Goa is the land of sun, sea and sand. Tourism arrived in this small western Indian state in a big way when the western world chose Goa as one of its holiday destinations. Goa’s abundant natural beauty, breathtaking beaches, friendly people and animals are all hugely appealing to tourists and they began to flock to Goa during the summer season.
However, as Dr Astrid Almeida, Veterinary Director of International Animal Rescue in Goa, explains - Goan beaches also happen to be home to many stray animals.
Most European tourists are fond of animals and love to feed them and adopt them during their short stay. This means well fed stray animals for six months, while the rest of the year these animals are suddenly left without food. As a result of this, local people would find large numbers of animals scavenging around their houses and disturbing their sleep with continual barking in the night. In the past the authorities’ answer to this was for dogs to be shot or poisoned while others were beaten to death with sticks or stoned to death.
The Dangers Of Rabies
Rabies continues to be the most serious zoonotic disease in India resulting in more than 10,000 deaths per year. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 87% of the cases of rabies in animals occur in dogs. In India the street dogs are the main vector of transmission of rabies to human beings. Moreover they play a major role in transmission of the disease to livestock. Consequently, stray dogs are still feared by many local people, particularly if they show any signs of sickness or disease.
Uncontrolled Dog Breeding
Uncontrolled breeding of stray populations has dire consequences for the animals in India. Competition for food means that the most vulnerable are malnourished or starving, particularly pregnant and lactating bitches and young puppies. There is also a high rate in the spread of infectious diseases and parasites.
Male dogs fight over bitches on heat and wounds and injuries quickly become infected and infested with maggots in the heat and the humidity. Females produce endless litters of puppies, many of which starve to death for lack of food. Stray animals are frequently injured or killed in the traffic on India’s busy roads and dogs with broken legs or paralysed spines are an all too common sight.
In the past, the authorities in Goa tried to control the dog population by employing a shooter to kill any dog without a collar. Horrifically, his aim was so bad that in some cases it took at least three shots before the dog died. Sometimes the animal would run off after being shot and die in terrible pain from its wounds or suffer a slow lingering death from starvation. The tip of each dead dog’s tail was cut off by the shooter and presented to the government authorities in exchange for his payment.
This method was not only cruel, it was also found to be highly ineffective in controlling rabies and the dog population, but the government continued to adopt temporary solutions to a permanent problem. There was a desperate need for an effective programme and a humane alternative to the barbaric method adopted by the civil authorities of Goa.
International Animal Rescue In Goa
International Animal Rescue was set up in Goa to provide a lasting solution to the stray dog and cat problem by introducing a sterilisation and vaccination programme and treating the sick and injured among them. The centre is situated in the serene, peaceful village of Assagao. It was set up in 1998 by John and Jo Hicks, originally from Worthing in Sussex, and has grown to be one of the largest NGOs in Goa carrying out rescue work, sterilisations, vaccinations and providing a home for the homeless.
Find Out More About International Animal Rescue
We warmly welcome visitors to the centre and conduct daily tours to meet the dogs. Details of how to find us can be found on our website: www.internationalanimalrescue.org - the site also has information about IAR’s other projects to help animals, which include rescuing and rehabilitating dancing bears in India and captive primates in Indonesia.