Sunday, June 09, 2024



Cases of strays or pet dogs, routinely attacking citizens and claiming lives, including those of children regularly makes it to headlines. Recently, a 5 – year old girl was mauled by two Rottweilers at a Nungambakkam park leading to a widespread public outcry. This prompted a typical knee – jerk response with the TN govt. declaring a ban against the import, sale, and breeding of 23 dangerous dog breeds including Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, Terriers and Rhodesian Ridgebacks, similar to the one issued by the Central govt. in March only to withdraw it within a matter of hours because the Madras high court and a few others had stayed the directive in response to protests by pet owners and breeders.

This non-resolution to the canine crisis in India is typical and has re-ignited the debate on how to deal with the problem with animal lovers and activists arrayed against concerned citizens demanding stronger guidelines to deal with the strays and aggressive pets. The statistics are chilling. India accounts for about 36 percent of the World’s rabies deaths. Deaths related to attacks by man’s best friends and dog bite cases are staggeringly high. Worse, many such instances go unreported, especially in rural areas. Packs of strays running wild on the streets and roads, are ticking time bombs, endangering themselves as well as the citizenry.

A suitable solution is possible provided committed action is taken by the Animal Welfare Board, state administration and the general populace working in tandem. Strays need to be gathered, vaccinated, neutered, and rehabilitated in dog shelters and sanctuaries to curb the burgeoning stray population and prevent attacks. Concerned citizens need to chip in with their time, money, and a willingness to adopt in order to supplement the efforts of the government. Pet control laws must be strictly enforced with owners ensuring that the four – legged members of the family are responsibly cared for and when taken out in public are suitably collared, leashed, and muzzled if necessary. A common complaint is that many people arbitrarily feed strays without taking overall responsibility for the dog’s welfare which leads to these animals becoming territorial and more prone to attacking the unwary, when they are not fed. Which is why raising public awareness and educating people about how best to protect themselves while dealing with strays, treatment options for rabies, etc. are key to making it possible for humans and animals to coexist without harming each other.

Ending the canine crisis entirely is going to be a challenge simply because heavy funds are required to sterilize and shelter these animals. Municipal bodies that aren’t corrupt or committed to enriching themselves at the expense of others tend to divert the limited resources towards more pressing concerns prioritising human over animal welfare thereby endangering both and allowing a bad situation to worsen. There is also the question of euthanasia or culling unwanted strays demanded by practical necessities, but which raises questions about promoting cruelty to animals and failure to safeguard their rights. A sustainable, lasting, and humane solution to the canine crisis is not impossible to achieve but it remains improbable.

This article was originally published in The New Indian Express.

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