A stray dog that attacked and bit 17 people at Ragigudda in Jayanagar 9th Block in Bengaluru on Friday draws attention to the failure of civic authorities to address the stray dog menace in the city. Although their numbers are growing rapidly –- around half the 3.27 lakh dogs in Bengaluru are reportedly strays –- officials of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) are busy twiddling their thumbs. This is a matter of concern as dog-bite cases in the city are growing. BBMP admits that the number of dog-bite cases rose from 17,783 in 2016 to 32,883 in 2017 and touched 27,464 in the first nine months of 2018. Dog-bites are worrying as they can lead to death, especially when the dog involved is a stray that hasn’t been vaccinated against rabies. According to the World Health Organisation, India accounts for 37% of the world’s rabies deaths each year.
Stray dogs evoke extreme emotions in our society. On the one hand, there are the dog lovers, who like to play and feed stray dogs and see them as guardians of our streets and houses. Then, there are those who want stray dogs killed. Their hate stems from fear that the dogs will attack them. Killing dogs is not an option. Not only is it inhumane but also illegal. There is a middle path that BBMP should be pursuing assiduously to control the stray dog population. Unfortunately, neither the BBMP nor animal welfare organisations have implemented the Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme with any seriousness.
Under the ABC, stray dogs are to be picked up, neutered, vaccinated against rabies and released in the areas from where they were caught. The government is supposed to fund NGOs to carry out the neutering and vaccination of dogs. However, it has failed to reimburse them, resulting in the ABC programme losing momentum. This has resulted in the increase in the number of stray dogs in the city. Sterilisation of dogs is a long-term solution. Meanwhile, the BBMP and animal welfare NGOs need to implement short and medium-term measures to deal with the problem. Bengalureans should be encouraged to provide strays with homes. Public awareness on treatment of stray dogs is important as teasing and torturing them traumatises the animal and makes it aggressive. Besides, waste disposal from our streets should improve. Food, especially raw meat thrown on streets, attracts dogs. When rag-pickers or pedestrians approach rubbish heaps, dogs attack them. It is children, the poor and the homeless that are the main victims of dog-bites. The BBMP must shrug off its lethargy to tackle the stray dog problem immediately.