Wake up call

Stray dogs have mauled to death an 18-month-old child, Prashant, at a construction site in Bangalore’s Bagalur layout. The horrific incident throws the spotlight on the implementation of the Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme that the government and NGOs have been implementing to deal with the stray dog problem in the city. Clearly, the ABC programme has not made the city safer from attacks by stray dogs. The incident at Bagalur revives memories of several similar ones in 2007-08 when children were mauled to death by stray dogs. Those incidents had triggered huge public outrage, and an audit that followed, revealed that implementation of the programme by the government and NGOs was poor and at best patchy. The panel made several recommendations to ensure that the stray dog problem in the city would be dealt with humanely but effectively.  Prashant’s death suggests that the panel’s recommendations remain on paper.

What do NGOs have to show for the crores of rupees they have received to neuter dogs? Are officials monitoring this? Where are the dog shelters that were supposed to come up? And what have authorities done about cleaning up our streets especially near meat shops? It is well known that while getting rid of stray dogs in the heart of the city, authorities let them loose in the outskirts, resulting in a sharp increase in their numbers in the suburbs. It was in one such suburb that Prashant met a gruesome end.

The incident is likely to evoke heated debate on how stray dogs should be dealt with. Some will call for severe solutions. The manner in which a rabid dog was tied recently to a motorbike, then dragged around till it was killed indicates that there are many who will not hesitate to advocate killing stray dogs. Then there are those who refuse to admit that there is a stray dog problem. These generally belong to the more elite sections of society, who travel in cars and are not chased by packs of dogs roaming the streets at night. Their children do not sleep in shanties and are not vulnerable to stray dogs as was poor Prashant. There is a middle-path to deal with the stray dog problem. It involves treating dogs with compassion, even as the ABC programme is implemented assiduously.

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