NEW DELHI: The quietude of one of the most peaceful lands in the world, Ladakh, is often broken by a cacophony of barking dogs amid chants of monks. Some of the dogs have a notorious reputation for attacking locals. There are close to 5,000 dogs in the region, out of which only a handful have been neutered. People have now started retaliating by poisoning them.
This year, 360 dog bite cases were reported in Ladakh. The fury started soaring three years ago when a labourer girl from Bihar in Leh was killed by dogs, who ate her.
The four-legged population began spiking first with the advent of the Army leaving kitchen waste, which the dogs fed on. Then, a sharp increase was noticed due to tourism, as the dogs fed on food thrown away by restaurants. As the tourist season subsided, waste decreased, and the dogs started attacking domesticated animals, and subsequently human beings.
The region is also short of technical staff as there aren’t enough vets to undertake neutering. Unless 60 per cent of the dog population isn’t simultaneously neutered, the situation won’t change. Currently, only 25 per cent have been neutered, are and this year, the number was 543. Lack of financial assistance adds to the grimness of the situation. Nearly `5 lakh is required per month to carry out the sterilisation process, with `700-800 needed for one sterilisation, which includes post operative care and anti-rabies shot.
“We’re the only NGO in Ladakh that does hundreds of sterilisations every year under the guidance of His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa, the spiritual head of the Drukpa Order, but we need to do more,” says Dr Ishey Mangyal, advisor to the only conservancy for dogs in Ladakh, Live to Rescue Stray Animal Care and Management Centre, 25 km from Leh.
In the lone shelter that started as an alternative to euthanising thousands of dogs, 150 of them are getting compassionate care. Among them are accident victims, abandoned ones and orphans. The aggressive ones are treated and given up for adoption. “We’re giving incentives to vets to help us. Hopefully, we’ll be able to find a peaceful way for these dogs and human beings to co-exist,” says Mangyal.