A dog’s life: Bursting the ‘menace’ myth
The recent incident of a one and a half year old child being mauled to death by a pack of stray dogs in a public park at Chandigarh is a horrifying incident that pushes forth another gruesome reminder of the man-animal conflict that has become a part of our every day lives.
As expected, it has unleashed volatile reactions from people across the city. From social activists seeking the intervention of Maneka Gandhi and residents blaming the civic authorities for their inaction to accounts of eyewitnesses claiming that the dogs were provoked to attack, newspapers are filled with reports that capture the angst, shock and disappointment of city residents.
Unarguably, the sheer tragedy of the incident is enough to shake us. However, offering solutions, such as not feeding the stray dogs, killing the ferocious dogs in the locality, poisoning the dogs and picking the dogs from the locality, are not feasible and legal solutions to this problem. Before offering any solution, it is pertinent that all of us become aware of the rights of the canines on our streets.
Know the law
As per Indian law, street dogs cannot be beaten or driven away from the streets where they live. The only legal way of dealing with street dogs is to get them vaccinated and sterilized under the Animal Birth Control Programme (ABC). Under this programme, stray dogs are picked up, neutered, vaccinated against rabies and released in the areas from where they had been captured, which is in accordance with the Animal Birth Control Rules 2001 framed under Section 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
The Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001 clearly state that even if the Municipal Corporation thinks it is expedient to control the street dog population, it cannot resort to killing or dislocating them. It can only sterilize and immunize the dogs and leave them back at the locations from where they have been picked up.
This is because the dislocation of street dogs proves to be counter-productive and only favours the entry of other non-sterilized street dogs into the area.
Law doesn’t prohibit feeding stray animals
There is no law in India that prohibits feeding of street animals. In fact, citizens who choose to feed or take care of the street dogs are in fact performing a duty cast upon them by the Constitution of India. Any person, common people or government officials, who are trying to interfere with their effort, or display aggression, can be held liable for having committed offence described in the Indian Penal Code. All problems of stray animals have to be handled within the institutional framework available and no resident association, recognised or unrecognised, can take recourse to action on their own.
However, the loss of a human life, and that too of a defenceless infant, calls for concrete steps to be taken, both by the authorities and the citizens, to control the risk posed by the canines on our streets. It is of utmost importance that this incident should not turn into another one of those incidents where a big tragedy only leads to empty rhetoric, both by the authorities and the public.
Allocate budget for stray animals
Civic authorities should allocate a special budget for controlling the problems caused due to the population of stray dogs. Under the plan, a committee should be appointed to analyse and research the status of stray dogs in every area, including quantities, birth rate, etc.
The authorities should improve services on animal disease prevention and treatment and provide free medical care for the local street dogs at the in- and out-patient departments of government animal clinics.
The government should allocate funds to build a certain number of stray dog rescue stations and shelters within the next five years in the tricity. The civic authorities should provide support and fund the non-governmental organisations and sign agreements with them. They should also establish an information-exchanging platform between the government departments concerned and the public.
A sound, systematic monitoring and management system built by the civic authorities and an empathetic and aware public that provides support and cooperates with the civic authorities can be instrumental in leading us towards a solution where both human and animal interests are taken into account for a peaceful coexistence.
(The writer teaches at DAV College, Sector 10, Chandigarh. Views expressed are her personal)