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On Stray Dog Menace

In newspapers and visual media we see and hear of numerous stray-dog attack cases on a daily basis. In the resent past alone tens of th ousands of such horrific incidents have been reported from across India.
In Chandigarh a six-year-old girl’s face was mauled and disfigured and another girl was killed by stray dogs recently. In Goa, 18 rabies deaths were reported in 2014. In Hyderabad, over 3000 cases were reported in three months. A 6-year-old girl was mauled to death in Guntur recently. In Bhubaneswar, the city reports over 1200 cases every month. Kerala reports over 300 cases daily on an average. In Mohali, 22 bites were reported in 4 days, of which 5 were kids and one 5-year-old died. Well, we can go on narrating similar bloodcurdling stories of stray dog attacks from across India. I am sure the unreported cases are more in number than the reported ones.
Just as the saying, ‘every dog has its day’, it seems it is stray dogs’ time in our country. ‘Acche din’ have indeed come for stray dogs! And truly sad is the situation of common people – kids and women being the worst affected among them. While people bear the brunt, the elected representatives and local authorities are lethargic on the issue and seem not to be bothered at all. How will they, the Minister-in-charge herself is championing the ‘dogs’ cause’. Love of dog is good indeed. Most people do keep pets at home and love them dearly as part of the family. But this fashionable stray dog-love proves costly for the life and wellbeing of common people.
People in developed countries are known for their pet love. But we don’t see dogs straying around in public places there. I studied in detail about the laws and regulations in place in our country on the issue and learnt that the local bodies are vested with the responsibility to protect people from stray dog attack. But hardly anything is being done by them in reality. Hence, in June 2014, I approached the Court requesting intervention.
It is the responsibility of the local bodies to manage stray dogs. But, they are not doing it. Leaving out isolated efforts, we don’t see the existing law regarding Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules 2011 being put into practice. As per the directives of the law, the local authorities are to form a committee. This committee is responsible for planning and management of dog control programmes – catching, transportation, sheltering, sterilization, vaccination, treatment, etc. as well as to decide to put to sleep critically ill or rabid dogs in a painless method. The law also directs to build enclosures to keep straying dogs as well as to create public awareness and solicit cooperation and funding.
As is obvious, the law has remained on paper and has not been put into practice. Now, the situation has gone out of control. We see stray dogs which are seemingly not affected by rabies, but in fact are carriers of rabies virus. It is not possible to identify whether they are affected in their appearance. In earlier days if a dog bites someone, it was a common practice to observe it for a few days. It was believed that if the dog is rabid, it would die in a few days. This is a wrong notion. It has been proved that rabies affected dogs can go about for long without showing any symptoms. The other wrong notion we have is that once sterilized, stray dogs are safe. It’s not so. Sterilized dogs can be rabid. The authorities know it all, but are conveniently blind to it.
Majority of the so-called animal-lovers are in actuality merely dog-lovers. Some of them do not have any problem in eating the meat of cows, goats, buffalos or chicken. Their only concern is about dogs. Surprisingly, they close one eye and shut the other on the incidents of stray dogs killing other domestic animals. While they preach their dog-ma on public platforms, hardly any of them care to adopt stray dogs to their own homes. If we scrutinize we’ll see that majority of these professed dog-lovers travel by cars and are not aware of the trouble faced by pedestrians. There is a saying, ‘you don’t have to fear the dog while you sit atop an elephant!’ “Stray dogs don’t bite unless it is provoked,” so goes some of the defensive reasoning by dog-lovers. They will understand the grass root reality only when one of their dear ones faces dog attack and lives through the trauma for the rest of life.
No country has as many stray dogs as India, and no country suffers as much from them. Together with all those who speak and fight for freedom from stray dog menace, I exhort the local authorities across India to put into practice the directives of the law for the safety and welfare of people. It’ll be so unfortunate if those of you who are responsible still choose not to see the plight of common people, including kids and women. For this, the ‘real people’s representatives’ should take the initiative. Or else we’ll have to go on living this life with the constant fear of being hunted by stray dogs!
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Kochouseph Chittilappilly, 33/2905 F, Vennala High School Road, Vennala, Kochi