What separates a “house” from a “home”? Having a dog in it. Isn’t there something about the tap-tap of paws, as your dog marches to you and demands a belly rub? Or when they make a derpy face or cuddle with you as you finish another gruelling workday? For those of us who do have dogs, the joy of having a four-legged companion cannot be put into words. But there are others who might not have the good fortune to bring home a pet, due to multiple reasons such as lack of appropriate accommodation, financial constraints, long work hours, etc.
If you are such a pet parent at heart who cannot adopt a dog at the moment (for any reason whatsoever), there are still ways to experience the joys of parenting. It can be as simple as providing love and companionship to the ones who are not fortunate enough to have any family of their own. Yes, we mean street dogs or “streeties”, as they are fondly called. Our neighbourhood streeties are usually misunderstood and discriminated against; but they need care, love and nurturing just like pets at home. With these few easy steps, you can ensure that the street dogs in your area are supported, safe and can coexist with you happily and peacefully.
Start by understanding your neighbourhood streeties
Our streeties' behaviour and needs are the direct result of the environment that they live in. What motivates their various actions or reactions to our actions does not always have a linear pattern. So, understanding the root cause of their behaviour can be the first step towards understanding these needs. Here are a few examples:
- A lot of dogs are simply motivated by a full belly. Their prowling around colonies or different localities is to just find enough sustenance that eventually brings them into human contact.
- Some community animals are defensive about getting approached as they have faced trauma, brutality (eg. people throwing rocks at them) or abandonment at the hands of humans. Our advice? Be careful when you approach them or try to pet them (without gauging their behaviour), as strays can view this as a threat and react aggressively.
Unfortunately, due to the stigma surrounding street dogs, such as aggression or lack of hygiene (especially in urban gated communities), they are constantly exposed to physical violence which can also decide how and when their basic needs change. For instance, if a hungry street dog puppy is shooed away from a building, it will still consider a safe space to hide in the future before accepting a treat from people.
- As good Samaritans, we might want to help strays by offering them shelter or treats. But it is also important to understand which stray dog is actually in need of our help and which ones are better off without human interference. For instance, a senior streetie may require your help more than someone who is younger and dominant in the area.
Creating and mobilising your community
Community dogs are our collective responsibility and not an obligation. Due to rapid urbanisation, community animals have less and less space for themselves. Which is why the onus of adjusting and coexisting with the local animals is on us and not the other way around. Here are a few ways on how you can make it work:
- Identify and connect with people in your locality who actively want to help or contribute to the efforts of making life better for streeties.
With multiple hands on board, it gets easier to coordinate food, shelter, vaccination and medical care.
- When responsibilities are divided and shared with multiple people, the cost of taking care of the streeties significantly reduces.
Using the multiple voices at our disposal, it is important to impart knowledge and awareness about the need and ways of coexisting with street dogs. It could be a simple shout-out through a social media post, story or a WhatsApp message.
Providing the bare minimum
If you feel overwhelmed or doubtful about not having enough expertise to take care of Indian street dogs, we have good news for you. The basic needs of all streeties are the same: Nutritious food, safe shelter and timely medical attention. On that note, here are a few simple things that animal lovers can do for streeties:
When it comes to grooming them, a coat-appropriate brush does wonders (depending on how friendly your relationship with them is).
- During summer, heavy rainfall or extremely cold nights, letting streeties take refuge in your garage or staircase can be life-saving for them.
Our perception of streeties as having stomachs that can digest anything is a slippery slope. If you do decide to feed them or they let you feed them, it may be helpful to observe their reaction to different diets by exposing them to it. Some streeties may only require rich dog food, others may require simple home-cooked food like rotis, rice, curd or chicken soup.
If possible, put reflective collars on streeties in your area. They provide an additional layer of security for dogs on the street at night. In low light conditions, drivers are alerted to their presence on the street when their headlights catch the reflective strip on the collar. This prevents avoidable accidents and injuries for both.
Vaccination and sterilisation
You can periodically consult with your local veterinarian to identify streeties who are at the appropriate age to get vaccinated and if possible, get their injections without any delay. But why is vaccination important, you might wonder.
It protects street dogs from dangerous diseases like parvo, distemper, rabies and canine coronavirus, among other things.
Yearly vaccination is the first step towards ideal dog bite care as it protects not only the strays, but also humans from rabies infection.
HUFT Tip: Click here to know more about the benefits of vaccination and sterilisation
Sterilisation, although a debated topic, is a life and death call for streeties. One way to get it done is through municipalities in your local areas that have mandated sterilisation programmes to control the population and aid in the health of strays. Contrary to popular belief, neutering is a boon for community animals because:
- Sterilisation creates safety for both animals and humans as they control the population of streeties. Without unattended litter running between busy roads, the chances of accidents are also significantly reduced.
- Sterilisation contributes to the overall health of animals as it reduces the chances of urinary tract infection and testicular, ovarian & prostate cancer.
- If you recognise a community animal that requires vaccination and sterilisation, you can do your bit by contacting a local animal welfare worker or your local municipal body.
Volunteering and fostering
Volunteering to help your neighbourhood streeties literally saves lives. A strong volunteer base can skyrocket the quality of life of the streeties in a positive direction. So, what does volunteering for community animals mean and how can you do your bit?
Something as simple as petting your local streeties to make them feel loved or tossing them a healthy dog treat to engage them physically.
- Fostering a streetie (if possible) recovering from an illness and cannot survive on the street until completely treated.
Amplifying social media posts for adoptions, fosters, funds and medicine supply requests by people already involved in it.
When you do decide to bring home a dog, we recommend adopting and not buying from an illegal or backyard breeder, as:
- It provides a safe and loving home to an animal who otherwise would have significantly fewer chances of survival on the streets without a pack or a mother.
- It spreads awareness and reduces prejudices against indigenous breed dogs.
- It discourages illegal or backyard breeding which is an extremely cruel industry.
Are you or anyone you know doing incredible work to help streeties in need? DM us on The HUFT Foundation with your story (be it rescuing, adopting or simply managing a community) and we’d love to give you a shout-out to show our support!
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