Infected by the Indian proclivity for procreation and rapid proliferation, the stray dogs hereabouts find their population has soared to a dangerous level posing a threat to themselves and public safety. We all know this. Eyes goggling with horror, we watch CCTV footage of a 4-year-old in Hyderabad who was mauled to death by stray dogs in the parking lot of a housing society. Tutting in outrage, we read about the infant in a Rajasthan Hospital, who was carried away by strays of the canine persuasion. We all know these news stories represent a mere fraction of incidents pertaining to dog attacks. Because, it is routine, for lean and mean street dogs to chase or bite the unwary in India, the rabies capital of the world. Even so, none of us can be bothered with addressing this very preventable menace. Instead, we are content to express our dissatisfaction of social media before stepping out of our homes for a bracing walk, with a vague prayer on our lips and hope in our hearts, that we won’t be the ones who are attacked by a stray, hit by a truck, raped, robbed, or shat on by winged terrors like crows and pigeons. These things always happen to someone else, the unfortunates who wind up as sordid statistics, splashed across the news.
It is why we look the other way, when stray cattle prowl our roads causing road accidents and claiming the lives of hundreds, when they are not loading up on carelessly disposed plastic and garbage. Of course, we explain away this unacceptable scenario by telling ourselves that cows are sacred to Hindus, although we know that there is nothing in the Shastras explicitly telling us to let all things bovine traipse boisterously across the highways in a manner that can only be described as criminally negligent. Besides cows and drunk drivers are not the only dangerous things on the roads. We have stray dogs, runaway pigs, and the odd hobbled horse too! Why are we not doing anything about this?
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) and Animal Birth Control (ABC) Acts don’t do much to prevent cruelty to animals or curb untrammelled breeding among strays. Similarly the increasing instances of Cow Vigilantism and rigidly enforced Cattle Protection laws which have criminalized Cow slaughter have only served to exacerbate the problem. It is high time this crisis in addition to being merely acknowledged needs to be tackled using a more practical approach.
Animal birth control measures need to be properly managed. Pet owners who abandon their pets and those guilty of mistreating animals must be pulled up and made to pay hefty fines. More animals and gaushalas need to be established, staffed with vets, volunteers and trained personnel committed to the job so that strays may be gathered up, fed, cared for if they are sick or crippled and spayed. Perhaps this way, our roads and public spaces will be marginally safer, and we might even successfully eliminate rabies.
This article originally appeared in The New Indian Express Magazine.