The Kerala government decided on Thursday to drastically cut down the population of stray dogs through large-scale culling and birth control measures after 40,000 canine bite cases in the state over eight months led to a public outcry.
Local bodies will step up combing operations to identify dogs that could benefit from birth control and to kill the particularly troublesome ones, it was decided at an all-party meeting convened by chief minister Oommen Chandy.
“The government is committed to protecting the people. We will take strict measures to control the stray dog population. The veterinary department has been given instructions to ensure sufficient vaccination,” the CM said after the meeting.
Fitness freaks had recently cried on Chandy’s shoulder, saying their morning workouts were shrouded in fear of canine fury. The grievance appeared justified, as nearly 70% bite victims were joggers and minors.
In the capital Thiruvananthapuram alone, 300 cases were reported last month. Crowded with bite victims, several hospitals ran out of anti-rabies vaccines.
Congress state president VM Sudheeran wrote to the CM recently to curb the menace but a meeting convened in Kochi to discuss the issue ended in a stalemate after popular TV anchor Ranjini Haridas and animal lovers stormed the stage demanding birth control measures without killing the animals.
“Culling and poisoning are inhuman. Rather than resorting to these we can sterilise stray dogs to check their numbers,” Haridas said after the meeting.
Culling by way of poisoning is often resorted to by local bodies in the absence of adequate infrastructure to implement birth control. The practice has historically been opposed vigorously by animal rights activists.
In the year 2000, Avis Lyons, an Englishwoman moved by the plight of stray dogs, set up a dog rescue centre near the famous beach getaway of Kovalam.
A year later, in 2001, she started Animal Rescue Kerala, a voluntary animal rescue home conducted animal birth control programmes. Her campaign against the mindless killing of animals by authorities led to several confrontations with the Thiruvananthapuram municipal corporation, which even made a plea for her deportation.
Lyons continued her work tirelessly until she had to head home to seek treatment for cancer in 2013, with the dogs’ fate surely the worse for it.