Stray Dogs in Fiji? Not paradise for them...
Maybe you’ve heard of Fiji: it’s known for its beautiful beaches, coral reefs, and is a popular honeymoon destination for newlyweds.
However, Fiji, like most other countries on Earth, has a stray dog overpopulation problem.
The problem, however, worsened severely as a result of the COVID pandemic.
Stray dogs in Fiji: boomed during COVID
Prior to the pandemic, Fiji was doing what it could to limit the population growth of dogs.
Spay and neuter programs are one of the most effective ways to keep the dog population down. Programs such as “trap, neuter, return” (TNR) will catch stray dogs, spay or neuter them, and then return them to the place from which they were taken. These programs prevent the birth of more dogs.
But during COVID, these programs were shut down.
We all remember lockdown…many essential services were halted in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus.
Lockdown also led to closed borders, and a lot of Fiji’s veterinary care came from international veterinarians who would travel to work in Fiji.
Animal shelter manager Shaneel Narayan, in the city of Suva, discussed how that one shelter used to spay and neuter 3,000 dogs per year.
“It’s a huge problem … there are so many dogs,” says Narayan. [The dogs] have five or six puppies in one litter. So in two years you can imagine how many animals we’re looking at in a neighborhood.”
Luckily, Fiji is slowly getting back on track with spay and neuter efforts. But the damage has already been done. Animal shelters are incredibly overwhelmed by the amount of dogs. The population grew far too quickly without measures in place to limit reproduction.
What happens to the stray dogs in Fiji?
Dogs have been domesticated by humans. Over thousands of years, we have created a bond with them in which dogs largely depend on a human guardian to provide essentials, such as food, water, and shelter.
Dogs continue to reproduce. Without enough homes for the dogs, they will suffer on the streets. They are forced to scavenge for food, which often means eating scraps and garbage, This leads the dogs to be malnourished and sick. And with veterinarians so overwhelmed as it is, there is no care available for the homeless dogs.
The dogs get hit by cars. They suffer in extreme temperatures. They have no protection from the elements.
There have been reports of people being abusive towards the dogs. The abuse is horrible, cruel, and inhumane. But it also leads the dogs to become fearful of humans, and more likely to defend themselves out of fear. The dogs then get a bad reputation for being aggressive and dangerous, when in reality, they are simply defending themselves.
Why do people fear stray dogs in Fiji?
The main reason that people are generally afraid of stray dogs is because of rabies, in addition to dog bites.
Rabies is a horrifying disease, and dog bites are the main cause of the rabies disease in humans. Indonesia has made efforts to vaccinate the dogs against rabies, but this can be incredibly challenging: every dog must be caught in order to be vaccinated. Stray dogs live their lives on the streets. Many stray dogs are not familiar with human contact. Many stray dogs are quite afraid of humans, and actively avoid any attempts to interact with humans. This can make catching the dog incredibly difficult.
And, since the dogs continue to reproduce, more unvaccinated dogs will continue to be born. They too must be caught in order to be vaccinated.
Instead of turning to preventative measures and stopping the issue of overpopulation right at the source, governments often resort to killing stray dogs.
In a particularly horrifying case, the government of Fiji has poisoned dogs.
Stay dogs in Fiji: poisoned.
In 2008, the government killed over 850 dogs and 48 cats over a three-day period.
The killings came in response to an outbreak of rabies on the island.
Unfortunately, this practice is all too common in many countries around the world. You may be familiar with the word “culling.” “Culling” is meant to sound like a positive thing, and governments will often try to present the killings of dogs and cats as a beneficial thing to humans.
But there is no justification for this cruelty. A long-term solution is essential.
What does a long-term solution look like?
Thankfully, spay and neuter programs are returning to Fiji as lockdown restrictions are lifted. But even in the best of times, these programs struggle to keep up with the overpopulation crisis of stray dogs and cats.
Spaying and neutering dogs and cats means the animals must be caught, undergo veterinary treatment, and be released again. These programs require a lot of time, money, and resources.
That’s why 600 Million Dogs has a unique, science-centered mission to address this crisis right at the root of the issue.
The Spay and Neuter Cookie is in the research and development stage, but it is being designed to be a safe, one-dose, permanent birth control for dogs and cats.
We believe it will be the solution that this crisis so desperately needs!