Ranjit Joseph and his wife are longtime residents of Shastri Nagar in Bengaluru. Having lived in the locality for close to a decade, along with their dog Browny, afternoon or evening walks with their pet were a routine affair. The couple would also frequently feed the strays in the locality who would walk with them.
But a series of events on Sunday, March 10, made the couple keenly aware of the continuing violence against dog feeders in the city. “We were chased and attacked by a bunch of goons and my wife was stabbed in the head, all for protesting against them throwing stones at the strays and at Browny,” Ranjit alleged in a Facebook post.
Speaking to TNM, Ranjit said that the attackers, who stayed in a neighbouring apartment in Shastri Nagar had got agitated as the stray dogs had barked at them while they were riding their bikes.
“They had just crossed us and the dogs started barking. They got down and started pelting stones at the strays and at my pet. This is when we started protesting and they attacked us from nowhere,” he alleges.
While Ranjit and his wife managed to escape the assault and walk back home to collect their phones and report to the police, a third person allegedly approached them with a small metal weapon and attempted to stab his wife.
A complaint was filed at the HAL police station, but the couple say that this problem does not end here.
“Dog feeders and strays regularly face such violence and persecution from people. It is an ongoing menace,” Ranjit tells TNM.
Violence against strays
While Ranjit was filing a complaint with the HAL police against the violence he and the strays underwent, a one-month-old stray pup was being clobbered to death in Avadi, Chennai on the same day, for barking at Ramu, a 52-year-old man who has been accused of the crime.
Speaking to TNM, Dawn Williams, General Manager of Blue Cross in Chennai said that CCTV footage of the pup being beaten to death circulated on social media, prompted him to file a complaint.
“The accused can be seen holding a 7 kg log and beating the 30-day old pup 11 times, until he snuffs the life out of it. I filed a complaint with the Avadi T6 police against the accused Ramu, a carpenter from the locality,” Dawns adds.
A case has been filed under sections 278 (making environment noxious to health), 428 (Mischief by killing or maiming animal of the value of 10 Rs) and 429 (Mischief by killing of maiming cattle etc of any value or animal of any value above Rs 50) the IPC and under section 11 (1A) (besting, kicking, subjecting an animal to any kind of pain or suffering) of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 196. The accused was also arrested.
Persecution of stray dogs and feeders
Ranjit believes that hatred against dog feeders has been on the rise mainly due to misconceptions about the ‘stray dog menace’.
“People think that because we feed dogs, the stray dog count is increasing in the street. This is not the case. If the dogs are given food and shelter by the street’s residents, they act as the guardians of the street and will not let other strays as well as strangers enter the territory,” Ranjit says.
Dawn also supports this argument.
“They provide solid security to the street and they alert people if any strangers enter the locality. If you look at it, these dogs rarely ever bark at people who reside in the area. They are only wary of strangers and that is a good thing,” Dawn says.
However, residents who are feeders cannot shirk some of the responsibilities that they have towards the stray dogs.
“It is not just enough to give them food. You need to vaccinate and sterilise them. As a feeder, I always make sure that I give them food in an isolated area so as not to inconvenience other residents. I have also tied up with the BBMP and NGOs to get atleast 7-8 dogs in our street vaccinated and sterilised. Once that is done, there is no risk of population explosion,” Ranjit adds.
Dawn adds that lack of organisation among feeder networks result in many not doing it the right way.
“I am against violence and assault of feeders who are helping stray dogs. However, if somebody attempts to feed stray dogs by dropping chicken guts or liver in front of my doorstep, I am bound to get annoyed. Dog feeders should understand how to carry out feeding and other activities. If they do want to help, they should maybe speak with experts such as the Blue Cross or other activists and learn the proper way to do it,” he says.
Filing police complaints against attackers
Dawn observes that although cases of violence against stray dogs happen in Chennai, their incidence has reduced drastically since 2010.
“When I moved to Chennai for the first time in 2010, there would be a case of stray dog violence every week. Most of my time I spent visiting police stations and going to court in order to report these cases. In 2014 alone, I had unearthed around 400 carcasses of dogs who had been poisoned or beaten to death by people. Following this, many other NGOs too began filing police complaints. Now, we hardly hear cases of violence against animals. It happens only once in a while in the city,” he adds.
As for complaints against attackers and their arrests, Dawn says that his intention is not to put them behind bars but to report such cases.
“Most of these people, who are violent towards innocent animals for no reason, need help. They have a problem and they need counselling. By reporting these cases, I am only attempting to bring this to light and it is in no way an attempt to incarcerate or punish these people. They need to be counselled and brought back,” he says.