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The ever-increasing pool of roaming dogs

In article 70 I was writing about the relationship between aggressive behaviour and castration only solve testosterone-generated aggression. I also wrote that Shelters in the United Kingdome it is the policy to castrate all entire males. I never questioned this policy as it was the accepted procedure but I learned that you could not solve all aggressive dogs by castration. Most entire male dogs are not aggressive at all.

When I came to Spain, I had expected that all Shelters would follow the same policy but I found that not all could afford to do this to every dog. This means that some must need to gauge a dog to see whether it would benefit from castration and the operation was actually essential.

My point was not all aggression is worrying other than to say that all dogs will resort to biting if they fear their survival is threatened. If shelters can assess a dog, so they understand what is generating the aggression then and only then if they consider the dog dangerous should the vets put it to sleep? It is a shame that simply to do this because they have heard a dog growl in fear assume that it is therefore a dangerous dog.

Shelters do though have a problem like breeders in that under the sale of goods act no one purchases a dog knowing it to be dangerous or aggressive. As found by court cases in the United Kingdom owners with a civil compensation claim charged against them have successfully transferred the liability back to the seller.

One thing in the United Kingdom is there is no real problem with roaming dogs. They stick out like sore thumbs and are quickly rounded up and placed into the Shelter system. Here they check for who their owners are and return them as soon as possible. If no owner is found then they check for medical problems, chip them, sterilized them and if necessary cure any behavioural problems before hopefully finding them a new home. Yet they still follow a policy of compete sterilisation.

The question is which keeps the numbers of roaming dogs under control, rounding them up as soon as they find them, or sterilisation.

I received an e-mail the other day to say that quite rightly sterilisation in not just for aggression but to reduce the problem of roaming dogs and unwanted litters. This is true unless you are a lateral thinker and prepared to review this. I for one do not wish to see a roaming dog problem anywhere in the EU. I have seen what bad looks like in Romania and though this was the result of a deliberate plan to bring people into the cities it escalated the problem as owners had to release their pets into the wild. This unique problem does though show us how bad things could become unless we act now and support the work of Shelters all over the EU.

What we are seeing here and in other member states is a gradual increase of the pool of roaming dogs. Shelters are becoming full to over flowing and as I wrote last week, they are the only method that is currently controlling the pool from growing out of all proportions. The problem just over the horizon is when the pool becomes self-generating by roamers breeding in the wild. This is before the shelters ever get to see these dogs in order to sterilise them.

It was only when I was told that shelters here cannot afford to castrate every dog that they have I had to review my own attitude established from my education whilst living in the United Kingdom.

If I look at this situation, as an accountant sterilising every dog is expensive when all that they need is to only spay the bitches. However, what happened to freedom of choice. When we buy a puppy from a breeder, the new owners will deicide about sterilisation. Is it not for them to choose? If they do not wish the inconveniences of seasons and not to have puppies, they normally pay for the spaying of their bitch at the appropriate time. Is adopting from a shelter any different? Should the new owners pay for sterilisation like puppies from the breeder? Are Shelters making that decision for them because they do not trust owners to be responsible? Shelters are always finding homes for dogs with dependable owners. The assessment used by the RSPCA is now very extensive in order to ensure a dog finds the correct owner and the most suitable home. Are shelters pre-empting the muted views I heard inside the EU that in order to control the dog problem only licensed breeders should have un-sterilised dogs and bitches. Is this an assumption that all dog owners are irresponsible at some time with their dogs? They are the ones having to clear up the mess.

This brings me to the main point does sterilisation of all dogs control the pool of roaming dogs or are they controlled by collection them from the pool and finding them a home.

All shelters try to find responsible owners for all their dogs. Sterilisation by Shelters trying to keep control of the size of the roaming pool is assuming that dogs found good homes will re-enter the roaming pool at sometime in the future, which is not really the case. Certainly spaying the bitches as a matter of course will stop the problem of unwanted litters but again assumes that reasonable owners would release unwanted puppies into the roaming pool but they do not. They usually advertise the dogs free to good homes.

What dogs make up the roaming pool? The dogs here are not from responsible owners but from people who see dogs in a very different light. Many abused and abandoned dogs had owners who treated them as soulless creatures that once their appeal is gone they can simply discard. There is no interest or money available to spay the bitches, as this is expensive and again it is simpler and cheaper if they drown them or loose them somewhere like a motorway. This is how such owners have learned from their experiences and established practice.

None of these dogs has a chip, vaccinated or ever loved. Only a few dogs come into the roaming pool by becoming lost and yes, an un-castrated male dog could sire puppies of a roaming bitch in season but is this significant.

There are cases where owners leave bitches at the shelter gates simply because they are pregnant. Shelters therefore not only take in one dog they have all the puppies to find new homes for as well.

Lost or escaped dogs from responsible owners or those already having been through a shelter have a chip to identify the owner so returning it is relatively quick once found. If a dog has an identification chip, it is not so easy to abandon and why by law every dog should have one.

Here we have an analogy with the problem of malaria and mosquitoes. For years, it was a policy to control the diseases by a war with swatters and DTD sprays to keep the mosquito at bay. The solution was some lateral thinking that solved the problem at the source. Scientists found pouring a thin film of oil on stagnant water stopped the mosquito lava breathing and the breeding cycle stopped dead in its tracks. They are doing this now with the new strain of Zebra Mosquito that is heading our way.

Shelters are removing most dogs from the roaming pool and in a vast majority of cases; they will never enter the pool again. Again, the answer is look at the source. This is poor education of how to own pets. We learn from experiences handed down in our families so this system perpetuates the wrong education of how to treat animals.

We do have an answer in educating the children in how to look after animals properly. We now have such education in all Javea schools following the work of Andrea Rapholthy. This is the cure at the source. If children will now learn the correct way and how to become responsible owners, this should stop their dogs when they grow up ever entering the pool.

Education now will take time to change established attitudes but it is a small beginning. Now it is only here in Javea but if established throughout the Costa Blanca, we can show it works. Then maybe the EU will sit up and take notice.

Whilst we wait our first line of defence against the Roaming Pool and currently our only line of defence, are the Charity Shelters and they are trying to cope. They need our help so please either adopt a dog or donate money, blankets, food, what ever but do not let us reach the point where we cannot control that Pool and simply give up so it becomes permanently established.

Christmas and New Year

Many years ago, I watched people interviewed about the commercialisation of Christmas. One gentleman replied that he wished religion would stop creeping in on the holiday. That is education for you.

Winston and I have had a good year as we become more established but this has only been with the help from so many people who support our work. May we both wish you all a very merry Christmas as we celebrate this important religious birthday and we wish you all an even better 2004?

Winston and Alan


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