The Indian government has to come up with large scale interventions and organisations that can deal with the issue of stray dogs in India.
An estimated 35 million stray dogs live in India and according to World Health Organisation (WHO) India faces about 18,000 to 20,000 cases of rabies every year. According to the WHO report an estimated 45 pc of all deaths from rabies occur in South- East Asia out of which about 36 pc of the world’s deaths from rabies happen in India itself.
The incidents from rabies in India have been constant for a decade, without any obvious declining trend, and reported incidence is probably an underestimation of true incidence because in India rabies is still not a notifiable disease.
In March 2016, civic authorities from Mumbai disclosed in the Supreme Court that dog bites in Mumbai have taken 434 lives in the time period 1994 to 2015. According to reports more than 1.3 million people were bitten by dogs in Mumbai during this period. In November 2016, the Supreme Court ordered the Kerala government to stop the vigilante from the slaughter of stray dogs.
Kolkata has a population of more than 80,000 stray dogs, according to the NGOs in the city. But the number is constantly rising due to a sluggish sterilisation drive. Activists in the city blame the administration for not pushing animal control policies, including spaying and neutering, which would have possibly helped avoid some of the current problems. Similarly in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh there are around 16,000 stray dogs in the city and according to officials the population has increased by 3,000 due to failed efforts by civic bodies in administering sterilisation and other vaccinations to reduce the population.
Why does India have such a greater number of stray dogs?
The biggest reason behind the problem is open garbage. Stray dogs rely on garbage while hunting for eatables. Countries that have garbage kept in bins and are cleaned regularly see lesser number of stray dogs.
India also has fewer government and NGO services that deal with stray dogs. In many developed and developing countries, the government spays and neuters stray dogs to decrease their population growth. Many countries have organisations like Animal Control, the Humane Society, the SPCA, private shelters, and rescue organisations, that take care of the stray dog problems. The Indian government has to come up with large scale interventions and organisations that can deal with the problem. Rules for prevention of cruelty to animals that came in 1960 got amended in the year 2017, but the judicious implementation of regulations needs to be renewed and implemented in a more organised way.
Kashika Arora an entrepreneur of pet management company called Kashika’s Pampered Paws, based in Kolkata told Media India Group, “Stray the word itself is wrong. They are our Indian breeds, which we Indians don’t want to accept. People should drive safely so as to not hurt or kill them and also adopt street dogs rather than adopting a fancy breed.”
Laws by the Indian government
Even though it is illegal to kill a dog in India, acts of cruelty towards animals in India comes with a measly INR 50 fine as per the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. In 2017, a medical student from Chennai threw a dog from the rooftop of a building, and another friend filmed the entire act. In a more gruesome incident in Bengaluru, a woman flung eight puppies on a boulder, smashing their skulls in the process. Both perpetrators got out on bail after paying a petty fine.
In 2014, the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) announced to train stray dogs to work with police as guard dogs. The decision was applauded by many. In November 2015, the Supreme Court asked all states and union territories to follow central rules, which ban killing stray dogs in India. The Court ruled that only “irretrievably ill or mortally wounded” stray dogs can be eliminated, which should happen in a “humane manner.”
Even though animal welfare groups are serious about the issue and several petitions have been filed, the government still needs to do a lot. The initiative to help stray dogs needs a lot of funding from the government. Kashika who is a member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India and People for Animals (PFA) added that, “Government should build a shelter for such animals and not keep them on streets. Secondly they should sterilize the animals and operate the females to stop the extra reproduction and reduce death. Adopt don’t shop is my only motto.”