat population management programme has many components. We prioritise the following in the countries where we work: reproduction control (neutering), vaccination and parasite control, education, including veterinary training and capacity building.
Education is vital as the problems associated with free-roaming dogs and cats are all influenced by human behaviour. Education provides improved knowledge and empowerment as we see from the overseas vets that Mayhew has trained. It can also improve the quality of people’s lives, as they understand more about dog behaviour, dog-bite prevention and zoonotic diseases.
Not only is neutering an effective method for population control, it is also highly effective in reducing the risk of sexually transmitted cancers and other diseases of the reproductive organs.
Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumour (CTVT) is a common disease associated with free-roaming dogs worldwide, particularly prevalent in Afghanistan. Spread mostly through mating, but also through oral contact (i.e. biting and sniffing), it causes a cancerous mass to grow, which is painful and irritating to the animal. In many cases, without receiving chemotherapy, free-roaming animals with CTVT need to be humanely euthanized. CTVT is most commonly found in young, un-neutered dogs, and the best way of stopping the spread of this disease is through neutering.
Un-neutered females also face a higher risk of developing fatal infections of the womb, known as pyometras, and cancerous mammary tumours from having multiple litters. By neutering females, not only is the population controlled as fewer pups are born, but the risk of cancers and related diseases spreading is also reduced.
Free-roaming, homeless animals can be found worldwide, and are subjected to difficult lives tackling hunger, disease, abuse and indiscriminate breeding. By maintaining population control programmes, which include neutering of free-roaming animals, it is possible to tackle the issue of large populations and the issues involved. Neutering is part of the solution to managing populations in a humane and sustainable way, so that humans and free-roaming animals can live harmoniously side by side.
If you can help make the lives of these free-roaming dog and cat populations and the people they live alongside better, please consider donating today.Donate now
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