With 1.25 billion people, India has an absolutely massive human population. Prior to coming here, I was expecting to find visual evidence of this but the one thing I hadn’t considered was the seemingly equal amount of domesticated animals roaming the streets. Monkeys, cows, goats, pigs, chickens, donkeys, horses, camels, elephants, and the staggering number of stray dogs. With numbers no less than 30 million, there are more semi-feral canines in India than anywhere else in the world. They're found in any city, town, or village, and roaming in packs in remote rural areas. Because of the sheer volume of the dog population, 36% of the world’s rabies deaths are in India; 20,000 per year will die out of the 35,000 documented infections. This is a public health problem of massive proportions.
Prior to British colonization and the arrival of other dog breeds, the most commonly found canine on the subcontinent was the ancient, indigenousPariah Dog, also known as the Pye Dog or India Native Dog. While generations of interbreeding have left the Pariah Dog mostly mixed today, this guy I saw in Delhi exhibits many of the physical traits
While the name refers to an indigenous Indian breed, "Pariah Dog" has come to encompass all street dogs here. This name also suggests a scavenger species largely regarded as a threat or nuisance and living on the fringes of society. Their connection to people is ancient though, one of the oldest in the world, and many dogs are put to work as guards in slums in exchange for food. As with other animals here, people have traditionally just left the dogs alone but this neglect is part of the problem. The colonial solution was to round them up and kill them. As of 2001 this is now illegal but without a real policy in place, the problem of stray dogs attacking and infecting peoples remains largely status quo.
For a scavenger species, the large amounts of exposed garbage found all over India provide an abundant food source. Slums are the biggest refuse producer and as long as human beings are living without access to proper sanitation or waste disposal, there will always be large numbers of stray dogs.
Two dogs can multiply into three hundred within three years so sterilization is a more humane approach. Cities such as Jaipur and Mumbai have been successful in their programs to neuter, vaccinate, and return animals to their territorial areas. This keeps other dogs from coming in and breeding. The neutered animals will eventually die naturally and reduce their overall numbers. Implementing similar measures on a national level has yet to happen.
All across developing Asia, it's becoming rather posh by the middle and upper classes to keep thorough-bred dogs and it's no different in India. Even so, the average visitor is more likely to see street dogs in a wretched state rather than loved and well cared for animals. Letting a dog live in your house and be a member of the family is a relatively foreign concept in this part of the world. In my experience with dogs in India, most seemed pretty docile; afraid of humans and trying to avoid them. Even if food is offered, they're very skittish. A dog's life here is not an easy one.