Managing stray animals

Published On: September 6, 2023 09:00 AM NPT By: Dr Kedar Karki

Dr Kedar Karki

The author is a senior veterinary health management consultant. He runs Devine veterinary clinic in Sinamangal, Kathmandu.

Socially and politically, the issue of stray animals has become a part of a big debate today. But till date, no organization or government has taken any effective steps to solve this problem. These animals often block traffic flow resulting in unnecessary wastage of time and many road accidents. The situation becomes worse when these animals roam or sit freely on the roads at night, as it becomes difficult for the drivers to spot the animal suddenly due to darkness. Thousands of people die every year due to stray animals. An accident occurs and hundreds of people lose their lives, and many more are injured. Stray animals like dogs and bulls have become a major issue for cities due to excessive barking and biting, causing not only noise pollution but also health concerns for the human society.

What are stray animals?

Stray animal or street animal can be defined in the following way –

Stray animals are defined as street animals that are born and breed on the street and have never been owned. Lost animals that cannot find their way home and end up wandering on the street. Animals abandoned by their owners who are thrown out of their homes or left on the streets. Animals that are discarded as useless by any government or non-government organization, veterinary hospital, cowshed or dairy farm. Stray animals are not wild animals.Wherever they go, they remain as domestic animals.

Cause  of  increase in stray cattle

The main cause of stray animals is abandonment followed by uncontrolled breeding among them, which results in multiple generations of street animals which further increases the population. Due to lack of time, people cannot take proper care of their pets. People hesitate to adopt stray animals as pets due to difficulties such as aggression, medical problems, cost of pet ownership, complications in breeding, health issues, changes in lifestyle. People are also afraid of keeping animals due to housing issues, legal proceedings for abandonment and registration. Large stray animals, especially cows and bulls, face more challenges. Most of these cows are abandoned by the owners of illegal or unregistered dairies and cattle sheds. The animals are abandoned by the owners due to loss of fertility, old age, cessation of milk production, inability to tolerate their huge appetite among others. The owners of lactating cattle and small calves allow them to go out so that they can graze in the open and the fodder for the house is saved.

Human health concerns from stray animals

There are many economic, religious, political and health concerns related to stray animals for human society. Most of the animals roaming the streets of cities are unhealthy; Thereby increasing health concerns for both humans and animals. They are living on rotting food and leftovers and garbage. They do not get hygienic food. Animals are the source of many of the most dangerous food-borne and water-borne pathogens. Many pathogens and pollutants as well as antibiotics, nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), hormones, sediments, heavy metals, organic matter, ammonia and methane enter water from animal feeding operations, which has the potential to damage the environmental food chain. They carry pathogens and have the potential to introduce them into the environment. The diseases caused by these pollutants not only result in temporary health problems but also lead to serious distress and even death.

Steps towards solution

Large animals, especially cows, contribute significantly to the stray animal population. The solution is to shut down unauthorized dairy farms. Establishment of large gaushalas at suitable locations capable of taking care of large numbers of stray cattle should be promoted. Any dairy farm or cattle shed whose animals go out of its premises should have its license canceled. If its cattle go out of its premises, these dairies should be shifted outside the city. Cattle owners should be fined if they allow cattle to roam freely on the city roads. Municipal Corporation should appoint an animal catching squad to catch stray animals like dogs. Ownership of pet animals, population control of stray animals, animal trade and waste management etc. should be regulated. Animal health laws should be strictly enforced as stray animals have a negative impact on humans and the environment. Large scale animal priming control programs should be implemented. Responsible pet ownership education should be promoted to the general public. Mainly public participation would be greatly appreciated. This can be done by setting up a food and water station in a safe, accessible area. This will help ensure that the animals get the nutrition they need. Another way to help stray animals is to provide them shelter. This can be done by setting up a shelter in your yard or garage.

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