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NO DISTURBING IMAGES ARE GOING TO BE SHOWN IN THIS ARTICLE AND IN THE EMBEDDED VIDEO.

New year, same problems. Same stray dogs mass culling, new protests. The periodic practice for fighting rabies and animal overpopulation has begun in many regions of Pakistan. The government has started to roll out its recurring plan to kill 25,000 stray dogs within a period of 60 days. The common methods used by the authorities are shooting and poisoning. Nonetheless, citizens can contribute to the practice by hanging dogs at the side of the roads. Municipal workers later collect the dead bodies and load and pile them onto trucks for disposal, as if they are regular waste.

According to the information and images provided by some local associations, in collaboration with international organizations, the mass killing has already started in the regions of Lodhran, Kehror Pakka and Dunyapur under the special directive of Commissioner Javed Akhtar Mahmood. But it is just a matter of time before the other areas get back on track with the plan.

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Stray Dogs Mass Culling: A Periodic Operation That Is Starting Anew

The operation is not newly discovered in Pakistan, being part of a seasonal program to address stray dogs overpopulation and to control infectious diseases. Like rabies, which represents an endemic disease in the country. Cases are mostly diagnosed on clinical grounds only, with scant data available online.

Very few control programs are in place in the country, aside the periodic stray dogs mass culling. According to RabiesAlliance.org, Pakistan has a SARE (Stepwise Approach towards Rabies Elimination) score of 1.5, which means that the country has yet to develop a national rabies control program.

Rabies Data Estimated by RabiesAlliance.org
Human rabies deaths/year verified: 448
Dog vaccination coverage: 5.09%
Cost of rabies/year: $68,139,347 USD
PEP treatment/year: 80,561
Latest SARE score: 1.5 (2019)
There is no One Health working group / Rabies taskforce in place
* https://rabiesalliance.org/country/pakistan/

The main vector for rabies in Pakistan appears to be stray dogs, which roam freely in the streets among open-air garbage. For this reason, the government of Pakistan affirmed that the mass culling is currently the only way to provide a solution to the problem. But with 70,000 cases of dog bites reported between the months of January and May 2020, and the numbers still rising this year, citizens and international associations are starting to doubt the effectiveness of this system.

If you kill over 50 thousands stray dogs every single year and the problems are still there, maybe you should ask yourself why it isn’t working.

Valentina Bagnato, Head of International Relations Office at OIPA International

“Regardless of what nation it is, we need to address the problem at its core.” – Simon Plazolles-Hayes

Being a signatory member of the World Organization on Animal Health (OIE), Pakistan should ensure the five basic freedoms for animals:

  • Freedom from hunger;
  • Freedom from fear and distress;
  • Freedom from discomfort;
  • Freedom from pain, injury and disease;
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour.

Nonetheless, Pakistan continue with this practice in clear violation of the principles they agreed on. Considering this, OIPA International decided to take a step forward, sending a letter to the government.

The letter wrote by OIPA International and published on their website for anyone to share.

OIPA International: A Letter To Demand Change

As explained by Valentina Abagnato, Head of International Relations Office at OIPA International, the letter is just a small step to allow common people to voice their concerns:

There are mass killings in Azerbaijan, in Albania, in Uzbekistan, in Ukraine, in Pakistan. And it is difficult. Because many times organizations and citizens face a wall. Both from the institutions, from the lack of local laws and regulations that do not protect these animals. But also on an international level. It is difficult to be able to intervene, because there is no regulatory body that can guarantee a minimum of welfare for these animals.

Despite the lack of regulatory bodies, Valentina is confident that sharing the problem internationally and inform the communities of the situation, is the best action plan at the moment:

The really important thing is information and education for the communities. Share as much as possible, so that situations come to light. Step by step, perhaps at levels of the highest institutions, they will realize that it is no longer a marginal problem. It is a problem that people care about and they want to fight. So sharing is very important. To show that people know, are aware of the issue and they do not turn away.

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It is a dog chasing its own tail. Without proper education and information, it will never stop.Valentina Abagnato

Also Simon Plazolles-Hayes, Youth Outreach and Campaigns Officer at PETA, claimed that the stray dogs mass culling will not provide any real solution, both to the rabies and the overpopulation problems. He also assessed that education and neuter programs are essental to create relevant change:

Education is always integral when it comes to living alongside animals. If there is an overpopulation crisis of homeless animals, the only way to address it is to address the source of the issue. Stray dogs that are not sterilized have the capacity to breed and create more and more litters. Simply killing them will ensure that it’s just a perpetual problem. The only way to address this problem is to implement a comprehensive spay and neuter program. Only then, the problem will be addressed.

Similar situations in other countries seem to get the benefit of the spay an neuter program for stray dogs, like Simon explained:

The government hasn’t yet commented on the matter, neither on the criticism received so far on its programme. Most likely, the stray dogs mass culling will continue unperturbed like nothing happened. At least for the rest of this year.

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