Srinagar: Failure of authorities to take sustained measures for checking stray dog menace in Kashmir is taking heavy toll on people with the valley recording 4695 canine bite cases last year. The summer capital Srinagar has borne the brunt of dog bites registering 3448 cases.
As per data by Anti-Rabies Clinic (ARC) at the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital from January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2022, Kashmir registered 4695 dog bite cases. Srinagar reported 289, 248, 284, 379, 329,303,240,272,289,329,259,227 cases in January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December last year respectively.
Ganderbal district registered 269 dog bite cases, Budgam 218, Baramulla, 131, Bandipora 126, Kulgam 10, Pulwama 106, Shopian 107, Kupwara 64, Anantnag 43 respectively last year. Other cases summed up to 74.
“The menace of dog bites is unrelenting in Kashmir especially Srinagar,” Dr S Muhammad Salim Khan, Professor and HOD Community Medicine Government Medical College Srinagar told Greater Kashmir.
“Over the decades the number of dog bite cases visiting our Anti-Rabies Clinic at SMHS Hospital Srinagar and other clinics across Srinagar and Kashmir is unabated, putting lives of thousands of innocent people to physical pain and traumatic mental experiences which they carry for life. The risk of fatal rabies is always there and we have seen many victims succumbing to very painful deaths due to rabies,” Dr Khan added.
Over 60,000 dog bites cases have been registered at Anti-Rabies Clinic SMHS in last over a decade. Open garbage dumping sites in Srinagar are one of the major reasons for increasing population of stray dogs in Srinagar and rising dog bite cases. As per estimates 450 metric tons of garbage is generated daily in Srinagar. The problem is compounded in absence of segregation of waste at source and scientific disposal especially of poultry waste.
With SMC failing to start sterilisation programme on large scale, as per estimates there are over one lakh stray dogs only in Srinagar city registering increase in dog bite cases.
Though the number of dog sites in lesser in districts excluding Srinagar, however canine attacks have proved lethal. Last year a 10-year old boy was mauled to death by stray dogs in Pattan area of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district. The incident has evoked strong protest by the locals who said that the stray dog population in the area has increased manifold in absence of proper garbage disposal.
In 2000, a lawyer of Dewanbagh Baramulla died after being mauled by a pack of stray dogs. He was attacked during his routine morning walk. In the gruesome attack he was bitten on his leg, face and back by the stray dogs that later resulted in his multi organ failure. He went into coma and was put on a ventilator and passed away after battling for 21 days at SMHS Hospital.
On April 30 last year, stray dogs left 39 people, including 17 tourists and 22 locals, injured at tourist hub Boulevard in Srinagar. The tourists were strolling on the banks of Dal lake when they were pounced upon by the canines and had to be admitted to hospital.
Medicos said that the dog bites led to deaths in case of rabies besides cause sepsis, deformity of affected parts and also affected victims psychologically.
“The dog bite victims stated that after facing mauling from the dogs, they developed a strong inner feeling of psychological and emotional instability. They felt subdued, shaken up, and defeated. They wanted to shrug off the memories of the unpleasant events they had experienced after getting bitten by the dogs,” states a study ‘The Lived-In Experience and Psychological Recount of Dog Bite Victims Visiting the Anti-Rabies Clinic in Kashmir: A Qualitative Study.
The study has been conducted by Department of Community Medicine GMC Srinagar.
The dog bite victims revealed that dog bites have substantial and far-reaching social and economical implications. “Some of the respondents had suffered the loss of daily wages apart from out-of-pocket expenditure to meet the consequential dog bite management costs. The dog bite victims were unequivocal in their statements regarding the feeling of detachment and being thrown away.”
The study provides an elucidative and explanatory analysis of the lived experiences of dog bite victims, wishing to draw the attention of the planners and policymakers. The study creates propelling thrust for the use of cost-effective mass dog vaccination.
“There is a need to pay attention to the dog bite victims’ lived experience, and health care professionals need to support them through education, and counselling. The policymakers should devise other supportive programs to minimise the psychological trauma caused by the dog bites, apart from enhancing measures towards elimination of dog-mediated human rabies,” it states.
The High Court of J&K and Ladakh had recently directed the Commissioner Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) to furnish details about stray dogs as well as action plan for containing the canine menace in Srinagar.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by the law students of Central University of Kashmir, the High Court granted time to the civic body after its counsel sought the same.
While the court reiterated its directions regarding details of the number of stray dogs roaming in Srinagar city, it also asked Commissioner SMC to submit details about the issue of animal birth control and setting up of Anti-rabies Centres.
In its earlier order, the court had asked SMC to submit the action plan for containing the menace of stray dogs, particularly dog bites as well as the spread of rabies.
Srinagar Mayor, Junaid Azim Mattu, has been maintaining that Srinagar will get rid of stray dog population within 6 to 7 years as the corporation is set to kick-start sterilisation process at a large scale. SMC Commissioner Athar Amir Khan had recently maintained that sterilisation is the only way to check stray dog menace in Srinagar.
Officials state that the sterilisation facility at Tengpora is almost 80 percent complete another facility is being developed at Chattarhama to enhance the dog sterilisation capacity,”
SMC’s Veterinary Officer Dr Tawheed told Greater Kashmir that during winter sterilisation process is closed at the Corporation’s lone sterilisation facility at Shuhama here.
“If we carry out sterilisation of dogs in subzero temperature, they might suffer hypothermia. We will start sterilisation from February 15 when the temperature improves. During summer we carry five sterilisations in a day,” he added.
However, people from different walks of life decry the government’s “half-hearted and cosmetic measures” to check dog menace. “Stray dog menace has become one of the major problems confronting people of Kashmir. There is not a single area without packs of stray dogs. Stray dogs have consumed precious lives and injured thousands. Government must rise to the occasion and take serious measure to check the menace,” said MM Shuja, a noted social activist.
“Uncontrolled dog population has made lives of people miserable across Kashmir, especially in Srinagar city. The dog sterilisation programme was started almost a decade ago but it hasn’t been a successful project. SMC must seriously look into these issues and start dog sterilisation as soon as possible.,” said Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat, a prominent environmentalist.
“Not only the street dogs are posing a threat to human lives but their fecal matter is more dangerous as it causes serious diseases which are proven by researchers across the world.”