Authorities in Srinagar - which hit headlines internationally following scaring human-dog conflict in the past two years - claim to have finally succeeded in bringing down dog population by 42,051, a significant dip from 91,000 to 48,949 dogs, in just around one year.
"The good news is that dog population has come down significantly following a number of measures, which include the animal birth control programme. Around 1,000 dogs have been sterilised so far at the state-of-art kennels. What has added to the significant decrease is improved sanitation condition and control on littering in Srinagar," Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) commissioner Ghulam Nabi Qasba told the Hindustan Times.
Militant violence and dog menace hit headlines with almost equal frequency in the past two years in the valley. The dog-man conflict reached an alarming stage when the biting incidents took toll on around 25,000 residents of Srinagar. The city - which has a human population of around 14 lakh humans and dog population at 91,000 as per 2011 official census -- had 36 residents pitted against one dog.
At least three people were killed last year in the ferocious dog attacks. A total of around 54,000 bites are reported at Srinagar's premiere Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital's community medicine in the last three years.
The menacing dog population and attacks saw sit-ins and protests from civil society. The issue was taken up in the state assembly, while the hight court censured the administration for poor response.
"A survey carried out by reputed Humane Society Intentional put the dog population at just 48, 949 now," said Qasba, who has released ward-wise dog population, with number of male and female dogs and pups included.
"Because most people in Srinagar are meat and chicken eaters, dogs here are very ferocious compared to their counterpart in the rest of the country. The exercise to lift refuges of chicken and sheep from shops itself has helped in controlling the population," said Qasba.
In three major areas where the animal birth control programme was launched, there is significant dip in dog number from 1,690 to 1,357. "Our dog catching team picked up female dogs from these areas and sterilised them. After ear notching to mark who all were sterilised, the female dogs were again released in their habitat," said Qasba.
Animal rights activists have been keeping a close eye on procedures adopted by the Srinagar municipality for dog sterilisation. Well-known animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi paid a visit to dog kennels in July last year to see the sterilisation facility at Shuhuma, which has come at Rs 1.3 crore.
The municipality, in order to achieve zero population growth, will resume 50 to 60 sterilisation operations per day this summer. The sterilization process was stopped earlier this year when the Animal Welfare Board of India took exception to surgeries saying "sub-zero temperatures could result in hypothermia or extreme cold shocks to the dogs undergoing surgery."