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Sunday, June 23, 2024

The Killing of Dogs in God’s Own Country

IndiaThe Killing of Dogs in God's Own Country

The rise in cruelty against street dogs has enraged society with the mass killing of dogs in the most inhumane manner, and Kerala’s history is not new.

God’s own country, Kerala, has no place for its community dogs. The state government’s inability to handle the issue of stray dogs over the years has led to a disturbing trend of inhumane and often illegal methods employed to control their numbers.

Reports of cruelty against street dogs have touched new heights in recent times. According to a petition filed at the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, only 6000 street dogs are left in the state now, and the rest of the stray dogs have all been killed. Kerala’s history of cruelty against dogs is nothing new though.

In 2015, there were reports of the mass killing of over a lakh stray dogs in the utmost cruel manner. With the gap between sense and sensibility larger than ever, Kerala needs compassion and not aggression towards its community dogs. In this two-part series, I will explain how and why.

Rabies is a terrifying disease. And dog bites are alleged to be the biggest cause of the illness. Looking at how dangerous the symptoms can be, and how they can also result in fatality if not treated in time, it is natural that there exists fear amongst the general public about stray dogs and the potential bites that people can get from them. And let me tell you, it is not pretty for a dog to suffer and ultimately die from rabies either.

Such dogs die a miserable death, often with pain and terror we cannot even imagine. But did you know that rabies is entirely preventable and can be eradicated fully, even from the stray dog population? All it takes is the mass vaccination of the stray dogs against rabies, and that one shot of ARV and following boosters, ensure that the humans as well as the dogs are safe from the deadly disease.

Anti Birth Control (ABC) laws were brought in 2001 after a successful test run in the city of Jaipur, where the vaccination and sterilization of street dogs alone enabled the city to be declared rabies-free soon after.

The governments were given the responsibility to replicate the Jaipur model in all the cities and towns of India with the hope of the country bidding goodbye to rabies forever. But the subsequent years only proved to be a major disappointment. Anyone who has worked in animal rescue for the shortest time is also aware that most of the sterilizations and vaccinations of the street dogs are done by their feeders (if the dogs are lucky to have any) who spend the money on the same from their own pockets.  The funding has never been an issue.

Rather, the governments have pumped a humongous amount of money every year for the sterilization and vaccination of stray dogs. But it is for everyone to see that not only that money has never been utilized properly, but it also begs the question where did all of that money go over the years?

Crying wolf when one has been party to the crime in question is not the way to absolve one’s responsibility on the matter. The incidents of stray dog attacks have only risen over the period of time because the state governments have absolutely failed in their duties towards their citizens as well as the community animals, who also have the right to life, which is very well defined by our constitution itself.

Another commonly proposed solution to the problem of stray dogs is to round them all up and then confine them to a shelter or a dog pound, as has been suggested by the Kerala High Court in its recent directive. Now that does sound like a lucrative option for someone who absolutely hates the sight of any other living being other than them, it also brings forward the mindset that drives such a thought. Rounding living beings up and leaving them in confinement for them to die is a model that has been tried before. Hitler did it with the holocaust of Jews, and no amount of redemption has absolved Germany from its actions even now.

By proposing means that scream of Nazi-like attitude towards a problem, we need to take a step back and seriously assess where are we heading as a society. Today we have an issue with street dogs, whose population increased only because of the human failure to implement birth control rules, and now we want them snapped out of existence in Thanos-inspired fashion.

Tomorrow, will we replicate the same model for humans as well? Crimes against women have seen an increase on an exponential level. Would our governments suggest the same model for men as well then to protect women round up all the men in a closed space and let women breathe free?

You see, that is absurd to even think about. So when it is not okay for us, how is it okay to put a living, breathing creature, who is capable of emotions just like you and I, through such torture?

And FYI, shelters, and pounds are no heaven for dogs. They are not even a decent habitable space. The majority of these shelters have 6-foot by 6-foot kennels where multiple dogs are kept together, and which, by the way, rarely have windows for fresh air and sunlight to seep in.

The veterinary care in these shelters is dismal to say it very politely. There are barely any adequate staff available at these sights, and even if they are present, mostly they lack connection with the living organisms whose lives depend upon them. Imagine going to a hospital to get treated for an illness and finding out that your doctor hates the very core of your existence.

Now that we have inspected each of the possible solutions given by the Kerala government and have established that they are not only impossible but also lack a civilized approach to the problem, how are we to solve the issue of stray dog attacks and also ensure that the community dogs have the right to dignity of life? Well, the solution is far simpler than you might think. It is an established fact that dogs who are brought up in a nurturing environment are least likely to display less-aggressive behaviour.

Dogs who are regularly and positively socialized with humans from a young age tend to become more adept at interacting with people. They acquire acceptable behaviours, get used to different stimuli, and are less prone to react violently in strange
circumstances.

Aggressive behaviour in dogs frequently results from stress and fear, and dogs who live in safe and supportive environments are less stressed. Dogs are less likely to respond violently to perceived dangers if they feel safe and have their needs satisfied. And this is not some hearsay that I am indulging in to present the case of a human approach to the stray dog-human conflict, it is science-backed research done by India’s premiere institution, IISER.

Being compassionate to the community dogs, in addition to their proper and regular vaccination and sterilization, is the only viable solution to the problem. Any other route is unbecoming of us as a civilized nation and also reflects upon the failure of our administration.

The Author, Manu Singh is an environmentalist and a social justice and peace activist.

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