I wonder how many of you would agree with me if I say Kerala has become ‘Dog’s Own Country’ for real!
I’m pretty sure that anyone who follows daily news, dare to take a walk leaving the safety of air-conditioned cars, have seen a person dies of rabies and have a tint of human love would agree with me. Besides the numerous stray dog bites on the streets, children have been bitten inside their nursery school, employee bitten on the first floor veranda of a bank; policemen bitten inside the police station, two-wheeler riders chased and killed in accident, etc. The examples are numerous, disturbing and a nightmare to ordinary public. Stray dogs have their staunch lovers to speak for. What about people?
Enough of debates have already been done! It is time to think logically, be reasonable and find a solution to this harrowing menace. One of the arguments stray dog lovers make is that the earth is not only meant for human beings, the stray dogs have a right to live. Yes, sure they do, and so do have people and priced domestic animals. Thousands of chicken, goats and cows die of stray dog bite. For a greater good it is justifiable to choose the lesser evil, right?
It was enlightening to read what GANDHIJI, the apostle of Ahimsa, wrote about stray dog menace and think it has high relevance in the present scenario. It has been recorded in history that a public controversy arose in Ahmadabad in 1926 when a textile mill owner killed around 60 stray dogs roaming on his mill premises with Gandhi’s permission. Numerous letters came to Gandhi questioning him for compromising his stance on ahimsa. As a reply he wrote in his journal ‘Young India’: “A STRAY DOG WITHOUT AN OWNER IS A DANGER TO THE SOCIETY AND A SWARM OF THEM IS A MENACE TO ITS VERY EXISTANCE. It should be a sin to feed stray dogs and we should save numerous dogs if we had legislation making every stray dog liable to be shot. Even if those who feed stray dogs consented to pay a penalty for their misdirected compassion we should be freed from the curse of stray dogs… To wait until they get rabid is not to be merciful to them… It is from this false feeling of compassion that we encourage himsa in the name of ahimsa…”
A year ago I took up this issue and filed a common cause petition in court, but no one took notice of it seriously then. Now the problem has multiplied and is rapidly getting out of control. In Kerala on an average over 100 people are bitten by stray dogs daily and the case is no different in other states, though hardly anyone reacts about it. In our country about 20,000 people die of rabies every year. About 2.25 crore people are bitten. While the victims mostly are ordinary people, the cost of anti-rabies injection costs from Rs. 16,000 to Rs.28,000. Dog bite wound treatment costs will run close to lakhs in some severe cases. It turns out to be a billion dollar business, and if people doubt the unholy nexus between the rabies vaccine companies and those who are adamant to keep stray dogs alive on streets, they can’t be blamed. If they are true animal lovers why don’t they have any problem when cows, goats or chicken are killed? Rule IV of the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001 clearly describes the responsibility vested on local bodies to handle stray dogs, but sadly nothing substantial is being done about it. Crores of rupees are kept aside for the same but where does it all go? No one knows!
I have been posting news clipping on stray dog menace on my Facebook page on a daily basis voicing my stand on the issue. In the beginning there were many stray dog lovers expressing their divergent views boldly, and I silently welcomed it. But as time passed difference in views began to be expressed as shower of nasty abuses. When the general public expressed these dog lovers’ dubious intentions and possible shrouded connections with the rabies vaccine companies, slowly these ‘identified’ voices died down. Soon the ‘Boycott Kerala’ hate campaign was born, spreading lies and hatred, tarnishing the name of Kerala before the world. Of late no ‘identified’ persons come to express their divergent views, rather create fake facebook ids just to abuse and spread hatred. To these dog lovers, who don’t even dare to reveal their identity, this is what I’d like to say with respect: Let us face it with dignity. Come let us reason and find a solution to this problem affecting millions of ordinary people.
Earlier culling of stray dogs was a practice in Kerala, but since last 10 years it has been stopped, leading to the present scenario, because stray dogs multiply in geometric progression. That is, they give birth two times a year, 6 to 8 puppies in each birth. In time these puppies will continue the process. Stray dog lovers demand that the dogs should be castrated, vaccinated and left back to where they were caught from. They say, if it is continuously done for 15 years stay dogs will naturally vanish. But I don’t think the logic is right. The target of ridding streets off stray dogs won’t be achieved for a long time to come with sterilization alone. Should we let people and domestic animals be bitten that long? Let me ask, even if the dogs are vaccinated and sent back to where they were caught from, if one of them bites you will you take the risk of not taking anti-rabies injection? Is there any guarantee that these dogs won’t get affected by rabies again? Is there any way to identify the vaccinated stray dogs from non-vaccinated ones? Another argument is that stray dogs are multiplying because waste is strewn all over and that a solution to waste menace is to be found ahead of solving stray dog menace. Yes, waste is an issue that needs immediate attention. But if the dogs don’t find food to eat in the waste garbage what will they possibly do? In all probability, as you walk down the lane with food packets in hand you will be attacked. No chickens or goats will be left in your farm. They will soon encroach into your kitchen too.
Once in power, political ‘leaders’ sometimes become so arrogant that they spare no rod to mock the sufferings of ordinary people. When asked for a solution to stray dog menace one Union Cabinet Minister had this to say: “When dog chases, find a tree to climb.” Such a valuable suggestion indeed! Recently arrests were made on those who killed a few dangerous stray dogs. Calling for such an action the DGP said that killing stray dogs is an offence liable for prosecution, even as the Judiciary had clearly expressed that human life is more valuable and that dangerous stray dogs can be put to sleep. As per Section 428 and 429 of Indian Penal Code, action can be initiated against those who kill animals worth more than Rs.10, if the owner of the animal files a complaint. In the case of stray dogs, how much are they worth? Who is its owner? If it has an owner, aren’t they the ones to be prosecuted for letting them loose, pausing threat to life and property? Why is the DGP, who is responsible to safeguard people and their property, worried more about the welfare of stray dogs? While when other animals are found rabid permission is promptly granted to kill them, those very ‘animal lovers’ adamantly curb killing of rabid dogs. Isn’t it strange?
The need of the hour is not to discuss how to protect stray dogs or reduce its menace after 15 or 20 years through ABC programme, etc. What we need is an immediate solution, for which, I believe, sheltering, vaccination and sterilization and putting to sleep all the dangerous and rabid dogs in a painless manner are the way ahead. It is with this intention that I, with some likeminded ‘HUMAN LOVERS’ constituted the “Stray Dog Free Movement”, a society to help stray dog victims by way of financial aid for treatment, legal aid and for associating with local authorities as well as NGOs to build dog shelters.
In our pursuit of loving animals, let us not forget to love fellow humans, too..!