We can’t stray from street dog menace by ignoring lost lives
The four states with the highest incidents of street dog bites are Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Gujarat. Kerala doesn’t even figure in the top 10 in the number of dog bites...
I am a dog lover. My fur son Jacky is 10 years old and has been my constant companion on my morning and evening walks. He is the only one allowed inside my writing room and, perhaps, the first listener of my novels and screenplays. I am among many humans who have found the dog to be man’s most loyal friend since the dawn of civilisation. But none of this will make me blind to the plight of hapless humans hunted down by street dogs in various cities of India.
Once again, Kerala and dogs are in the national news. On one side are the common people of the state who face the wrath of street dogs while trying to make a living. Some of them go rabid, as unvaccinated dogs are bound to go. Thanks to the substandard implementation of laws in the production and storage of vaccines in our country, even vaccines prove ineffective. More than 95,000 people were bitten by dogs and 14 lost their lives in Kerala in the last eight months, according to the state health ministry. Public anger has risen over the inability of the authorities to control this menace, and some members of the irate public have taken the law into their own hands. Street dogs are stoned to death, poisoned or even hanged by people, leading to outrage against such inhuman acts.
Celebrities, who own expensive canine breeds and rarely step out of the confines of their glass palaces and luxury cars, spew vitriolic tweets against the cruel public. So why should cricket celebrities who earn crores for hawking deodorants and underwear worry about the milkman cycling to deliver milk to earn his fifty paise commission being bitten by a rabid dog? Street dogs have powerful advocates. From film stars to members of the judiciary, from spent forces of political families that imposed Emergency to YouTube social workers, the who’s who in this list makes for a dizzying read. The man on the street who has to take an early morning bus, the family that lives under flyovers and bridges, or the school kid whose parents can’t afford the fancy boarding school and AC buses, but has to walk or cycle to school, has no one to speak for them. So who cares if they are bitten by dogs or eaten by a pack of them?
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Isn’t it a miracle that there are so many street dogs in a country full of dog-lovers? Why are not these lovely creatures getting adopted? No, sir, adopting a dog is no easy job. Owning a dog is caring for it like one’s child, taking care of its health, well-being and trying to return at least a small part of the love these pets bestow on us for such small gestures. Unfortunately, so many people’s canine love stops at the act of throwing a few biscuits at them and feeling smug about their kindness. Such cheap acts of irresponsible kindness and the national hobby of throwing food waste on the roadside have only helped in the explosion of the street dog population. When they go feral, they hunt in packs, like wolves. The street dog pack you may encounter in the dead of the night or early morning is not the sweet ‘Tuttu or Tomy or Jimmy’ of your living room with his cute eyes waiting for a pat. They are wild beasts out for a hunt, and you are the prey.
Here are some statistics about the street dog menace to put this in perspective. India accounts for 36 percent of the world’s rabies deaths. Around 20,000 people die annually in the country due to rabies, according to WHO. There are about 1.6 crore stray dogs in India, of which 2.9 lakh are in Kerala as per Livestock Census 2019. India saw around 17.01 lakh dog bites in 2021, of which over a lakh were in Kerala alone. The highest number of street dogs is in Uttar Pradesh, followed by Odisha, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. The four states with the highest incidents of street dog bites are Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Gujarat. Kerala doesn’t even figure in the top 10 in the number of dog bites or street dog population per the data tabled by the Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying.
So, why does the street dog menace become a national issue when it comes to Kerala? The answer lies perhaps in the literacy-fed awareness of the commoner in ascertaining his right to live. The man on the street is fighting back. He will not allow the local government to get away as most other state governments have managed to despite having mismanaged the street dog issue much worse, as the statistics prove. Unlike most poor Indians who have resigned to their fate of having no rights as long as they remain poor, the commoner of Kerala shows no such signs of giving up. None of your celebrity tweets or your ‘throw two-rupee biscuit packet and forget’ dog love will stop him from getting as much right on the street as the street dog and cars have. He will force the government to find a solution to this menace.
No civilised country allows dogs on the street. They are caught and kept in pounds for adoption, and if no one adopts them, they are euthanised. Adopt them if you genuinely love them or leave them to their fate. A war for survival is going on. Dogs are precious animals. Don’t throw them at the mercy of desperate humans. We can’t win this war for the beloved friend of humans by ignoring the humans and their plight.
Anand Neelakantan is author of Asura, Ajaya series, Vanara and Bahubali trilogy. You can reach him at email@example.com.