With regard to population management, 'too many' really means 'not enough'
Around the world, dogs and cats are poisoned, beaten, neglected or otherwise abused because there are “too many” of them. A few seemingly simple solutions have been widely employed to solve the problem. Killing, removing, or sterilizing animals are tools routinely used by communities to reduce the numbers of dogs and cats.
But it’s not so simple. “Too many” is often an over simplification of the problem which has many different causes. Do “too many” skinny or sick dogs roam the streets? Do “too many” animals lack veterinary care, or a shelter, or a guardian that knows or cares enough to keep them from becoming a nuisance to others? Do “too many” aggressive dogs cause a problem for a population that is mostly valued pets?
“Too many” sounds simple but it’s a complex problem. More often, “too many” really means “not enough”. Not enough responsible guardians, not enough veterinary services, not enough food, or not enough understanding about why people have dogs and cats in the first place, and why they get into conflict with our communities. Not enough commitment to solve the problem for the long-term.
Sometimes, we get lucky: vaccination, or sterilization, or a licensing system alone can solve our problems, but most often it’s a combination of these and many more things. Promoting the simple “solution” – whether killing, sterilizing or registering – without understanding the root of the problem can be expensive and ineffective in the long-term because the symptom, not the problem, was addressed.
There is “not enough” of something else, too – scientific facts.
We are only just beginning to unravel the many complicated human, social, economic, public health and veterinary factors that lead to problems – and effective solutions – for dogs and cats in our communities. But one thing is very clear: each community is different, and each must be invested in solving its problems at their source, in a way that works for the community for the long-term.
This is why IFAW is proud to be a major sponsor of the 1st International Conference on Dog Population Management along with the the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, and our major partners at the International Companion Animal Management Coalition.
This conference will be the first public conference promoting collaboration between scientists, practitioners and policymakers on the issue of dog population management. Its goal is to achieve consensus on what is known, what is recommended, and the many innovative tools that are available to help us solve the welfare and public health concerns related to dog populations around the world.
We look forward to a day when “too many dogs” and simple, inhumane solutions are a thing of the past. We can only get there through a commitment to understanding that communities are complex; that solutions to our problems are multi-faceted and long-term, and that well-managed dog and cat populations are a benefit to us and our communities.