Read in : தமிழ்
With an estimated 2,80,000 stray dogs on its streets, Kerala is in danger of becoming Dogs own Country rather than the iconic Gods Own Country, known for its serene and green landscape. There are another 9,00,000 licensed pet dogs many of which join the strays thanks to neglect or being abandoned by their owners, according to data for 2022 from the State Animal Husbandry Department. The Department also estimates that the stray dog numbers are rising by about 20 percent every year.
However, Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of stray dogs in the country, followed by Odisha, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan in that order. According to data presented by the Union Government in Parliament last year, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Gujarat reported the highest incidences of stray dog bites. Packs of stray dogs attacking morning walkers in Madurai and Chennai were widely reported.
Despite not being among the top of the list, the issue of stray dogs and dog bites in Kerala makes news frequently in an ironic twist given the state’s overall high standard of living and literacy and other development indicators.
As per the Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, there were 5,794 stray dog attacks in the state in 2019. The numbers dipped in 2020 to 3,951 but rose again to 7,927 in 2021. In 2022 there were 11,776 cases. As per the Animal Husbandry Department, there are 170 stray dog ‘hotspots’ in the state with the state capital Thiruvananthapuram leading the chart with 28 spots.
According to data presented by the Union Government in Parliament last year, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Gujarat reported the highest incidences of stray dog bites
Horror in Kannur
The most recent incident of attack by stray dogs led to the death of 11-year-old, differently-abled Nihal, in June this year at Muzhappilangad beach in Kannur. The horrific incident of the child being found near his house mauled by a pack once again turned the spotlight on the menace that these animals pose.
The incident forced the administration to consider approaching the Supreme Court once again to seek permission to kill stray dogs although the latter had in October last year, declined the plea of the local self-governments from Kerala to kill rabid stray dogs.
Meanwhile, the Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) has moved the Supreme Court seeking “immediate directions” like providing confinement facilities for stray dogs or their culling to effectively check the menace of canine attacks, especially on children. The body sought a direction from the apex court to be made a party in a pending 2019 case filed by the state government on the stray dog menace
Waste dumping and shortage of ABC centers
The problem of ferocious stray packs is a factor of high human population density as well as poor waste management. Uncleared garbage sites attract the animals. Inadequate sterilization facilities to implement the Animal Birth Control measures result in an uncontrolled number of strays. The vaccination and sterilization effort, which began with much fanfare in September 2022 as a “knee-jerk” response to a similar catastrophe, has since petered out.
The state government has come under increasing pressure for ignoring the problem despite the risk to its citizens. The Kannur incident was flagged by the opposition even as Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan presented his state as a role model to the Malayali diaspora during his visit to the US recently. Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan in a sarcastic remark on Facebook said that here stray animals had torn up a child. Fortunately for the CM, there aren’t any vicious stray dogs in Times Square.
There are complaints galore about how stray dogs pose a threat to senior citizens, children walking to school, pedestrians, and coastal communities. Animals and birds were also assaulted by the dogs. In Kannur district, the home turf of CM Pinarayi Vijayan there were 6,276 cases of stray dog attacks up to June 19, 2023, as per a petition submitted at the High Court seeking urgent intervention of the state.
Though the government had opened Animal Birth Control (ABC) centers in 152 blocks of the state with the help of the Animal Husbandry Department, the project failed to reach the target due to a shortage of stray catchers
Though the government had opened Animal Birth Control (ABC) centers in 152 blocks of the state with the help of the Animal Husbandry Department, the project failed to reach the target due to a shortage of stray catchers. Though many were trained for the job there were only a few who continued. As per data for 2022, only 20,000 dogs have been sterilized since 2016 under the initiative.
The state government said that it would ask the Supreme Court for authorization to euthanize violent and rabies-infected stray dogs in light of the escalating number of occurrences of lethal stray dog attacks and rabies deaths.
According to a statement from Minister of Local Self-administration MB Rajesh, the administration is proactively addressing the problem. However, certain provisions of the union laws, such as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the Animal Birth Control (ABC) Rules, 2001, have made it difficult to resolve the problem. While the Act enables the killing of wild animals that are a nuisance, it does not permit the same action for dangerous stray dogs. According to the minister, stray dog attacks are not limited to Kerala alone; they also happen in areas like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
However, the state had decided to speed up the ABC project by constructing 25 ABC centers for sterilization and post-operational care of the animals. At present, a total of 20 ABC Centres are being run in the state. Moves are also afoot to set up ABC centers on the premises of all the veterinary hospitals across the state. To curb the waste dumping menace, enforcement drives have been undertaken on a war footing in areas where slaughterhouse waste is found to be dumped.
Rules anti-human, pro-animal
People’s representatives also expressed helplessness in addressing the problem citing the existing ABC rules as they were written in such a way that the birth control of strays cannot not be implemented. Some of them are termed “impractical”. Kerala plans to legally challenge these rules and seek amendments. Steps are also on for the mercy killing of those stray dogs suffering from fatal injuries and incurable diseases.
As per the rules notified by the Centre earlier this year, stray dogs can be sterilized only when they’ve attained the age of at least 4 months. Killing, maiming, poisoning, or rendering useless any animal is punishable by imprisonment for up to two years or a fine or with both, under Section 428 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The 2023 Rules require strays to be caught, vaccinated, neutered, and released back into the community. The new rules also mandate that the sterilization and immunization of stray dogs should be carried out by local bodies or municipalities or Municipal Corporations and Panchayats.
Read in : தமிழ்