Pricing, politics, & the race to perfect animal birth control
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2004:
FAYETTE, Missouri; BANGKOK–If humane organizations could
afford to use Neutersol in high volume, it might have taken over
much of the male dog sterilization market share already, worldwide.
But the maker of the first commercially distributed injectible
sterilant for dogs, Addison Laboratories of Fayette, Missouri, has
priced Neutersol to avoid cutting into U.S. veterinary profits.
Because Neutersol is unaffordable in the economically disadvantaged
nations where roving street dogs are most a problem, foreign
competitors are rushing to perfect their own injectible sterilants
and grab market share before Addison can introduce a two-tier pricing
system that would make Neutersol the injectible sterilant of choice.
At request of Neutersol product director Cord Harper, ANIMAL
PEOPLE on November 17, 2003 e-mailed to Addison Laboratories a list
of 37 humane organizations in 20 nations that might be willing to use
Neutersol if it could be provided to them at cost. At least five of
the organizations have already experimented with injectible
sterilants and still favor the concept, despite some early product
Four months later, Neutersol is still not affordably
available to help control street dogs.
Internationally recognized rabies control expert Henry Wilde,
M.D., of the Queen Savabha Memorial Institute operated by the Thai
Red Cross in Bangkok, was enthusiastic enough about the potential of
Neutersol that he bought some at the regular U.S. price and tested it
on several adult dogs in anticipation of two-tier pricing. Then he
Finally, on March 23, Wilde had some news. But it wasn’t
about two-tier pricing, or Neutersol. Instead, another firm was
ready to move ahead.
“We had a long meeting yesterday to finalize a large
comprehensive dog population control and vaccination program in a
pilot province,” Wilde e-mailed to ANIMAL PEOPLE. “The project will
involve us, the ministry of health, and the agriculture ministry.
The use of a locally made zinc compound [injected] intratesticularly
will be part of this study. One problem,” Wilde said, “will be
how to immobilize stray dogs for the short time needed to inject the
zinc in small volume with a very small syringe. Any suggestions
would be appreciated.”
While many street dogs are “community pets,” easily caught
and handled, those who have been stoned, shot at, or otherwise
mistreated can become extremely evasive. To catch these, opined
Visakha SPCA founder Pradeep Kumar Nath, of Visakhapatnam, India,
“The only way lies in using tranquilizer darts. For this, skilled
persons are needed.” Nath recommended taking the dogs to a shelter
or animal hospital rather than just injecting them where they drop,
so that they could be treated for parasites and any other health
problems as well as being sterilized.
“The Blue Cross of India had a fairly large chemosterilant
program in the late1980s,” recalled Chinny Krishna, whose parents
founded the organization in 1959.
“While injections in the vas deferens have been tried
experimentally for many years,” Krishna continud, “we were given to
understand by the Indian government’s National Institute of
Immunology that the chemosterilant we used, called Talsur after
formulators Drs. Talwar and Suri, was a great step forward and had
been used successfully on ‘thousands and thousands of dogs and
hundreds of monkeys with 100% good results.’
“Over 400 street dogs were injected by Dr. Suri himself, or
under his direct supervision in our shelters. More than 35% had
massive scrotal swelling and, in a few cases, ruptures of the
scrotum. More than 140 animals were then surgically castrated.
“We goofed in not trying it on smaller numbers, but Dr. Suri
had convinced us that the injection was perfectly free of any side
effects. Talsur was even commercially marketed by Karnataka
Antibiotics Ltd., at government instigation, and was a total flop.
“We are aware that Neutersol is said to have minimum side
effects, and there may be other sterilants available today which are
acceptable,” Krishna added hopefully. “I only thought I should
share my experiences,” lest any old mistakes be repeated.
Addison Laboratories meanwhile announced “a free educational
seminar” to be offered to “support the work of shelters, humane and
rescue organizations in reducing pet overpopulation.”
The seminar is to be conducted at selected institutions by
Cord Harper and Addison Laboratories animal welfare specialist Kerri
Burns, who is well-known within the humane community from her
previous job representing PETsMART Charities.
According to the promotional announcement, “Seminar
participants will examine the Neutersol clinical studies, learn how
Neutersol saves facility costs and staff time, find out effective
ways to integrate Neutersol and microchipping into their practice,
and evaluate the impact of change on the organization. A cost
analysis and additional educational literature will be supplied.”
Said Burns, “Avoiding the risks of surgery, anesthesia,
stitches, and wound healing, the Neutersol injection approach is a
much easier humane alternative. Neuter-soled dogs can walk
immediately after injection and can be placed immediately afterward.”
Burns asked interested organizations to contact her at
<email@example.com>, or 623-628- 3647.
Dog meat industry
Because the use of Neutersol could virtually eliminate
post-operative infections and necessary follow-up care, which may
be the biggest problem in high-volume sterilization surgery in
underdeveloped nations, the sales points that Burns outlined are
even more attractive in Thailand, India, et al.
Expediting rabies control by more rapidly reducing the dog population
is a point of particular interest to Wilde, and reducing the supply
of dogs available to the illegal dog meat industries of Thailand and
the Philippines should interest law enforcement as well as animal
The dog meat industry in the Philippines is closely
associated with political corruption and organized crime, according
to journalist Freddie Farres. Starting the organization Linis
Gobierno three years ago to fight corruption in and around Baguio
City, Farres soon found that the relationship between corruption and
the dog meat trade much resembles the relationship of mobsters and
the trade in illegal drugs.
The dog meat industry in Thailand is a frequent source of
friction between the Buddhist majority of Thais, who do not eat
dogs, and ethnic Chinese refugees from Vietnam and their
descendants, who not only eat dogs themselves but have also
developed a dog meat export industry based on the ready availability
of street dogs, “free to good home” litters, and free-roaming
pets. Some ethnic Thais have also taken advantage of the chance to
sell “livestock” whom they do not have to raise.
Activist Rossukhon Jarassri told The Nation of Bangkok in
late 2003 that as many as 30,000 dogs had been captured by dog meat
traffickers for winter slaughter.
Less than a week later police and agricultural officials
seized 802 dogs from cages aboard four fishing boats anchored in the
Mekong River in Ban Phaeng district. Seven alleged bunchers were
arrested just as they were about to shove off for the short crossing
to Laos. The dogs, many of them injured or ill, were to have been
hauled through Laos to Vietnam, livestock inspector Apai Sutthisang
That seizure was recalled on March 18 when police in Nakhon
Phanom intercepted a truck hauling 511 dogs to a ferry landing in Tha
Uthen district, for transport to Laos.
“The driver, Somboon Khandee, 58, and his son Weerasak,
28, from Na Wa district, were arrested,” said The Nation. “They
said they were hired by a man known only as Kraleum.”
Politics of a different sort are involved in the introduction
of chemosterilants to control the U.S. whitetailed deer population,
as SHARK founder Steve Hindi spent much of March trying to expose.
The issue, succinctly, is that after investing more than 40
years in rebuilding whitetailed deer numbers to pre-settlement
abundance, in anticipation of selling ever more hunting permits,
wildlife agencies are reluctant to cooperate with efforts to undo
their work. Hunters are equally opposed to the use of a technology
which could quickly erase their pretext of hunting to keep wildlife
populations “balanced”–although the net effect of decades of
shooting up to 85% of all the bucks in the woods is that few states
have anything resembling a natural buck/doe ratio, while the
abnormally high percentage of females in the herd surviving each
winter virtually guarantees continued explosive population growth.
Because deer have learned that they are generally safer in
suburban parks than in the often heavily hunted countryside
surrounding big cities, deer tend to become most concentrated in
some of the most limited habitat–like the Cascade Valley Metro Park
in Summit County, Ohio, near Akron.
Since such locations cannot be opened to recreational hunters
without considerable political controversy, local governments
seeking to reduce deer/car traffic accidents and complaints about
nibbled yard plants have increasingly often over the past decade
turned to hiring professional sharpshooters, who work at night,
when the parks can be closed and witnesses kept away.
One sharpshooter, Anthony DeNicola of Hamden, Connecticut,
has developed lucrative employment for himself as a more-or-less
fulltime deer shooter, through a nonprofit organization he formed
called White Buffalo. Hired by municipal governments to cull deer,
DeNicola has within the past four years reportedly killed as many as
590 deer in Iowa City, Iowa; 582 in Fairmount Park, Pennsylvania;
and 875 in Princeton Town-ship, New Jersey. Those are just a few
of his shooting locations.
DiNicola is on record, many times, speaking against
contraceptive means of controlling deer.
Yet DeNicola has also been hired to test deer contraceptives
in Princeton Township, where he reportedly injected 20 does with an
immunocontraceptive called SpayVac in 2003, and injected 35 in early
During late February and early March 2004 DeNicola alternated
between shooting 119 deer by night at the Cascade Valley Metro Park,
assisted by other personnel, and heading a deer birth control
research project by day at the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation and
Southerly sewage treatment plant, funded by Cleveland Metroparks.
Unknown to DeNicola until March 1, Hindi monitored his
shooting with multiple battery-operated hidden video cameras.
“Our footage shows numerous deer who continue to move after
being shot,” said Hindi. This movement continues not just for
seconds, but for some minutes, until the deer are removed from
camera view. There was one particular deer who will be the litmus
test for integrity, honesty, and dignity in Akron. The deer went
down when shot, but continued to struggle. Instead of shooting the
deer again, the killers allowed the animal to writhe in pair, and
the struggling increased as four members of the killing team
approached the victim. A minute and a half after the deer was shot,
one of the killers grabbed the deer by an ear, pulled her head up,
and put a plastic bag over her head. He then tightened the bag
around her neck. Understandably, the deer struggled more. At two
and a half minutes after she was shot, another killer grabbed the
deer by a hind leg, and she went ballistic. His reaction was to
retighten the bag. Then, with the deer still moving, the killer
grabbed her by the neck and pulled her out of view.”
Fox Channel 8, WKYC Channel 3, and PAX Channel 23 all
reported on the video. Metro Parks chief of natural resource
management Michael Johnson said he saw “nothing disturbing.”
“It must be mentioned that the footage of the deer is so
disturbing that all three televisions refused to show it in entirety,
and said so in their reports,” Hindi continued. “The TV crews
included present and former hunters, all of whom were appalled and
outraged at what they saw, recognizing the treatment of the deer as
incompetent, unethical, and totally unacceptable.”
The next night, Hindi said, the Metro Parks rangers found
and seized eight of the SHARK cameras, worth about $5,000.
Purportedly held as evidence while the possibility of filing charges
against Hindi was under investigation, five of the cameras were
returned on March 30, Hindi said, with the video footage on all of
them erased, and with other physical damage. Metro Parks personnel
denied having ever had the other three.
Unknown to them, Hindi told ANIMAL PEOPLE, the Metro Parks
rangers did not find all of the cameras, and some of those they
missed captured “damning footage.”
Concluded Hindi, “We will tell them and White Buffalo that
they will tangle with us again, and again, and again.”
Around the world
Wildlife contraception in lieu of culling is under active
investigation in many other parts of the world.
In Australia, Victoria state environment minister John
Thwaites announced in January 2004 that “Trials have shown that use
of hormone implants has prevented conception for six years in a
population of wild koalas.” The technology is ready, Thwaites
indicated, for use with “thousands” of koalas in places where they
may be eating themselves out of their eucalyptus forest habitat.
In Chengdu, China, the Sichuan Provincial Disease
Prevention & Control Centre in January 2004 won authorization to
begin production this spring of an oral contraceptive for rats.
Shanghai officials reportedly plan to deploy 10 tons of the
contraceptive bait at 300,000 sites during a three-month test to see
if it reduces the rat population more effectively than poisoning,
which typically achieves only short-term results and causes severe
suffering, at much risk to other species.
“These pills will do little harm to human beings and pets,”
developer Wang Qiuzhi told the People’s Daily.
Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries, & Conservation Department
representative C.L. Wong on March 14 told the members of the Asian
Animal Protection Network that the results from a year-long test of
SpayVac in 20 female wild monkeys “seem encouraging. Although the
catching part is hard,” he said, “birth control appears to be an
effective method to control monkey populations and to reduce
human/wildlife conflict, especially in large Asian cities. Ten
treated female monkeys and four conventionally vasectomized male
monkeys were seen again in field visits,” Wong continued. “None of
the treated female monkeys were seen pregnant in the birth season.
Normal sexual characteristics were observed. Mating activities for
both treated male and female monkeys were observed to be normal as
compared to other monkeys. No obvious change of social status of the
treated male monkeys was detected,” and the monkey troupes tended to
remain bonded, instead of breaking up as often occurs when male
monkeys are castrated.
In Germany, the Berlin Institute for Zoo & Wildlife Research
in October 2003 began experimentally feeding a once-a-year oral
contraceptive to some of the estimated 20,000 wild boars who inhabit
the Grunewald forest that rings the city. The contraceptive is meant
to sterilize either male or female boars, spokesperson Katarine
Jewgenow told Guardian correspondent Luke Harding.
New Zealand is reportedly considering a second round of contraceptive
experimentation to attempt to limit the wild horse population of the
Kaimanawa range to about 500. An effort by Massey University failed
several years ago, but since then the methodology has been refined
and is credited with stabilizing the wild horse population on
Assateague Island, off Virginia, at about 150.
Even the U.S. beef industry is interested in chemosterilants,
to sterilize bull calves less stressfully than by performing
traditional castration and to suppress estrus in heifers. Related
research is underway at the University of California at Davis,
Washington State University, and the Lethbridge Research Centre in
Alberta, Canada, Heather Smith Thomas and Clint Peck reported for
Beef magazine in August 2003.
National Wildlife Federation
However, while the beef industry seems to welcome the
technology, the pro-hunting National Wildlife Federation in August
2003 alleged that a USDA-sponsored bison birth control experiment
underway near Gardiner, Montana, might be problematic because the
South Dakota bison at the research station might mix with Yellowstone
The National Wildlife Federation during the 1980s obstructed
the introduction of oral rabies vaccines to the U.S., on the pretext
that their use constituted a release of a genetically engineered
organism into the environment. By the time Raboral was finally
deployed to combat the spread of raccoon rabies up and down the east
coast, and as far west as Ohio, oral rabies vaccines had already
been used for 20 years in Europe, and had already eradicated fox
rabies west of the former Iron Curtain.
The mid-Atlantic raccoon rabies pandemic started in 1976 when
a group of West Virginia raccoon hunters and trappers translocated
3,500 raccoons from a rabies-endemic part of Florida, trying to
rebuild the hunted-out local population. From 1977 through 1987,
trappers in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware,
Pennsylvania, and New Jersey killed more than 500,000 raccoons per
year. Hunters killed as many more. Yet rabies kept spreading at
about 50 miles per year, and continued to spread until Raboral was
The Cape Cod Rabies Task Force, formed in 1994 by the Tufts
University Veterinary School, demonstrated the efficacy of Raboral
by using it to keep raccoon rabies from crossing the Cape Cod Canal.
The first breach of the vaccinated rabies barrier was detected in
early March 2004, when two rabid raccoons were found near Monument
Beach. Volunteers distributed 23,000 Raboral doses during the next
two weeks. Observation of local wildlife to ensure that the outbreak
is eradicated will continue for the next year–but the emergency
vaccination effort, at $1.27 per dose, exhausted the task force
budget. Once allocated as much as $209,000/year in state funding,
the task force received only $60,000 for fiscal year 2004.