Dogs, Dogs everywhere

India accounts for around 35% of deaths caused by rabies in the world
Dogs, Dogs everywhere
Stray dogs in Kashmir. GK File photo

Dogs can be seen roaming in the streets presenting a potential threat to human life. In a country having around 35 million street dogs, highest population in a country, the population has increased by 17 percent since 2016. Generally the condition of these street dogs is not so well. They suffer from diseases like parvo, and mange. They mostly search for food in uncollected garbage acting as a disease carrier and eating undigestable things like plastic cans which choke them.

Street dogs are common scene in a developing world, but their overpopulation causes huge problems like dog bites, rabies, causing around 20000 people to die every year (these are the latest numbers). In Kashmir, recently an 8 year old boy died of injuries caused by dog bites, and before that a notable lawyer died of the same. If we compare the deaths caused by rabies between 1994 and 2015 they are 434 while as deaths caused by violent attacks stand at 422. India also accounts for around 35 percent of deaths caused by rabies in the whole world. As per health officials in Kashmir more than 50000 locals were bitten by stray dogs between 2008-2012.

What could be done to stem dog menace…..? Killing dogs straight away is not a solution to this problem. Like until 1994 stray dogs in Mumbai were straight away killed but some organisations like WSD, HSI protested against this act and demanded to stop this. In 2001, a law was passed which declared killing of stray dogs as illegal which became a reason for rise in population of dogs. And when the population of stray dogs increases in a certain area, then the municipal authorities shift them to other areas, which also is not a proper solution. For humans the concern is the threat of dog attacks and dog bites which causes rabies. Sterilization can be seen as a solution to this huge problem. If we look at the current rate at which dogs are sterilised in Mumbai it would take around 13 years to sterlize just 1 lakh dogs, and to sterlize it takes 1000 rupees for one dog. We need to look at the ways which countries like Netherlands and Holland followed to get rid of stray dogs. Netherlands got rid of street dogs by government's push  by PSVIR method – which means pick, sterlize, vaccinate, identify and return. In Netherlands population of street dogs was also very high during a period of time. In 19th century, dogs were a social symbol in Netherlands, therefore, in every house there was at least one dog but as the number of dogs increased, so did the cases of rabies. As such many owners became afraid and started to abandon their dogs. So it wasn't too long for the streets to become overrun by strays. Then a law was passed in order to protect animals and if anyone didn't follow the law the person had to pay fine more than $16000 as well as had to face upto 3 years in prison. These laws actually encouraged owners to provide their pets a proper treatment. But now people went into stores to buy dogs so the government increased the tax on them. But after all awareness campaigns also helped. Because of this 1 million stray dogs got a proper place to live and 90% of the people adopted the street animals.

If we consider sterlisation as a solution to this problem then we need affordable vaccines for rabies, sparing the street dogs. The dogs are intelligent animals. They can be used by police forces to sniff drugs, protect property or catch thieves.

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