The stray dog menace is Kerala is on a drastic rise with frequent attacks on the pedestrians, children and pet animals posing a threat to the lives of the people across the state.
The streets, parks, hospital compounds and other public places are not free of the threat with the roving stray dogs attacking people becoming commonplace nowadays. Recent incidents show that people are not safe even inside their homes. A three year old boy Devanandan was badly bitten by a stray dog and hospitalized following severe injuries in Kothamangalam last Sunday. In yet another incident, two children and an Anganwadi teacher was attacked in Muvattupuzha. The State Commission for the Protection of Child’s Rights registered a suo moto case and starting inquiry. The Chief Minister also announced financial aid for the victims. No effective steps have been taken by the government authorities so far other than these two moves. But the social menace still persists. The statements of Mahatma Gandhi become highly relevant in the present context. A public controversy arose in Ahmadabad in 1926 when a wealthy textile mill owner killed around 60 stray dogs roaming around his mill premises with Gandhi’s permission. Gandhi intervened in the matter answering the numerous letters questioning the ethics of killing a living thing through his journal ‘Young India’. According to him ‘a roving dog without an owner is a danger to the society’ and that ‘they would be killed’ whenever they become a menace. He said that ‘connivance or putting up with the status quo’ was no ahimsa and it was a sin to feed the stray dogs. Gandhi also said that numerous dogs would be saved ‘if there was a legislation making every stray dog liable to be shot’.
According to the Health Department records, the number of people attacked by stray dogs in the last 7 months in the state crossed half lakh. In India 2.5 crore people face canine attacks every year with majority of the incidents in Kerala mostly targeting women and children. A death was also reported this year. Things were not different in the past years. While 1.3 lakh people were bitten by stray dogs in 2013, 1.19 got injured by them in 2014. About 11 people died following the attacks in 2013. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had called an all-party meeting in July to address the issue and to take necessary steps to tackle it. No steps other than culling the rabies-infected stray dogs have been taken so far. Proper medical care and facilities and first aid medicines are not available in most of the government hospitals. The CM’s promise of equipping all the primary health centres with the anti-rabbies vaccine has also not been fulfilled. The sterlisation of stray dogs suggested is scientifically improper and costly. But the dogs roving around without owners should be tackled as they pose risk to the people. Registering and allotting a license to the pet dogs would help in the process to an extent. Members of the Kerala Village Panchayat Association have put forward suggestions of exporting stray dogs to states and countries where there is a demand for canine meat. But animal lovers across the state are aggressively protesting against the move of culling the stray dogs. Since it’s difficult to distinguish between the normal and rabies-infected dogs, killing the infected canines alone isn’t possible. Due to the stringent laws in foreign countries, there are hardly any stray dogs roaming about the streets. The same should be applied here. Immediate steps should be adopted to curb the social menace.