Humane Dog Population Management in Puerto Rico
Humane Society International has worked with government agencies and local organizations around the world for many years to safeguard public health and safety through street dog vaccination and sterilization programs. Over the past decade, HSI has been developing culturally sensitive approaches to manage street dogs humanely and effectively. The aim of dog population management is to improve human public health and dog welfare in countries with significant street dog populations and to change the human-dog interaction so that it is more rewarding for both dogs and humans. Our approach includes data collection and analysis and capacity building to ensure that these programs are effective and sustainable. In addition, HSI strives to develop a culture of responsible pet guardianship where free-roaming pets contribute to problems of dog overpopulation and injuries and transmission of zoonotic diseases to people. In Puerto Rico, HSI is working with mayors’ offices in targeted municipalities to develop and implement humane street dog population management programs as an alternative to archaic forms of population control. Through our veterinary outreach projects we aim at reducing the number of unwanted litters that are abandoned or relinquished to shelters every year, and to foster a community of responsible guardians to protect companion animals from abuse and neglect. To ensure the sustainability of our programs we build the capacity of local animal welfare groups and empower them with the knowledge and tools to organize veterinary outreach programs in their own communities and engage public participation. This model creates local ownership of the programs that aim to solve issues stemming from having too many dogs reproducing in homes and on the streets.
HSI conducted a street dog density survey and census during the first quarter of 2014. We then chose six targeted municipalities for our pilot project and began offering subsidized spay/neuter services in collaboration with local veterinarians. Our veterinary outreach has allowed individuals to better care for their pets, and to understand the importance of vaccinating against rabies and other viruses that can be deadly to their animals, like canine distemper. By making veterinary services accessible and affordable we have reached hundreds of individuals eager to better care for their companion animals and thankful for the opportunity to do so. We continue our humane education outreach, designed to develop a culture of responsible guardianship and compassion towards all living creatures.
The most valuable lesson of the initial year of this program is the willingness of the owners to care for their dogs when veterinary services are accessible and affordable. The pilot project HSI started in 2014 has been so successful that in some municipalities we have had to create a waiting list of people wanting to spay/neuter their dogs. In order to accommodate the growing demand for veterinary services we developed strategies to expand the program in 2015. Our efforts on the ground grew with the addition of staff and volunteers in early 2015, and the addition of two municipalities to our already successful program. Moving forward we will continue to serve the eight municipalities we are currently working in, and grow the program to encompass other municipalities that are also in dire need of help to better care for their pets. From the beginning of our veterinary outreach in May of 2014 until the end of September of 2015 we have helped spay/neuter 204 cats, 4,302 dogs, and facilitated rabies vaccination for 1,700 dogs. Although Puerto Rico is currently free of canine rabies, there have been cases of rabies detected on mongoose. Vaccinating dogs against rabies forms a protective barrier that prevents transmission of the virus to other animals and to people. The introduction of canine rabies would result in dire consequences for Puerto Rico. It would not only be a public health concern, it would affect tourism and all sectors of the economy that depend on visitors to the island.
- Puerto Rico
- Animal Welfare