Kindness is a Two Way Street

A new study looked at the killing of dingoes as a method of protecting people and found that it doesn’t work. In fact, it found that it makes things worse. Killing wild dogs led “to social instability and diminished territorial integrity in the dingo population, resulting in both increased human-dingo and conspecific conflict, heightened stress, elevated breeding rates and fatal dispersal of poorly socialised juveniles into neighbouring pack territories.” The study’s author suggests that “kindness” might be the “solution” to perceived “conflicts with wild dogs.” And not just dingoes, but “other species” also, “from wolves in Alberta wilderness to coyotes in suburban California.”

It’s not the first study to reach that conclusion. In fact, a meta-analysis of every study published on lethal intervention against animals and plants to allegedly protect another plant or animal finds that lethal methods don’t work and cause great harm.

We see that with community cats and community dogs. Across the globe, killing cats and killing dogs to reduce their populations or reduce encounters with people has proven ineffective (in addition to being immoral), while the most humane methods often yield the greatest results in terms of desired outcomes. The outcome with cats is well-documented. And data from communities and countries that sterilize community dogs show the same results: a decline in the number of dog bites, with “officials point[ing] to a variety of factors: the obvious effect of sterilization on dog behavior, including behaviors associated with mating, reduced numbers of dogs and reduced home range of individual dogs resulting in fewer chance encounters with humans, an increased respect and thus kinder treatment towards dogs due to the positive role model of rescuers, and the impact of community education by rescuers that often accompanies these efforts. Whatever the cause, the positive impact on public safety has been proven and is profound, causing public officials, including those from agriculture and health departments, initially opposed to the idea of sterilizing community dogs, to embrace it.”

Indeed, while the causal methods may be different, the results are the same if we extrapolate to killing “pit bulls.” Since Ontario banned “pit bulls” in order to “reduce dog bites,” nearly 1,000 dogs and puppies have been “needlessly put down” according to the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association. At the same time, “Toronto’s reported dog bites have been rising” and “reached their highest levels this century” even as “pit bulls” are being exterminated.

It is the same in terms of “shelter” killing. Given that this is what we’ve been collectively doing for a 100 years or more, and given that this is all some communities still do, if we could kill ourselves out of the “problem” of animal homelessness, we’d have been a No Kill nation a long time ago.

Killing — whether it is dingoes, community cats, community dogs, “pit bulls,” animals in “shelters,” or any number of plants and animals humans are in the process of chopping down, poisoning, shooting, or exterminating by other methods — doesn’t solve problems. It makes things worse. And it’s cruel.

Since the very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, why not try something different? Science is increasingly proving that being kind to others is the most effective thing we can do not just for others, but for ourselves.

The study, “Managing dingoes on Fraser Island: culling, conflict, and an alternative,”  is here.


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