Is India in the grip of a ‘stray dog’ crisis?

Source- The post is based on the article “‘Is India in the grip of a ‘stray dog’ crisis?” published in “The Hindu” on 24th March 2023.

Syllabus: GS3- Government policies and interventions

Relevance– Issues related to animal protection

News– In recent weeks, there have been many attacks by stray dogs on people, especially children.

Are stray dogs a global problem?

This is not an Indian problem. It is very much a global issue. This is primarily because people like dogs and want to keep them.

Globally, supply always tends to exceed the demand for dogs. As a result, the surplus animals end up on the streets.

How is India’s approach towards stray dogs different from other countries?

The U.S. has a zero tolerance policy for stray dogs. They are euthanized every year. In India, we allow those animals to end up on the streets, and leave them there. This is in violation of our laws.

In case of India, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act recognises that dogs suffer on the streets due to homelessness and also impact human beings. They should therefore be sheltered, re-homed, removed or euthanised.

State Municipal Acts also mandate capture and removal, and they should be sheltered, re-homed or euthanised.

Historically, euthanasia was done in a crude, haphazard manner. Municipalities used the cheapest methods of killing them. Now, India has ended the mass killing and dogs are left on the road.

Stray dogs are being identified as community dogs and are now considered part of the community.

What are the reasons for the increasing menace of stray dogs?

The 2001 Animal Birth Control Rules took away the powers to euthanize by creating a category called ‘street dogs’ as opposed to strays.

The Ministry of Urban Development is supposed to bring together the policy and technical aspects. But, it does not have capacity and interest to get into sections of laws.

The Municipal Acts are ignored by officers. Their decisions are influenced by the political atmosphere. The political aspects depend on people’s beliefs. The general sense among people is that stray dogs are a public good.

There is a lack of human supervision and control due to confusion related to legal aspects for stray dogs. Dogs go back to the feral state. These large packs of dogs are becoming territorial and aggressive about public spaces where they are fed.

The courts have said there should be designated places for dogs to be fed and that these should be defined by the municipal and the Animal Welfare Board and the local Resident Welfare Associations.

But these three bodies are unlikely to come together for thousands of streets, societies and colonies in a State or in a city. There are issues with monitoring of these places also.

What is the way forward to resolve the issue of stray dogs?

Citizens will not accept euthanasia, even in the case of terminally ill animals. This would have to be built into people’s thinking. This is a public health responsibility.

Euthanasia or sterilisation cannot be the only answer to the problem. For instance, the most the prolific breeding population would have to be sterilised. Sick animals, aggressive animals, would have to be euthanized. A segment of the population can be sheltered.

We have to recognise that dogs are domestic companion animals and must be treated as such. They have no role ecologically or otherwise on the streets and in public places without human supervision. This is the starting point of all dog control in the country.

It is the duty of officials to implement the law and of legislators to amend law. Political will is necessary for it. Courts must stop the ambivalence in interpreting the law.

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