Cats have had a bad rap concerning wildlife. Now it’s time to criticise dogs.

Domestic and feral cats have had a bad rap for years because of an ongoing campaign against them on account of their predation of wildlife. The campaign is intensifying. Conversely, there has been a lack of focus on dogs. For a strange reason we rarely read about how dogs, both domestic and feral, negatively impact wildlife and the environment. It’s time to rectify that wrong.

NOTICE: In truth we have no right to criticise cats or dogs because all the problems associated with these companion animals have their origins in human behavior and therefore humans should be criticised but I am playing the critics game.

Dogs attacking deer

Dogs attacking deer. BBC video screenshot.

I am pleased, therefore, to refer to an article on the BBC website dated 12 February 2019. I will try to summarise it.

It is said by scientists that dogs threaten nearly 200 species worldwide, some of them critically endangered. Dogs have contributed to the extinction of nearly a dozen wild bird and animal species.

There are an estimated 500,000,000 (half a billion) domestic, feral and stray cats on the planet. It is estimated that there are one billion (1bn) domestic dogs worldwide. We don’t know how many stray and feral dogs there are. Their numbers are rising. As there are more people on the planet there are more dogs and of course the same goes for cats.

As mentioned, 200 species are threatened by feral and stray dogs; 30 of the species are classified as critically endangered, 71 are endangered and 87 are vulnerable according to the IUCN Red List. The most sensitive regions are Asia, Central and South America, the Caribbean and certain areas of Oceania.

Dogs affect wildlife because (a) they are predators and kill animals (b) they disturb the ecosystem (c) they transmit disease to wildlife (d) they compete with wildlife for prey and (e) they interbreed with certain related species.

For example, a scientist in Poland said:

“Through our camera traps we have found that dogs enter caves where lynx [a medium-sized wild cat species] take the prey animals they have killed, and we have footage showing dogs eating the carcasses,” said Izabela Wierzbowska, a scientist at the Jagiellonian University in Poland.

New Zealand studies have concluded that dogs have contributed to the extinction of at least eight species of birds. These include the New Zealand quail. On social media you will see feral dogs chasing and killing endangered species in various parts of the world.

The beautiful snow leopard has been recorded as being hounded by three feral dogs in Tibet and a polar bear has been surrounded by three stray dogs. In Chile, the world’s smallest deer, the pudu, is often attacked by stray dogs. Almost 70% of this deer species brought to rehabilitation centres had been attacked by dogs (study published in the scientific journal Oryx).

In Brazil it has been found that 37% of native species in more than 30 national parks have been affected by the presence of domestic dogs.

Dogs are threatening India’s great bustards in the state of Rajasthan. This is an endangered bird and less than 100 exist apparently.

Across the planet, it’s been concluded that dogs are transmitting notably rabies and canine distemper to wild animals (the director of species conservation with the VWF in Germany).

It is said that the critically endangered Ethiopian wolf repeatedly contracts rabies and canine distemper from stray dogs, and rabies in India and Nepal. In Europe experts are worried that stray dogs are interbreeding with wolves which poses a threat to the wolf species (c.f. the Scottish wildcat’s hybridisation with feral cats).

The issues about containing the population size of stray dogs and reducing it are the same as those for feral cats in my opinion. The big question is how to manage the dog population size humanely. I have never seen any discussions about how to do this but simply killing dogs as is the case with feral cats in Australia is not an option if we are to tackle the problem morally and humanely. As I understand it there are no comprehensive proposals to deal with this problem.

Let’s discuss the dog’s impact on wildlife more often.

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