Recipe for disaster: No end to Delhi's stray dogs menance

Going by reports, this was by no means an isolated case. Every now and then, one comes across reports of such attacks by dogs in which children are either grievously injured or killed.

Published: 20th March 2023 07:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th March 2023 07:28 AM   |  A+A-

Stray dog

Representational Image. (File Photo | Express Illustration)

Express News Service

Last month, the video of a boy being mauled to death by a pack of four ferocious stray dogs in Hyderabad went viral on the social media, triggering a debate between animal lovers and those deeply pained by the incident.

The one-odd long minute clip of the incident captured the horrific incident in its entirety: the dogs first encircled the four-year-old child and then, one by one, they attacked him, eventually making him tumble to the ground. The dogs then drag him away to a corner and continue biting him all over. The child later succumbed to his injuries.

Going by reports, this was by no means an isolated case. Every now and then, one comes across reports of such attacks by dogs in which children are either grievously injured or killed.

Just a week ago, in the national capital, two minor boys, who happened to be siblings, were allegedly mauled to death by stray dogs. Anand (7) and Aditya (5), residents of Jhuggi Sindhi Basti, in Vasant Kunj in southwest Delhi, a slum located on forest land, were killed within a span of three days. 
The incident put a serious question mark on the credibility of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), which is responsible for tackling the menace.

Sterilisation drive a failure
It is a well-known fact that effective sterilisation of the canine population inhabiting the city’s streets is the only real way to check their burgeoning numbers in the long run. Experts opine it also helps in suppressing the ferociousness of the dogs to some extent.

ALSO READ | Delhi Mayor cracks the whip on stray dog menace after two minor siblings 'hauled to death'

In 2016, following an incident in which a six-year-old boy was mauled to death by four dogs when he tripped and fell on them in Delhi’s Jamia Nagar area, Supreme Court had taken cognizance of the acute stray dog menace in the city. It went on to direct Delhi and all other states to sterilise and vaccinate them under the supervision of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) for controlling their population and the spread of rabies.

Soumyadip Sinha

“The procedure shall be carried out in accordance with the Act and rules and no organisation shall create any kind of obstacle or impediment in the same,” it ordered. In order to plan and carry out sterilisation, the authorities must, however, be aware of the number of dogs on the streets since as per the guidelines of the AWBI, 80% of dogs in a particular locality should be sterilised for the exercise to be successful.

As it turns out, the MCD doesn’t have the foggiest idea of the number of stray dogs in Delhi. As reported by TNIE earlier, officials of the MCD’s Veterinary Department say that it has failed to carry out a dog census for over a decade, with the last such exercise being held in 2012.

As per media reports, among the three municipal corporation in Delhi, only the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), now a part of the re-unified civic body, conducted a dog census in its jurisdiction, in 2018. Prior to that, it did so in 2016, which found that there were 1,89,285 dogs in the area, of which only 64,837 were sterilised.  

“Since we can’t even put an estimate to the number of dogs in Delhi, we can’t do much about dog bite cases, which may keep going up,” a Veterinary Department official said.

Rabies killed scores of citizens
The most horrific manifestation of the lackadaisical attitude of the civic body towards the whole issue is the number of people dying in the city due to rabies after being bitten by a stray dog. As per MCD data, in the last 5 years, as many as 37 people lost their lives to the deadly disease.  The report also revealed that over 1.14 lakh cases of dog bites had come to light over 5 years. This year, till February, a whopping 12,085 cases have already been recorded. 

After the Vasant Kunj incident hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons, newly-elected Mayor of Delhi Shelly Oberoi directed MCD officials to prepare a detailed action plan to make sterilisation more effective. It remains to be seen how much gets done on the ground. The MCD has 20 sterilisation centres, out of which 16 are functional. However, NGOs say that their infrastructure is in shambles.

What experts say
Asked to comment on the issue, AWBI chairperson OP Chaudhary said, “The conflict can be avoided if local bodies follow the guidelines issued by AWBI in letter and spirit. Many times they face fund crunch to carry out sterilisation and vaccination programmes for stray animals, and need the state government’s support.” 

ALSO READ | Rabies from stray dogs killed 37 in five years in Delhi

“Male dogs become ferocious when they are in a pack. So RWAs need to look out for such behavior in their localities and inform the concerned municipality officials immediately,” he added. Animal welfare activist Gauri Maulekhi, trustee in the NGO People for Animals, flagged human sensitivity towards dogs. “There is intolerance and conflict everywhere regarding dogs. It’s true that the dog population needs to be controlled.  Sterilisation is the only recognised population control method. However, in India, the programme is riddled with corruption and inefficient practices. In order to counter such loopholes, Centre has notified Animal Birth Control Rules, 2023. If these rules are enforced properly, the situation will improve,” she said.

“For many years, govt did not allocate any budget for such programmes, leaving it only to NGOs. It’s impossible for any institutional systemic disease control programme to take place only by means of civil society through donations. Which is why the objectives of these programmes were never achieved,” she added.

The Animal Birth Control Rules, 2023, notified by the Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying has laid down the guidelines for the management and feeding of stray dogs. The Centre has introduced several rules, including dedicated feeding points whose onus will now lie on Resident Welfare Associations (RWA) and Apartment Owners Associations (AOA).

Incidentally, animal rights activist, Sonya Ghosh, who runs an NGO called Citizens for Welfare and Protection of Animals, had moved Delhi HC in 2009 over exactly this issue. Subsequently, the court had ordered police protection for volunteers feeding the dogs and directed AWBI to select dog-feeding sites in various neighbourhoods and decide on timings, in consultation with RWAs and the local police.

Quite clearly, a balancing act needs to be done to address the situation, keeping in mind the sensitivities involved. Aggressive packs of stray dogs, their numbers breeding out of control, cannot be allowed to have a free run of the city, endangering the safety of the citizens. At the same time, there are a considerable number of dog lovers who wouldn’t stand for cruelty towards man’s best friend. 
A scientific and humane approach is need of the hour. But quite clearly, time is running out. The MCD must act at  warp speed.

Sterilise, vaccinate dogs: SC in 2016

  • The number of cases of dog bites due to stray dogs is on the rise. In just the first two months this year, 12,085 cases came to light as per official MCD data. 51,206 such cases were recorded in 2022. In the last five years, over 1.14 lakh cases of dog bites were recorded.
  • In 2016, after a minor boy was mauled to death by dogs in Delhi, Supreme Court directed sterilisation and vaccination of all stray dogs under supervision of Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) to control their population and spread of rabies.
  • As per the guidelines of AWBI, 80% of dogs in a particular locality should be sterilised for the exercise to be successful
  • MCD has no idea of the number of stray of dogs in Delhi, having failed to conduct a dog census for several years.
  • Only 16 of the 20 sterilisation centers in the city operated by MCD are currently functional, but activists say they face a severe fund crunch
  • As per MCD data, in the last 5 years, as many as 37 people in Delhi have lost their lives to rabies.

MCD is unable to put even put a number to stray dogs inhabiting Delhi’s streets. As such, they are not being sterlised, which is the only way to check rising incidents of dog bites and deaths. In such a scenario, it’s only a matter of time before the city sees yet another horrific episode of kids or citizens being attcked by unruly dogs. A report by Ujwal Jalali and Ashish Srivastava

India Matters


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