Image by InkHong on Flickr A tussle is playing out in Kerala between the government and animal lovers and caught in the middle are thousands of stray dogs in the state. With around 1.06 lakh canine bite cases being reported in 2014- 2015 and 40,000 in 2015 alone (according to the government), the government has been under both public and media pressure to act. Emerging out of a meeting held in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said, "The law is very clear that dangerous dogs can be culled. But culling alone is not the only way. Hence, we will work out a multi-pronged strategy, including sterilisation of stray dogs at special camps and opening of 50 new centres to handle animal birth control measures." This is the second meeting that the Chief Minister has chaired in the last few days. The backlash The state’s decision has created panic among animal lovers and activists. Animal Rescue Kerala (ARK) one of the organizations that had taken the Ernakulam Corporation to court in 2011 against dog culling has alleged that the state is going on with the culling in spite of repeated court orders against the same. “The Kerala government has never stopped killing, in spite of us winning two court cases to stop them.” ARK A campaign by many NGOs calls for ‘Boycotting Kerala’ and pledges to ‘boycott all Kerala products and Tourism till they stop all open and discreet culling of dogs.’ “After an unconstitutional and barbaric decision by an all-party meeting in Kerala to cull most dogs all over Kerala, a worldwide campaign has started. The government of Kerala and Tourism Ministry has been given two weeks to decide if they want to go for the mass culling and permanently damage the Economy & International Image of this country by their foolish motives and barbaric decisions?” Rishi Dev, one of those behind the campaign wrote in a Facebook post. The drama A meeting of Panchayat presidents took a dramatic turn when popular TV anchor Ranjini Haridas and other animal lovers captured the mike on the stage, demanding not to kill stray dogs. Following this, delegates of the meeting walked out, claiming they were offended by Ranjini’s act. Does the state have numbers on its side? Though the state has claimed that the number of stray dog bites has been on the rise, a Times of India report said that as per statistics provided by the Ernakulam General Hospital, 75.6% bites were by pet dogs. According to the hospital’s data, among the 1,074 dog bite cases reported at the hospital this year, in 75.6% of cases the culprits were pet dogs. Stray dogs were the villains only in 262 cases. The detractors Celebrities too have lined up on either side of the fence. Businessman and philanthropist Kochouseph Chittilapilly wrote a blog supporting action against stray dogs. He says, “Majority of the so-called animal-lovers are in actuality merely dog-lovers. Some of them do not have any problem in eating the meat of cows, goats, buffalos or chicken. Their only concern is about dogs. Surprisingly, they close one eye and shut the other on the incidents of stray dogs killing other domestic animals. While they preach their dog-ma on public platforms, hardly any of them care to adopt stray dogs to their own homes. If we scrutinize we’ll see that majority of these professed dog-lovers travel by cars and are not aware of the trouble faced by pedestrians.” With the government and animal lovers locking horns, there is once again the chance of a protracted court battle. But the flare-up only highlights how public authorities have failed over the years in mass vaccination and sterilization of stray canines.