May 19, 2011

In Defense of Capture-Neuter-Release

We have written about the topic of Animal Birth Control previously.  See An Explantion of Animal Birth Control Programs.  We felt it was time to update our position on this very important topic.  Last week we posted a video demonstrating our trapping of street dogs.  The World Animal Awareness Society picked up the video almost immediately, explaining the important of Capture-Neuter-Release programs (CNR) in controlling animal populations.

The Iquitos area has thousands of dogs, most of them falling in the category of “owned - not controlled” or simply “roaming.”  While residents may consider they own a dog, the general idea of dog ownership is far different from western norms - the dog is not generally fed, instead living on scraps and garbage.  It is likely not sterilized and loaded with parasites; it roams freely, and many times there is a sense that the dog is a “neighborhood dog” - not belonging to any one person, but to a community at large.  These dogs are among those with the highest reproductive rate - while they are dependent upon humans for resources (namely, their trash), they breed at will, and they are self-sufficient, competent foragers.  

Consistent with SPCA (Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) guidelines, CARES’ efforts have always been concentrated on easing suffering of these street dogs as well as implementing animal birth control through sterilization to aid in population control.  

In Iquitos, the stray dog population is well tolerated by the human residents.  There are few documented cases of canine transmission of rabies and the dogs seem to live for the most part in concert with humans upon which they depend.  Prevailing attitudes toward dogs is a powerful motivation for maintaining the status quo:  many owners of dogs refuse to have males altered due to fear of change in temperament; also is present the sentiment of owners of male dogs that dog overpopulation is “not their problem” - it is the problem of the bitch’s owners, or more likely, the everyone’s problem as any pregnant bitches are likely not owned, but part of the fluid roaming dog community.

Human attitudes toward roaming dogs and dog ownership need to be challenged and adjusted in order to affect any true change in the stray dog population.    Education about the benefits of sterilization, including introduction of example animals that are shown to be highly desirable pets, may encourage owners to seek sterilization for their own animals.

The main goal, however, is to reduce the size of unwanted, roaming dog population, and the attendant suffering due to disease, starvation, injury and want that accompanies a large population of unwanted animals.  

According to the International Companion Animal Management Coalition (ICAM), the most successful breeders in a stray dog population are those who are not stray dogs; instead they are dogs that are owned and cared for enough to reproduce and raise litters to sexual maturity.  Their offspring, however, are most often left to the limbo status of free roaming, adding to the street dog problem.

The main focus should be on female dogs, as females are the limiting factor in reproduction.  As only a few males can impregnate many females, the sterilization of even a huge percentage of a population can have discouragingly little effect on the actual population.  Each female sterilization, however, will individually contribute to a reduction in a population’s reproductive ability.

Education is a key component of affecting any real change.  Humans need to be educated to encourage responsible dog ownership, with a special focus on sterilization of owned companion animals.

The ICAM discourages the use of shelters as building a shelter does not solve any roaming dog problem in the long term.  In fact, it contends that such shelter may make the problem worse, as it provides an easy route for pet owners to dispose of their animals rather than making arrangements to adequately provide for them.  ICAM instead contends that rather than providing rehoming centers, an animal welfare concern should focus on creating a foster network of dedicated volunteers.  

While CARES acknowledges the validity of the ICAM guidelines regarding sheltering, it is at the present time at a loss to provide any other meaningful way to deal with abandoned, injured, and/or relinquished unowned dogs who do not fit into the roaming dogs category - i.e., dogs that are unable to forage and fend for themselves.  Prevailing customs do not involve responsible, controlled dog ownership - a dog that has a need to be cared for entirely, and is utterly dependent upon people, will almost certainly perish when placed with their more self-sufficient brethren.  While a network of foster families which are willing and able to temporarily care for such displaced dogs would be ideal, the poverty of the area make such a strategy, however desirable in contemplation, exceedingly difficult in completion. 

So, simply stated, our goals are: 

1)  Education of Iquitos residents in humane, responsible dog ownership, with special attention placed on the benefits of sterilization;

2)  Sterilization of roaming and owned dogs;

3)  Provision of free or low cost vaccination and parasite prevention treatments to improve the general quality of life among both street and owned dogs;

4)  Creation of a foster family network of people who are willing to open their homes to care for once owned or dependent dogs while waiting for them to be adopted.  This will take time and patience to develop, but the foster families themselves will become powerful advocates of the ideals of responsible dog ownership, allowing for faster, encompassing changes in prevailing attitudes about pet welfare and care.

5)  Utilization of our no-kill jungle dog shelter for dogs that are dependent upon human care for survival until rehomed, either in a permanent situation or with a foster, with a goal of gradual phase out as fosters recruit other foster families and as Goals 1 and 2 work to lessen the roaming dog population.

Source:  Humane Dog Population Management Guidance, International Companion Animal Management Coalition, 2008, 

This blog post is by Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education and Safety (CARES).  Visit our website and please support our work with a financial donationNever miss a blog post by subscribing by email in the top right hand corner of this page.  Like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter!


  1. Hi,

    The World Animal Awareness Society - would like to schedule an interview by Skype. Please let us know if this is possible.


    Eugene Thomas
    Communications Director
    World Animal Awareness Society

  2. You all are angels and miracle workers. You are heroes! Thank you for doing such gracious acts of kindness!

    Kim of Animalerie Toutou


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