DEAR DR. FOX: What is your opinion of this article? Link: aeon.co/essays/dogs-on-indias-streets-can-be-freer-and-happier-than-many-pets.
It states that urban street dogs in India "have independent, peaceful, happy lives without a pet's constraints," and asks, "Why are they being persecuted and culled?" -- K.K., Northbrook, Illinois
DEAR K.K.: Thanks for sharing this essay and its rather distorted opinion.
The authors are Krithika Srinivasan of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and Chris Pearson of the University of Liverpool in the UK. Both need a reality check.
They state, "Wandering the streets of Chennai in southern India, we saw them dozing alone or in company on pavements, seeking shelter from the heat under a van, watching children playing on the beach, or being cared for by local residents. Part of Indian street life, these free-living dogs stand in stark contrast to the culture of pet ownership found in the West. Not only do they defy the image of the out-of-control and marauding canine stalking the sensationalist articles of 19th-century newspapers in Western Europe and North America, they ask us to question our sanitized cities and stewardship of a world with nature at so much risk."
It is easy to contrast the "freedom" of Indian street dogs with the lives of pet dogs in the West, but the U.S. has its own regions where dogs can be found roaming free, running in packs and injuring or killing small livestock -- and even attacking people. Futhermore, in the U.S. and other so-called developed countries, too many dogs suffer from inherited disorders (especially purebreds) and separation anxiety when left alone all day, often in crates, until their owners come home. Clearly, there are problems at both ends of this spectrum.
Humane, compassionate control is called for -- everywhere -- for the domesticated dog, including these aboriginal landrace varieties. In India, many of these wonderful "pariah" dogs suffer from a variety of diseases and are injured by traffic, but receive no veterinary care. Many of them are systematically poisoned or otherwise inhumanely killed to control their numbers, while others are harvested for the meat markets and pelt trade. And some village dogs are now crossbreeding, for better or for worse, with European breeds introduced and owned by affluent residents.
The authors of the article advocate peaceful co-existence with street dogs, which I find unacceptable for many reasons. In this case, the attitude of "live and let live" is an abdication of ethical responsibility for our oldest and most loyal of animal companions.
For more details, see the book "India's Animals: Helping the Sacred and the Suffering," which I co-authored with my wife, Deanna Krantz, who ran an animal shelter and provided full veterinary services in India for several years. She and her team spayed/neutered, vaccinated and rehomed many dogs in small communities, treating many animals for diseases and injuries that are much more prevalent in urban environments. We brought two of these dogs home to the U.S. and they are indeed intelligent, resilient, affectionate souls!
We continue to support Prakriti Save Nature Trust, an animal and environmental protection organization in South India that is run by Dr. M. Sugumaran and his son (both veterinarians). This is a registered charity that would welcome the support of any and all readers of this column. For details, visit prakritigudalur.in. For instructions on donating, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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