Dr N Ajayan
The street dog menace shoots up in Kerala, people are so scared to walk alone in the streets. Reports pour in on the incidents of attacks by dogs not on children, aged and almost everyone who are out on the roads alone, but people staying indoors on their household premises. Incidences of dog-bites reported in hospitals are alarming. One can see hundreds of street dogs roaming around almost all the streets of Kerala. As there is no effective mechanism for a systematic disposal of household waste by the local self-governments (LSG), the streets often found littered with kitchen waste. Street dogs throng the areas of illegal slaughter houses and way-side meat stalls.
The young and the old, men and women, the weak and the robust – people walking the streets and those even staying indoors are attacked by the street dogs. Beaches and tourist spots of ‘God’s own country’ are swarmed by the street dogs. The print and visual media bring out images of hapless people subjected to dog bites everyday. While the government are at large to find a way out to tackle the menace and save its citizens from the brutal attacks, people themselves are found forming organizations as “Stray-dog free movement” to combat the animal-terrorism.
But animal-lovers plead for mercy – not for the victims of dog-bites, but for the street dogs. They use every available opportunity to convince that dogs are the first domesticated animals and are the most demanded loyal friends of humanity. As the issue was subjected to judicial intervention, Smt. Maneka Gandhi and Animal welfare Board of India came against killing of dogs. The print, visual and social media are flooded with reports of brutal dog attacks and statements of animal-lovers and those demanding blanket elimination of street dogs. The verdict of the Bombay High court giving permission to local bodies to kill troublesome street dogs was stayed by the apex court on 3rd January 2009. The Delhi Police was ordered to protect persons who feed and care for street dogs, by the Delhi High Court through its verdicts in 2009 and 2010. As the local-self- governments (LSG) have lost authority to kill the street dogs following the apex-court decision, the Animal-Birth-Control (ABC) program became the lone means to control the street-dog menace.
There were heated arguments over the effectiveness and practicability of the ABC
program, the horrified common people took on the animal-lovers physically in front of the Government Secretariat. The attitude of the elite dog lovers is under attack by the woeful common man. The veterinarians of Kerala seem divided over the issue as the Indian Veterinary Association is alleged to be contended with the conduct of ‘awareness seminars’ to school students.
While the animal lovers – Animal Welfare Board of India – Maneka Gandhi faction prepares to take on the poor victims and the LSGs over the issue, the blood-thirsty street dogs continue roaming the streets of Kerala and the conundrum is burgeoning. The Kerala State government’s decision on 9 July 2015 to exterminate ‘rabid and dangerous stray dogs’ has sparked off controversies and a worldwide campaign that has gone viral online with the hashtag ‘#BoycottKerala’. The campaign has turned into a ‘Hate Kerala’ movement and goes by the hashtags ‘#KeralaDogCulling’ and ‘#BoycottKeralaTourism’. Activists of All India Animal Protection Group (AIAPG) staged a one-day hunger strike in front of the Government Secretariat, Thiruvananthapuram on 10 September 2015 to protest decision to cull stray dogs. Acting on a complaint by the Animal Welfare Board of india, TP Sen Kumar, Kerala’s Director General of Police has given strict orders to his subordinates to prevent the attempts to kill the street dogs.
The Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001, published as required under the sub-section (1) of section 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act, 1960 (vide Ministry of Culture notification number GSR.816 E) in the Gazette of India Part II, Section 3, Sub section (1) on 2 November 2001. Accordingly, LSGs have to provide for establishment of sufficient number of dogs pounds including animal kennels/shelters, requisite number of dog vans & ambulances with ramps for the capture and transportation of street dogs, incinerators. A monitoring committee consisting of Chief of the local authority, a representative of the Public Health Department, a representative of the Animal Welfare Department, a veterinary doctor, a representative of the SPCA and at least two representatives from the Animal Welfare Organizations should be constituted by the LSGs.
It is the obligation of this committee to see that the dogs captured, tagged for identification purposes and to ensure that the dogs are released in the same area after sterilization and vaccination. The ABC programme should be initiated only after the establishment of all facilities stipulated in the rules. The vaccine to be used should be of proven quality standards. One has to wonder how the LSGs will assure the quality of vaccine in the pretext of ‘store purchase rules’ which categorically instructs for the purchase of lowest quoted products, cheaper than the cost of a cup of coffee.
The PCA Act, 1960 permits euthanasia of rabid, terminally ill or mortally wounded animals by administering Sodium Pentathol and Thiopental Introperitoneal. (Imagine the intra-venous infusion of such drugs to a rabid dog!). State Human Rights Commission also ordered that rabid animals euthanized. But the ABC Act, 2001 directs that ‘if the dog is found to have a high chance of having rabies it would be isolated till it dies a natural death.‘ So issues may prop up on euthanasia of rabid dogs also.
According to Kerala state Municipality Act, 1994, the stray dogs be captured by the LSGs and subjected to ABC programme, but should not be killed. Dogs are not listed as one fit to be killed for meat purposes. As per the last livestock census, Kerala has an estimated 923359 ‘house’ dogs and 268994 ‘street’ dogs.
Population: ‘House’ dogs
Population: ‘Street’ dogs
|District||Street dog population|
But there only less than 100 persons trained to capture 3 lakhs street dogs. An amount of ₹ 1500 needed to sterilize one female dog and imagine the cost involved, leave alone the hardship and staffing requirements. If the ABC programme is targeting the control of population growth of dogs, it advisable to develop newer and practical means than the surgical procedure. As the dogs usually have two mating seasons, it is easy to adopt methods to scale down their ovulation. Dr B Ashok, Vice-chancellor of Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University has also suggested (‘Malayala Manorama‘, 10 September 2015) this method to cut down the dog population. The drugs to slow down the ovulation can be given mixed with food or can be injected. Heat cycle in dogs can be halted by using megestrol acetate (Ovaban) and this method is practiced in some countries to control canine population.
ABC programme also aims at immunization of street dogs. Though the first dose of vaccine to be administered to the animals before their release after the sterilization surgery. But to find out these stray dogs every year for the booster vaccinations doesn’t sound practicable. WHO affirms that a dog immunized with a quality vaccine consecutively for three years alone can be termed as ‘protected’ against rabies. Even in the context of bites by the the ‘protected’ street dog, human beings should be subjected to post exposure anti-rabies vaccination. One cannot be assured of the immunity levels of the ‘vaccinated’ street dogs in Indian conditions.
Though all the street dogs cannot be treated as ‘rabid’, disposing the ‘problem’ animals alone seems the practicable solution to control the menace in that area. To control the incidence of rabies, at least 80% of the canine population should be immunized with quality vaccine. Dogs alone contribute to 95% of the incidences of rabies in Kerala. During 2014-15, about 1.06 lakh dog bites were reported in Kerala.
Incidences of dog bites are reported every hour. Discussions at every level are going on. Newspapers write editorials. Hundreds of petitions are filed in courts to control the street dog menace. Everyone approve the fact that the human life is more precious. Local Self Governments too agree that they are bound to provide shelters for the street dogs. But, there is no end to the miseries of the common man who have to go out for a living.
Dog owners have the obligation to keep their pets indoors. The licensing of dogs should be made mandatory. The public should show the civic sense not to litter the public roads with their kitchen waste. The waste accumulating in the streets should be disposed of immediately. Strict controls should be imposed on slaughterhouses and meat sale points. LSGs should implement the ABC programme in letter and spirit. The dog lovers who never bother about killing of millions of poultry, cattle, goats, and pigs for food, should also be compassionate to their fellow human beings. The laws should primarily be for the well being of common man and not for the street dogs alone.
Gandhiji wrote in ‘Young India’ on 21st October 1926 that “A roving dog without an owner is a danger to society and a swarm of them is a menace to its very existence…. If we want to keep dogs in towns or villages in a decent manner no dog should be suffered to wander. There should be no stray dogs even as we have no stray cattle…. But can we take individual charge of these roving dogs? Can we have a pinjrapole (Shelter) for them? If both these things are impossible then there seems to me no alternative except to kill them. Connivance or putting up with status quo is no ahimsa, there is no thought or discrimination in it. Dogs will be killed whenever they are a menace to society. I regard this as unavoidable in the life of a householder. To wait until they get rabid is not to be merciful to them.”
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