Hounding the street dog menace

In the wake of a recent fatal attack on a seven-year-old boy by a pack of street dogs in Delhi, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notices to the Delhi government and the Union health ministry.

Delhi has a stray dog population of 2.75 lakh. At least 16 people in Delhi died of rabies contracted from dog bites in the last year. According to a survey conducted by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, 30,608 cases of dog bites were reported from areas under its jurisdiction in 2012-2013, as against 17,634 cases the previous year.

The NHRC has called for a wider debate by the civil society on the issue. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over 20,000 people die every year from rabies in India. State administrations, which fail to recognise the importance of improved public sanitation and waste disposal in the equation to cut the barking, snarling, stinking menace of street dogs, are puzzled over how to manage them.

A large numbers of dog attacks are reported from many parts of the country where children are cruelly bitten and bruised by stray dogs. A pack of stray dogs recently attacked a group of people at a bus depot in the Govandi area of Mumbai without any provocation. Fourteen out of the 15 victims were children in the age group of three to eight years.

Recently, in the wake of related incidents, the Kerala State Human Rights Commission has issued notice to the chief secretary and the principal secretary to explain the steps taken to control stray dogs and rabid dogs. Even Bengalureans have been putting up with the heat of the problem for quite some time now.

Scavenger dogs
Most free-roaming dogs belong to an ancient canine race known as the Pariah Dog, which has existed all over Asia and Africa ever since human beings started living in settlements. They are scavengers living on garbage created by humans.

Much of the urban stray population consists of mongrels or mix-breeds descended from pure-breed dogs who have been allowed to interbreed with pariahs.

Being regularly fed by dog-loving people, the stray dogs in the cities have proliferated. The size of stray dog populations always matches to the size and character of the human population of an area.

Streets are the home to these dogs and when there are attempts to scare them away they get the impression that their territory is being conquered and they retaliate. Therefore, our kids are to be trained not to throw stones at them. Dogs can remain man’s best friends forever, if we learn how to care for them.

Tackling the nuisance
Though, this comes from an animal lover’s perspective, considering the scary nuisance created by stray dogs – biting and mauling of thousands of people across the country every day – more realistic steps to handle the situation are essential.

Dogs assessed as dangerous have to be culled or may be left as feed to carnivores in zoos. A mass movement to frame a law for killing of stray dogs needs to be initiated. When the government is all set to enact changes to weaken the existing environment and conservation laws of the country in order to promote industrialisation and ensure high economic growth, why is it afraid to solve the problem of street dogs?

If the government is concerned about the reactions of animal lovers in this matter, it also needs to enact laws to stop killing cockroaches and mosquitoes by repellants, agricultural pests by pesticides and disease causing microbes by antibiotics since these pests and microbes too have their right to live.

If nations can resort to judicial killing of human beings to save their territories from internal and external aggressors, then why hesitate in taking steps in the case of stray dogs.

Community leaders cry out when an elephant or tiger strays into human habitations. Are lives of stray dogs more valuable than that of endangered wildlife?

There should be strict rules and licenses for the owners of high breed and pedigree domestic dogs, too. Such dogs are also often dangerously out of control in a public place. They are allowed to urinate and defecate in public roads and parks and are vulnerable to even injure a person.


(The writer teaches at the Christ University, Bengaluru)

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