Stray dogs, dog bites and rabies infestation

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The J&K High Court has directed the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) to file within a week the status report about the action plan for containing the menace of stray dogs, dog bites and spread of rabies.Hearing a petition by Centre for Public Interest Litigation and Legal Aid, Chief Justice A M Magray and Justice Puneet Gupta directed the Commissioner SMC to “submit within a week the action plan of the Corporation for containing the menace of stray dogs, particularly the dog bites as also the spread of rabies”.The petitioners said that 90,000 stray dogs are roaming in Srinagar City alone. They also referred to the instances of death of some minor children who were attacked by stray dogs at different places in and around the City.The court had in July passed some directions to different authorities linked with the matter. It had asked the Commissioner SMC to submit the details of the number of stray dogs in Srinagar city.He was also supposed to submit the details about the issue of dog birth control and setting up of anti-rabies centers.The agency, however, failed to respond, prompting the division bench to direct the Commissioner to submit the action plan of the Corporation for containing the menace of stray dogs, and particularly dog bites as also the spread of rabies within a week.

The ever increasing population of stray dogs in Kashmir Valley, particularly in Srinagar city is a great challenge the population here is face to face with. The Valley has reported 58,869 dog bite cases in past decade –  from 2011 to January 2021. As per the data available with the Department of Community Medicines, Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar, 4149 persons were bitten by stray dogs from January onward, this year alone. Statistical analyses of the total number of cases indicate that around 15 people are falling victim to the stray dogs a day. These numbers are indicative of the severity of the situation which id left unattended could turn into a catastrophe. The over growing population of stray dogs is a glaring proof of the inefficiency of those who run civic bodies in Kashmir. In 2008, the animal rights organizations compelled the authorities to stop the poisoning process to kill stray dogs. Since then the dog population is on the rise here as the concerned authorities failed to adopt alternative scientific measures to keep the population under check.

As poisoning of dogs was banned, the authorities were supposed to go for massive sterilization of dogs as the step was and is an animal friendly one and also an effective tool to keep the dog population under control. However, the concerned departments have failed to build the required infrastructure for the sterilization of stray dogs. For example, Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) has a single sterilization center where just 15 dogs could to be sterilized a day. Given the massive population of dogs, this sterilization centre is serving no purpose. The fact that the concerned authorities are not taking the issue seriously is evident when one sees how these authorities dealt with creation of dog ponds. Without proper application of mind the authorities started building a pond at Shuhama, which is a populated area. Locals of the area, as expected, took to streets objecting the project there. Since then, the government is yet to identify land to build dog ponds far from the populated areas.

Another failure of the concerned authorities responsible for increasing dog population and subsequent dog bites is the issue of waste management. In Srinagar and other major towns, the garbage is scattered haphazardly inviting armies of dogs thus risking the life and limb of people particularly children and women. The civic authorities should wake up and launch a massive sterilization campaign. Besides they should go for proper waste management and also identify places where dog ponds could be made. The government should ensure ample funding so that sterilization centres are established all over.

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