Feral Dogs in Ladakh, India

Making the Connection

For about 3 years, a non-profit group, Vets Beyond Borders, had been contacting me about humane methods for capturing feral dogs. They were conducting trap/neuter/release programs in Sikkim and Ladakh India. I had been as helpful as I could by sending them information on box traps, Y poles, capture pens, and drugging protocols. I bumped into a veterinary friend of mine who volunteered for VBB and he spoke very highly of the experience.

What caught my attention most was that their programs were in Buddhist communities. I have taught across the US for 20 years and although most people were receptive to humane and respectful animal handling, the essence of compassion is not in our U.S. culture and daily lives. Working in Sikkim or Ladakh would give me the opportunity to work with inherently compassionate people who were struggling with the tools and techniques.

I wrote to VBB and explained my serious interest in visiting their Ladakhi program. We soon made arrangements for me to visit. The objective was for me to teach a three day workshop for animal handlers from several programs and then to teach and assist the Ladakhi Animal Care Society in the field as we captured dogs.

Their Previous Struggle

[PLEASE NOTE: Every program has their own methods and equipment. What is good for some is not good for others. And there are many methods for capturing, transporting, and holding dogs. I am describing the challenges and successes for the Ladakhi Animal Care Society so that it may be of help for other programs wishing to make improvements.]

To prepare for my visit and design my workshop I asked them to give me a history of their work, their objectives such as how many dogs they wish to capture each day and their challenges.

Here are some of the questions I asked to determine how I could be of most help:

  • What is your daily routine for capture, transport, surgery, holding, and release?
  • What are your goals or objectives each day, i.e. how many dogs do you wish to capture each day?
  • What are the challenges/obstacles you would like to address?
  • What do you like least about the capture, transport, or holding?
  • What would you like to see at the “end of the day” when my trip is complete?

( I usually teach general wildlife capture and handling courses. I have taught a few specific courses focusing on handling bears, wolves, lynx, and even monkeys, but I had never designed a course to capture feral dogs.)

Dogs in Post Op Holding

Dogs in Post Op Holding

I learned that their primary method for capturing dogs were nets. The dogs are generally large and quite feral. When netted, they would go into a frenzy and rile up the rest of the pack. Dogs would be barking everywhere and the public was not pleased. The dogs were difficult to handle in the nets and handlers could get bit. The most difficult ones had to be drugged with xylazine to handle them. After surgery, they were kept for three days in one of three large rooms. It was extremely difficult to work with these dogs in a safe manner and it was very stressful for the handlers to tray to capture the dogs for transport and release. All of these problems could be solved with the right tools and techniques.

I suggested they purchase 6 Tru-Catch folding dog traps, 2 Y poles, and transport kennels. Wanda at Heart of the Earth Animal Equipment worked hard to ship the equipment to India. I designed a three day workshop (which I will describe in a later entry) and continued asking questions to prepare.

Next Entry: The animal shelter and a wonderful family to live with.

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