Dimensioning the actual population of pets in Quito was always problematic. The figures were a result of projections based on international demographic studies. From there came the hypothesis that there was one dog for every six inhabitants in Quito.
Just for 2013, a first demographic study was carried out with a real sample. Jaime Grijalva, veterinarian with a master’s degree in medicine from shelters, carried out an investigation known as the Quito Study.
This work, says the author, was to estimate the population of stray dogs in the Metropolitan District of Quito, to analyze the relationship between the economy with animal welfare and the prevalence of parasites. In this study, 16 urban and rural parishes were selected in which a methodology for demographic studies was applied using a statistical model.
They counted abandoned dogs and dogs that could have family but roam freely in the streets. The result showed that there was one dog for every 49 inhabitants. In 2018 Grijalva reviewed the study and used a new, more accurate statistical model to analyze the same sample. Then it was revealed that in urban areas there was one dog for every 74 people. In rural areas, the population was one dog for every 47 people.
The general average was one can for every 59 inhabitants. This information will be published in an academic journal in the coming months. In May of this year the San Francisco University of Quito (USFQ) initiated two new studies.
For the first, the same Grijalva methodology was used. The same parishes were used and the census was developed in two days. Stella de la Torre, dean of the College of Biological and Environmental Sciences of the USFQ presented the results. Currently there is one stray dog for every 18 people in the rural area and one dog for every 26 people in the urban parishes. In general, it can be said that there is one animal for every 22 citizens. According to the INEC population projections for Quito and the census estimates, in 2013 there were 41 676 stray dogs.
By 2018 the population would be around 122 280. The figures show that the abandonment of pets has increased to almost triplicate. “It is a reality that at first sight scares a bit,” says Karina Pizco, coordinator of the municipal entity Urbanimal.
This institution works according to Ordinance 048 of 2011 that regulates the possession, protection and control of urban fauna. Among its competences is population control and the method approved for this purpose is sterilization. The campaigns started in 2011 but it was not until 2015 that they gained strength. Since that year until now, a total of 42,844 pets have been sterilized in the program of visiting the neighborhoods and with the modality of trap-sterilize-drop.
To this amount is added an unknown number of sterilizations performed independently by animal protection organizations and foundations. For now it is impossible to know if this number is enough or how much more should be done, Grijalva points out.
For that, it is necessary the integral implementation of the ordinance according to an action plan that includes the identification and registration of animals, education and punishment of the mistreatment.
The second census carried out by the USFQ also serves to develop this plan. Students from various schools in the city participated in this activity. They traveled a total of 246 kilometers counting the dogs that were in the streets. The objective was to measure relative abundance; that is, the number of dogs per linear kilometer.
In this work it was found, for example, that Turubamba, Guamaní, Quitumbe, Cochapamba and the People’s Committee have the highest population density. On the other hand, Conocoto, La Magdalena, Mariscal Sucre, Iñaquito, Rumipamba, Jipijapa, La Concepción, San Isidro del Inca, Cotocollao, Carcelén and Pomasqui have fewer dogs per kilometer.
This works to better address population control efforts. The sterilization campaigns would be more effective, according to Grijalva. “In five years you can go back to do a study and see how it has evolved. In principle, a realistic goal would be to try to stabilize the current population and then reduce it. “
Controlling the problem of abandoned animals is not just about an ethical issue, according to De la Torre. “There is an environmental impact with the native fauna. Dogs are predators and can hunt for food. They also compete with other endemic animals for food. To that is added the issue of garbage and that becomes a public health issue, “he argues.
On October 19 and 20 a forum will be held with the participation of researchers, rescuers, academics, public sector and veterinary unions to work on a “one health” strategy, a transdisciplinary approach to health where environmental, human issues are contemplated and animal welfare. (I)