Using poison to control the stray dog population is bad public health.
We all understand the problems caused by an out-of-control dog population. Stray dogs and dogs who are not controlled and cared for by their owners lead to attacks on people and other animals, unsanitary conditions caused by garbage bags being torn open and overpopulation of dogs when they are not spayed and neutered and are allowed to run wild.
Poisoning dogs may seem like a quick, easy and relatively cheap solution. But it doesn’t work, and it’s bad for the community. It would be much more effective for local authorities to enforce existing animal control laws (like leash requirements) and implement (and enforce) policies that will protect humans and dogs such as pet registration and encouragement of spaying and neutering.
Poisoning is dangerous, cruel and, in the end, does not work.
Poisoning is not an effective long-term method of reducing the population of stray dogs
While spay and neuter programs reduce dogs populations long term, in areas where dog have been poisoned, the stray dog population returns to its original size in about a year. According to the organization Vetwork in the UK:
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) now recognises that slaughter often produces a short term effect. Even maximal catching rates (up to 24% of dog population per year) make no significant impact. Where dogs are removed others migrate into the area to fill the ecological niche.” (1)
In a project in Australia using poisoned meatballs to control wild dogs, “populations returned to their initial abundance within 1 year.” (2)
Poisoning dogs is a short-term solution that, in the end, is not an effective way to control the population of stray and poorly cared for dogs.
Dog Poisoning poses a hazard to people, pets and other wildlife
In addition to killing targeted dogs, poisoning is dangerous for people, pets and other wildlife. In one wild dog poisoning project and study in Australia it was found that the unconsumed poisoned bate remains a hazard to animals and humans for up to 8 months, whether it is in an area that gets rained on or not (3).
Poison that is not eaten by dogs at the time of the poisoning can kill wildlife, pet dogs or children who find it long after it’s been set out.
Also, strychnine does not have to be eaten to kill. It can poison animals and people by getting in to the ground water, being inhaled if released in the air or absorbed through mucus membranes. It is not safe to have strychnine uncontrolled in our community.
Dog poisoning is unnecessarily cruel
Strychnine, the poison used to eradicate dogs causes a slow and painful death. Whether ingested by the stray dog who is targeted, the family pet who accidentally eats the poisoned meat or, god forbid, the child who is playing in an area where poisoned bate is left, only a small amount of the poison is required to cause death.
Before dying from strychnine poisoning a dog – or human – experiences extremely painful convulsions and muscle spasms and eventually dies, slowly, from suffocation. (4)
In comparison, euthanizing problem dogs by injection is quick, painless and safe for the community.
What does work to control the dog population?
The population of stray and uncontrolled dogs can be managed and we are able to do it right now. According to the ASPCA, spay and neuter programs are the only way to effectively reduce the population of unwanted animals long term (5).
Here on Caye Caulker we are fortunate to have an excellent Humane Society which is ready and equipped to not only humanely euthanize problem dogs but, more importantly to spay and neuter dogs and cats which will keep the population down long term. The Caye Caulker Humane Society spays and neuters regardless of a person’s ability to pay for the service and spays and neuters both stray and owned dogs.
By enforcing the current leash laws and using that enforcement as an opportunity to educate people about the effectiveness and availability of spaying and neutering, the CCVC could create lasting change in overpopulation of stray dogs on Caye Caulker while safeguarding the health and safety of the people of the island and their beloved pets. The CCVC could also work with the Humane Society to identify dangerous dogs and humanely euthanize them.
Caye Caulker Village is a small community and a spay and neutering education campaign would be fairy easy and cost effective.
Do any of us want to be back here in a year, or two or three, discussing the effectiveness of poisoning and its potential hazard to our community again when the stray dog population has recovered to its current size or bigger? It’s time for a long term, safe and effective policy for animal control on Caye Caulker.