For a while now I have been following news reports of the stray and feral dog problem all over the world. Developing countries have a serious problem with stray and feral dogs who live amongst people, scavenging for food in human urban communities, and terrorising residents, who are often menaced and attacked by marauding dogs. This article gives us an insight into the problem in Srinagar, Kashmir.
This article is from the Greater Kashmir News.
Stray Dogs: The Crisis is Deepening
The unaddressed canine problem is set to snowball into a major issue
DR. ZUBAIR AHMAD WAR
Once again, stray dogs maul renal failure patient near SKIMS. “His cheeks, nose and head have been eaten away,” his daughter says in a feeble voice. (GK, 6 June, 2014). Ironically, it has become routine affair-not news anymore-for the stray dogs to bite Valleyites on a daily basis. Though dogs per se are not a problem, but their numbers in the Valley are quite worrisome. Unlike wild animals which are shy and avoid humans, domestic dogs have completely molded themselves to fit in our social milieu. The stray dogs have carved an ecological niche for themselves within our social set up. They are not afraid or shy of humans. That’s why they roam freely in busy markets, crowded public places, lanes and by-lanes. Because they feed on our ‘left over edibles’ and are carnivorous, their numbers tend to gravitate towards human population. Unsurprisingly, their numbers are highest in the densely populated Srinagar city and towns.
There are at least 4 reasons of dogs being so huge in number in the Valley. One, unlike Mizoram, Nagaland, and Manipur where dog meat is consumed, Valleyites can’t just think of this. Thus, dogs are spared from being slaughtered in the Valley, being added to the ‘stray dog pool’. Second, most of the Valleyites don’t keep dogs as pets. A trained and well cared dog turns into a pet dog, if left uncared or untrained it turns into stray dog. Since dogs in the Valley aren’t kept as pets within the houses, they are again added to the ‘stray dog pool’. Three, the reproductive health is directly proportional to nutrition. Since Valleyites consume lots of meat, dogs get comparatively good nutrition in terms of protein. In fact, in marriage season dogs make merry in the Valley. This ensures that more healthy pups are born and survive. Four, dogs in Valley don’t have serious competing species like pigs and others, again swelling their numbers. Dogs are territorial creatures. They mark their territory with their urine to signal to the intruder dogs that the place is already occupied and fierce quarrels take place to defend or usurp the territory. Further, dogs feed on our left over edibles. So, they often fight for food. Male dogs also fight to win over the females. In this quarrelsome environment the dog attacks on humans are bound to increase.
Dogs have a remarkably high reproduction potential and the population of dogs is expanding at a higher rate. Sterilization has been advocated as the only solution for the dog menace. But, sterilization is a slow process and it hasn’t proved to be effective in checking the dog numbers as the dog bite cases continue to increase. Thus, other way outs have to be looked for. Why can’t we kill the dogs by euthanasia? Anyway, within status quo what can we do? Dogs are intelligent creatures. They not only read the body language of humans, but they can also smell fear or anger. When people approach the dog in a fearful manner or in an apprehensive manner, the intelligent dog realizes it. It perceives it as an opportunity to show its dominance or as a threat to itself and pounces on the target. People need not carry sticks or stones with them in their defense. Rabid dogs can be easily distinguished from normal dogs as the former show clear signs of madness like running continuously in a haphazard manner, biting anything that comes in their way, salivating profusely, being chased by other normal dogs etc. The best approach to tackle rabies-free dogs is to approach them confidently without any evil intention or any fear. The dogs simply have to be ignored.
Animal rights activists have resisted any move of authorities to deal with the dog menace effectively. They perceive the controlling of dog numbers as cruelty. Actually, politics is being played over the issue. Dog menace needs to be viewed beyond the prism of animal rights violations. Why are stray dogs being given such undue importance? What about the rights of other animals? I have firsthand experience of witnessing so many animals mercilessly torn apart by the deadly dogs that came for surgical treatment to our college in Shuhama. The plight of such animals used to be pathetic: torn bellies with protruding intestines, bitten limbs and eaten-away body tissues. Their owners had to spend substantial amounts on their treatment. Further, we are only asking to control dog numbers, not wipe out dogs completely. If we can control human numbers by way of family planning methods, why not dogs?
Lastly, what about the human rights of beleaguered Valleyites which are being brazenly trampled? Or, are Valleyites not humans? Don’t they deserve a decent living? Presently, dog menace is turning out to be a glaring example of human rights violation. Free movement of Valleyites has been curbed. They are being harassed and bitten by outnumbered dogs. Some contract the deadly and lethal rabies and the body parts of others are disfigured. To add insult to the injury of victims the cost of rabies vaccine and other medicines is on a higher side. Thus, the victims are also drained economically. Besides, dogs are sources of various zoonotic diseases and they make our surroundings filthy by defecation.
Tail Piece:- As per the news item titled ‘Bite victim’s family hails Dr Showkat Zargar’, the Soura residents have threatened to “kill all stray dogs and dump them outside the residence of their local MLA and SMC head office at Karan Nagar”. (GK, 12/06/14, Page no. 5) The authorities should read the writing on the wall and gauge the mood of the beleaguered Srinagarites. Thus, a timely intervention by authorities is needed to rein in the mushrooming dog numbers. The protracted canine problem in future is set to snowball into a major political issue if the present state of affairs continues.