The Issue of Stray dogs in India – Explained, pointwise

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Lately, Stray dogs have been in news, due to their attacks on children and men, in multiple incidents. In Telangana’s Khammam district, a five-year-old boy died after being attacked by a stray dog while playing outside. This is the second dog attack incident in less than a month. A few incidents involved the death of the victim. These incidents have ignited the debate among the people raising concerns against the rising population of dogs and the dog lovers.  Therefore, it becomes important to know about the reasons behind rising dog attacks in India and the policy steps that can be taken to handle this situation.

Some facts regarding the stray dog population in India

In 2019, it was stated in Lok Sabha that the stray dog population went down by 18 lakhs in 7 years from 1.71 crores to 1.53 crores. Some independent studies suggest the population is much higher as many go unaccounted for.

Globally, dog-mediated rabies causes an estimated 59,000 human deaths annually. According to WHO, India accounts for 36% of the global deaths due to rabies. India also accounts for 65% of the deaths due to rabies in the South-East Asia region. The National Rabies Control Program reported 6644 clinically suspected cases and deaths of human rabies between 2012 and 2022.

According to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, almost 96% of rabies cases in India are caused by stray dogs – and so India leads the world in rabies deaths.

What are the reasons for the increasing stray dog crisis in India?

Lack of proper animal birth control programs: There are not enough animal birth control programs in place to control the population of stray dogs. For example, in some areas, dogs are often left unsterilised, which leads to more puppies and an increasing population of stray dogs.

Irresponsible ownership: Many people in India often abandon their pets on the streets when they are no longer wanted, or they let their dogs roam free without proper supervision. This leads to an increase in the stray dog population.

Poor waste management: Stray dogs often scavenge for food in garbage dumps, which are not properly managed in many areas of India. This leads to an increase in the number of stray dogs in these areas.

Lack of awareness: Many people in India are not aware of the importance of responsible pet ownership or the dangers of abandoning their pets. This lack of awareness contributes to the increasing stray dog crisis.

Religious beliefs: Some communities in India believe that killing or sterilizing dogs is against their religious beliefs. This can make it difficult to implement effective animal birth control programs and control the population of stray dogs.

Inadequate animal welfare laws: The current animal welfare laws in India are not strong enough to protect animals from abuse and neglect. This leads to an increase in the number of stray dogs, as there are no penalties for irresponsible ownership or abandonment.

Read more: Understanding the street dogs-human conflict

What are steps taken by the government to address the stray dog crisis?

Animal Birth Control (ABC) program: The ABC programme wherein dogs are sterilised, vaccinated and replaced in their original areas is the only effective method to reduce street dog population, end biting and eliminate rabies. For example, in 2019, the government of Kerala sterilized over 87,000 stray dogs under this program.

Vaccination drives: The government conducts vaccination drives to protect stray dogs against diseases such as rabies. For example, in 2020, the government of Tamil Nadu conducted a vaccination drive for stray dogs in the city of Chennai.

Awareness campaigns: The government conducts awareness campaigns to educate people on responsible pet ownership and the importance of controlling the stray dog population. For example, the Delhi government launched a campaign called “Be a Human, Save a Life” to encourage people to adopt stray dogs and help control their population.

Legal framework: The government has enacted laws to protect animals from cruelty and abuse, and to regulate the management of stray dogs. For example, In India, stray-dog management comes under the purview of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 and State Municipal Acts. The Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001, provide guidelines for the management of stray dogs.

Collaboration with NGOs: The government collaborates with NGOs and animal welfare organizations to implement programs for the management of stray dogs. For example, the government of Maharashtra has partnered with animal welfare organization, the Blue Cross Society, to conduct sterilization and vaccination drives for stray dogs.

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

What are the arguments in favour of confining stray dogs?

Public safety: Stray dogs can pose a risk to public safety by attacking people or other animals. Confined facilities or culling of stray dogs can reduce the risk of such incidents.

Control of diseases: Stray dogs can carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans, such as rabies. Confined facilities stray dogs can help to control the spread of such diseases.

Nuisance: Stray dogs can cause a nuisance by barking loudly, damaging property, and creating a mess. Confined facilities or killing stray dogs can help to reduce such problems.

Population control: It can help to control the population of stray dogs, which can become a problem when their numbers are too high.

What are arguments against the confining stray dogs in facilities?

Cruelty: Confining or culling of stray dogs is often viewed as cruel, especially if the dogs are healthy and have not caused any harm.

Ethical concerns: Many people believe that all animals have a right to life and that killing or confining them goes against this principle.

Ineffectiveness: It is often seen as an ineffective solution to the problem, as it does not address the root causes of the issue. As per the WHO’s Expert Committee on Rabies, there is no evidence that the removal of dogs has a significant impact on dog population densities and the spread of rabies.

Lack of resources: In many areas, there are not enough resources or facilities available to confine or euthanize all stray dogs, making it an impractical solution.

Alternatives: There are alternative solutions, such as animal birth control programs and responsible pet ownership, which are often seen as more humane and effective.

Legal issues: In some countries, killing or confining stray dogs is illegal, and proponents of animal rights argue that enforcing these laws is important for protecting animal welfare.

Read more: Sterilisation is the best way to address stray dog problem

What should be done to address the stray dog crisis?

The effective strategy would be the implementation of the ABC (Animal Birth Control) Programme by municipal bodies in accordance with the new ABC Rules of 2023.

A proactive approach would be to encourage the adoption of Indian dogs. If one person out of every 100 people adopts a dog from the street, there would be no dogs on the roads.

The native breeds of dogs should be promoted. Native dogs have better immune systems and make great pets.

Promoting responsible pet ownership: Encouraging pet owners to keep their pets on leashes, spay or neuter them, and provide them with adequate food and shelter can help prevent dogs from becoming strays.

Reports of dog attacks must be tested on the benchmark of proof. Recently, it was reported that two children had been killed by dogs in Vasant Kunj in New Delhi. Still, it has not been proven.

Begin sheltering or euthanizing unowned dogs while encouraging dog-owners to sterilize their pets to protect people, livestock, wildlife, and dogs themselves from suffering and homelessness.

Publicly feeding stray dogs should be prohibited and penalized as it encourages them to congregate and threatens public spaces, and it is against WHO guidelines and ecological science.

Education and awareness: Educating people on the importance of animal welfare and responsible pet ownership can help reduce the number of strays.

SourcesBlog 1 | The Hindu | Indian Express | Deccan | The Hindu | Indian Express | Indian Today

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