The Wild and the Human

Whereas cruelty to animals including dogs is protected through Act/Board, prevention of cruelty by wild animals and dogs is not so guaranteed to the people
The Wild and the Human
Stray dogs in Kashmir. GK File Poto photo

There are about 80 Rural/Urban Local Bodies (RULBs) comprising two Municipal Corporations, one each at Srinagar and Jammu, six Municipal Councils, three each at Srinagar and Jammu, and 72 Municipal Committees, 39 at Srinagar including Ladakh and 33 with Jammu. Under the provisions of J& K Municipal Corporation Act, 2000 and the J& K Municipal Act 2000, there stand 18 functions notified to the RULBs out of which only eight functions are carried out by the Bodies as on 12/2016. One of the eight functions relates to “cattle ponds and prevention of cruelty to animals”. The heavily work-loaded civic body being the main caretaker of the Srinagar city, inter-alia, remains in news for this function as well. For preservation and safeguarding the interests of the animals the Animal Board is entrusted with the implementation of the provisions of the ‘Cruelty to Animals Act’. Whereas cruelty to animals including dogs is protected through Act/Board, prevention of cruelty by wild animals and dogs is not so guaranteed to the people. Dogs bite, bruise and kill people mostly kids, women and the oldies. As per recent reports of Government Medical College Srinagar (GMC)58,869 bite cases of stray dogs were registered in Srinagar since 2011 to 2/2021. With this scenario of stray dog bite cases none will ever prefer to have more dogs. However, the adoption of Municipal Act 1960 by the J & K implemented in 2000 and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act adopted in 2008 do not allow mass killing of species thereby leaving sterilization or other ways of maintaining their population as an only alternative.

It is not the dog species that serves for crime detection, intelligence, medical research , watch & ward, hunting, security and scavenging purposes etc, but their excessive number & the violent incidents against others that necessitate bridling them. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has prescribed a ratio of one dog per 36 people whereas this ratio in Srinagar is 1:14 that is two and half times greater than the WHO ratio. This sets alarm bells for the authorities to monitor their population besides sending shivers down the spine of the people. As divulged by the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) there were 40,000 to 45,000 dogs in the Srinagar city as on 9/2018. Sheri-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences & Technology (SKUAST) Srinagar through its Veterinary College at Shuhama Alsteing Srinagar conducts sterilisation of dogs and 157 dogs were sterilised up to 9/2018. For tackling the dog bites the GMC Srinagar that runs the only anti-rabies clinic in Kashmir received 3,295 cases of dog bits between 4/2018 and 9/2018. The centre at GMC at times runs short of anti-rabies vaccine as each victim requires at least four shots of anti-rabies vaccine over four weeks. As all the victims from all the 10 districts of the valley converge to the lone centre the complications compound. The vaccine is administered to prevent rabies infection to people bitten by dogs and other animals which exact its supply to be made fully and readily available round the clock.

While the dog bite cases are on continuous rise on one hand, the sterilization process is tardy and anti-rabies infection treatment facility also seized and centered per contra. Going by the rate & pace of sterilization, the existing number of dogs being 42,500 on an average, and the anti-rabies clinic facility, the canine management and their resultant bites seem to be far from being controlled in near future. Taking 21500 dogs as female with a nominal birth rate of five puppies (which on an average is said to be ranging between 6 and 10 depending upon the dog species and with the number of teats limited to 10) and the possibility that dogs can have puppies twice a year the number of dogs is likely to swell up so quickly as to overtake the Srinagar city's human population within a decade. Weighing the practicality of the threat perception the issue has come under judicial intervention via Public Interest Litigation and the Hon’ble High Court of J& K has been monitoring since 2011 the progress of the civic body in collaboration & cooperation with the Animal Welfare Board and SKUAST Srinagar regularly. The people, the Government and the Hon’ble Judiciary have every right to ask the SMC and the institutions concerned to improve performance; facilitating them with resources by way of men & material for catching, finance & means for transporting, treatment, operation theatre, surgical equipments and kennel facilities are also to be addressed first. The institutions concerned are to be equipped fully including relevant modern & advanced technology to be result oriented.

To cope up with the problem curative measures are to be increased and extended up to tehsil level health institutions to reduce logistic dangers and normalize functioning at GMC Srinagar. For preventive checks generation of garbage has to be reduced to the extent possible as first step and its dumping far away as possible from the human habitat, hospitals, offices, public places etc. as the next. Neutering by way of castration and spaying are to be conducted in a time bound programme. Whether the sterilization has remained successful or gaped with unavoidable failures is another angle of the problem to be tackled as a follow up action. Medicines reducing reproductive fertility, elongating their gestatorial period and simultaneously shortening heat cycle that lasts for at least two weeks may also be applied to have effective birth control to maintain dog-men ratio in consonance with the WHO standard. Based on the dogs’ average life span spreading over seven to 16 years correlating with their largeness with smaller ones enjoying longevity the latter are to be located, identified, caught and treated first. One thing seemingly ingrained in our genes is that we do not stitch in time to save nine which turn common and routine matters into difficult problems. Solution though distant, problem is not insurmountable. The bite cases have increased though dog population is said to have decreased. However, war is not to be waged against any species as Almighty has made no creature in vain. They solve some problems also. A peaceful and congenial atmosphere of human-animal association is to be maintained to live and let live others as wild beasts have not killed as many people as the self proclaimed humans.

The author is a former Sr. Audit Officer and Consultant in the A.G’s Office Srinagar.

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