Stray Dogs: The Breaking Point

Ever since the neanderthal era, dogs have been man’s best friend; as a species, we’ve bred them to suffice our needs and wants in order to create better companions. Initially, humans adopted dogs for protection; humanity evolved, subsequently becoming more civilized, which made the use of dogs as protectors obsolete. Nevertheless, these animals are still our loyal companions. Although dogs are our pets and are cared for by many families, the canine population has increased drastically in the past years; there’s been a massive influx of stray dogs in cities and thousands are now roaming the streets without shelter or protection.

The city of Lima, Peru has been facing this problem for several years now; for this reason, one would assume that the government could have implemented systems which reduce stray dog overpopulation. Unfortunately, this is not the case as the authorities have taken little to no care regarding this issue. Only two out of forty districts in Lima have a municipal shelter and there’s no government agency dedicated towards animal protection.

Villa del Salvador is the second poorest district in the Lima department. The streets, painted with the dark brown color of wet mud, the houses can barely hold their own weight and the poignant, incessant smell can overwhelm the senses of anyone who dares to walk through this district. It isn’t hard to find a stray dogs; they are everywhere.

Villa del Salvador Slums

Locals had their eyes fixated on me as I pet the dogs; a stray approached me, his tongue didn’t fit inside his mouth and his body was covered in scars. Once he was a few meters away, we shared a stare; the dog then left in a scurry never to be seen again. No owner to take care of them; even dogs, man’s best friend, are perishing because of our lack of humanity.

Mutts meander through the streets, looking for proper shelter, food, and water, yet, they are not able to get these as no one will take care of them. This situation is not only hurting dogs, but the people in poor districts too. Because of the absence of some type of health facility for animals, these carry zoonotic diseases which usually infect the community such as B. bacilliformis, a newly discovered disease which has already infected 15 people in Peru. Additionally, dogs will howl incessantly, creating an utterly unbearable environment.

Villa del Salvador, as well as other districts in Lima are not sustainable places to live in; limeños need change, however, change won’t come unless we take the matter into our own hands. After conducting extensive research, everything lead towards two alternatives: euthanasia and sterilization.

Euthanasia, a procedure approved by the PETA, consists on putting an animal to sleep painlessly through an injection. This method is currently used on dogs who have stayed a minimum of 72 hours on a shelter in order to create space for other strays. Euthanasia has been adopted as a viable method of neutralizing dogs by many countries all over the world including the US and most of the European Union. Idealy, mass euthanasia should take place in order to reduce the population significantly with a proper system in place which helps maintain the population. There’s only one downside to this solution, many people are opposed to euthanasia because it’s considered to be morally and ethically incorrect.

The second option, sterilization, is a permanent method of birth control also known as a neutering. Studies show that neutered dogs live, on average, one and a half years more than dogs that haven’t gone through the procedure. Also, dog sterilization reduces the risk of contriving STDs. As euthanasia, sterilization has a disadvantage, many countries in Europe consider it to be “sexual mutilation” therefore, avoid it at all costs and is only applied to dogs who medically need it.

Fortunately, there’s also another approach to this problem which doesn’t include changing the dog’s natural state, though, not as effective for the reduction of stray dog population: adopting. Instead of buying a dog from a pet shop, it would be better if people could foster a pet from a shelter. Not only will you be changing the fate of an, otherwise, condemned dog, but a better relationship would be formed as it would be based on love rather than looks.

Idealy, these three should be promoted and funded by the government, both euthanasia and sterilization as public services and on the other hand adoption by incentivizing people to adopt rather than buying from a pet store. Of course a proper system should be in place which would help maintain a balanced dog population.

So, why haven’t the authorities created programs that control the stray dog population through these techniques? Well, as many things in this world, the reason revolves around money. Both solutions are relatively costly, a proper euthanasia procedure may cost from 50–150$ while sterilization may range from 45–145$.

The capita needed for a plan with such a massive scale would have to be supplied through government funds. Being that Peru is one of the most corrupt countries with a chaotic bureaucracy system, it doesn’t seem likely that the government invest on implementing a solution being that this problem doesn’t appear to be as important as others. It’s been a long wait and will still be until some change is made to solve this massive problem.