Canine concerns: Animal rights champions say culling shouldn’t be part of street dog population control

Killing street dogs has a reverse effect and in fact leads to increased reproduction and to strays becoming more aggressive towards humans, warn Armenian animal rights activists concerned with the recent trend of dog population control in capital Yerevan.

Save the Animals NGO representatives say they have been receiving a large number of calls from residents with a request to stop the carnage of stray dogs that usually happens in Yerevan backyards and streets in the dead of the night.

“There is a more civilized way of solving the problem of street dogs than a mass slaughter of animals. After being sterilized, hormonally dogs become less dangerous, and there are no more concerns about their getting together in packs, reproducing themselves, etc.,” says the charity’s head Nune Mehrabyan.

Dogs that undergo sterilization and are later released back to the streets have red or green ribbon collars around their neck as a sign that they are sterilized. But Mehrabyan says such dogs are a rare sight also because they get killed along with other non-sterilized dogs indiscriminately.

The NGO’s head holds the Yerevan municipality responsible for this. She says they annually budget 180 million drams (more than $460,000) for street dog sterilizing purposes, but in reality commit a ‘savage slaughter’ of the animals.

Lilit Grigoryan, the public relations officer of Unigraph-X Ltd, a private company that has engaged in sterilizing stray dogs in Yerevan since 2006 and in “neutralizing” (by putting them down) since 2008, says that they spend 120 million drams (about $307,000) of the annual 180-million-dram allocation from the mayor’s office for sterilization purposes, while the rest is spent on “neutralization”. The company says during the two months of 2012 it sterilized 920 stray dogs, ‘neutralizing’ 4,200.

The only dog shelter in Armenia is situated in Yerevan. It was set up by Mehrabian and her animal loving friends. The dog shelter today has about 250 dogs that get all the care they need, including vaccinations.

Animal rights advocate Elen Barseghyan says that often they have to treat the dogs that survive the brutal culling in the streets.

“In many European countries even dog owners can be held responsible for the death of their pet, but here policemen shoot at dogs upon instructions from municipal authorities and warn people not to come out of nearby kiosks or buildings while they cull the animals,” says Barseghyan.

“Dogs behaving aggressively should be isolated in dog shelters not to pose danger to humans rather than get killed off,” says Mehrabyan, adding that often the howling of the dogs suffering at the hands of their killers gives a lot of stress to residents of nearby buildings.

Veterinarian Arman Elbakyan also makes the case for sterilization as the best way to control the stray dog population in the city. He insists that once sterilized, street dogs cease to be a public danger and can be released back into the streets.