Months on, why is the stray dog issue still a concern for Kerala?

Are stray dogs in Kerala more aggressive than in other statesImage for representation/ Courtesy: crueltyfreeblog.files.wordpress.com
news Stray Dogs Saturday, November 05, 2016 - 12:18

Stray dog attacks and culling of dogs is a huge concern for the Kerala government and dominate public discourse. But curiously, the rest of the country does not seem to have ‘stray dogs’ at the top of their crisis list.

Why is that so? Is it because Kerala has the maximum number of stray dogs in the country? Or is it because there are more aggressive stray dogs in God’s own country?

Dr Kishore Kumar, Principal Investigator of ABC program of Kochi Corporation says that the perception that the stray dogs in Kerala are getting aggressive is a manufactured misconception. 

“Dogs have always been aggressive, whether in Kerala or anywhere else. This is true not only to stray dogs, but also pet dogs. Even though seeing stray dog issue as a pressing concern for the state is fairly recent, it is incorrect to believe that stray dog bites are a new phenomenon,” Dr Kishore says. 

He points out that, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), an average of 8-10 people die of stray dog attacks in Kerala annually, as opposed to the 22,000 deaths in the country due to stray dog bites. 

MG Satheesh, a certified dog catcher based out of Thiruvananthapuram says that most stray dogs are not aggressive individually, but being in a pack can make them so. The man who has assisted many governments in catching strays says that aggressive dogs are the ones that come from forest areas nearby villages and towns.

“Look at the reported cases of stray dog attacks and you will see the majority of them are done by a group of stray dogs. The government says there are 3.5 lakh stray dogs in the state, but they don’t take into account the dogs that come out of the forests only at night and retrieve during the day. These are the aggressive, violent ones who go around attacking chicken shops. But when the public goes on a dog killing spree, they pick up friendly harmless dogs that live on the footpath,” Satheesh points out. 

Dr Kishore Kumar feels that the visibility factor is at play and has brought out more number of cases as compared to other states.

“The stray dog menace is not limited to our state alone. Kerala does not have half the number of stray dogs compared to other states. Many cases remain unreported in other states, here lot of attention is paid on every incident,” says Dr Kishore. 

Thrissur-based Sally Kannan, ABC program manager of Humane Society International/India feels that the compensation the victims are bound to receive has contributed in the increased reportage. 

She adds, “Dogs are getting scared with all the ongoing killings happening around them. As someone who has worked across the country, I understand that the dogs in Kerala are now on a defensive mode. We can see behavioural changes in dogs. Unlike dogs in other states who would come up to us when offered a biscuit, the dogs in Kerala does not do so, as they are scared,” Sally says. 

Sally says that many stray dogs are increasingly being driven by the pack mentality, where they tend to attack someone when they are in a group. 

ABC program

According to Satheesh, the public has always been culling strays before ABC program was made mandatory ten years ago.

“For the last decade, panchayats have not been allowed to cull dogs. But are they implementing the ABC program properly? No. Apart from their initial enthusiasm, none of the panchayats have made sustained efforts to keep the program running. This has increased the stray population,” Satheesh points out.

The lack of sustained conduct of ABC program is the main reason for the crisis that we see today, all of them agree. 

“We have sterilized 2000 out of the 8000 stray dogs we have identified within the Kochi corporation limit in the last two years. Even while admitting that the failure of effective implementation of ABC program has aggravated the situation, I still believe that we can contain it, provided we carry out sterilization procedure for at least a few years together,” Dr Kishore says.

A total of 31,114 persons were bitten by stray dogs in Kerala in the past three months, Health Minister K K Shailaja had told the state assembly recently. Two persons succumbed to injuries. Minister for Local Self Government KT Jaleel also said in the assembly that the stray dogs will be eradicated in the next three years.

 

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