The Battle for Compassion and Safety: Protecting Stray Dogs in India

Dogs are considered man's best friends & loyal of all animals.
Dogs are considered man's best friends & loyal of all animals.

Dogs have been a part of human society for thousands of years, and while many people consider them as the most loyal companion of all living beings, others view them as a nuisance and a threat to their safety.

In India, there is a stark divide between those who view stray dogs as a menace and those who consider them as “man’s best friends”. The former group often fears these dogs and sees them as a threat to public safety, while the latter is committed to feeding, sterilizing, and vaccinating them, and protecting them from harm. On one hand, dog lovers see dogs as loyal and affectionate companions, who provide comfort, joy and companionship to their owners. They often go out of their way to care for dogs, whether they are their own pets or stray dogs on the streets. Some even volunteer at animal shelters and rescue organizations to help provide care and support for dogs in need.

On the other hand, dog haters often view dogs as noisy, messy and potentially dangerous animals that pose a threat to public safety. They may have had negative experiences with dogs in the past or simply feel uncomfortable around them. Some even advocate for more extreme measures to control the dog population, such as culling or euthanasia.

With the growing intolerance towards strays , the streets of India are becoming a battleground for man and dog. It seems that every day there is a new story of abuse and violence against these innocent creatures.

The following are just a few examples of the horrors from the recent past, that dogs are facing on a daily basis:

  • Two men were arrested for beating a dog to death on March 2nd in Noida under Phase-2 police station area.

  • A pregnant dog mother was beaten to pulp in Ghaziabad on February 15th, all puppies died inside.

  • A stray dog was raped by a man living in the JJ Colony in Delhi's Indrapuri area on February 28. Police arrested the accused on March 5, after a video of the incident went viral on social media.

  • A male resident named SATISH of INDERPURI, in Naraina- Delhi, committed a heinous act of raping a female dog and was arrested after a video clip of the act spread all over the social media.

In Karnataka's Bellary, over 100 street dogs whose mouths and legs were tied with metal wires were thrown into the forest. Street dogs in cantonment of Jodhpur were allegedly thrown out onto the street after tying their mouths and legs.

Feeding Points set up by Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying were vandalized by AMAN Apartment Owners (AAO), Jaypee Aman Sector 151, Noida in mid-February.

Few days back, stray dogs were being mercilessly picked up by Sirohi municipality in Rajasthan for sterilisation. The SC guidelines were simply violated.

A one-year-old Dog vaccinated and sterilized, Leela, was murdered by neighbors beaten to death on December 31st at Janta Flats, Delhi.

Following the death of a 7-months baby, mauled by a stray dog, at Lotus Boulevard in Noida, Apartment Owners Association allegedly have been perpetuating cruelty against community animals,nursing Mother& pups on a daily basis.

In September 2022, after 21 people died due to Rabies, more than 1,000 dogs, including pets, were poisoned, beaten to death with iron rods and sticks, hung by the neck, burned and buried alive in Kerala.

These incidents are just a small sample of the countless abuses that dogs are facing across India. The situation is so dire that even politicians are proposing inhumane solutions, like Maharashtra MLA Bachchu Kadu suggesting sending stray dogs to Assam, where they are consumed by locals. The plight of India's dogs has sparked outrage among animal lovers and activists.

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India Has the Largest Street Dog Population

According to a recent report, Indian cities are now home to one of the largest populations of street dogs in the world, which stands at a staggering 62 million. Unfortunately, this has also led to India having the highest number of rabies deaths globally. In 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 99 percent of rabies transmission in India is caused by dogs, with the country accounting for 36 percent of all rabies deaths worldwide. Shockingly, based on WHO figures, the annual number of rabies deaths in India amounts to a staggering 21,240.

A video of a young boy being attacked by a group of stray dogs in Amberpet, Hyderabad in February last week, had gone viral, sparking outrage and criticism towards the local municipal corporation's efforts to address the issue of aggressive dogs roaming the streets. The incident has been widely shared and has drawn attention to the need for better measures to control the stray dog population cross the nation.

Actress Tarana has adopted 7 community dogs herself and feed hundreds of strays in the locality
Actress Tarana has adopted 7 community dogs herself and feed hundreds of strays in the locality

Dog lovers Vs Dog Haters?

Despite laws and policies being in place for animal welfare in India, there is a severe lack of implementation by local authorities. Speaking to The Mooknayak, Actress and Animal Birth Control Advocate ,Tarana Singh says, "The laws and policies are in place via the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying (Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying), However there is absolutely no implementation by local police and municipal authorities.

The police listens to the unruly mob and files cross criminal complaints against those doing Animal Birth Control and vaccinations of Community dogs out of pocket.' She also said that the Noida Authority makes dog shelters locally for Resident Welfare Associations because they demand that but does not include experienced caregivers in the day-to-day running of the shelters, which makes them illegal relocation cages. "Those who are the hands and eyes of the ABC Rules 2001 programme, GOI, and who are doing the on-ground job of Animal Birth Control and Vaccinations for the animals are being targeted and criminal complaints registered by police due to RWA/AOA led Mobs" she said regretfully.

WHO report says, the annual number of rabies deaths in India amounts to a staggering 21,240.
WHO report says, the annual number of rabies deaths in India amounts to a staggering 21,240.

Bitter Experiences

Wildlife Photographer Mukund Kumar was subjected to harassment and even a false police case just because for keeping a dog. Speaking to The Mooknayak, Mukund said, "On the 23rd of December, a young man Vishvam Pandey was in the lift when my wife and I entered with our pet dog. Pandey obstructed the lift door with his legs and asked us to leave the lift in an unruly manner. Despite our persuasion and the intervention of security and maintenance personnel, the situation escalated, and sensing a threat, I had no option but to use pepper spray for my safety" Later upon reaching the police chowki, the police began to abuse Mukund in front of the accused, which only encouraged them further.

"I was taken to Bisrakh Thana where I was subjected to more abuse for keeping a dog. The incharge asked the other party to write an application and said, "Sign lekar aao logon ki ache se fasate hain isko." They gave paper and pen, and while I was consistently abused, my family was not informed of my detention, and my phone was taken away, depriving me of legal help" Mukund narrated the bitter incident .

He said he was not given paper and pen and kept as a hostage until 6 PM the following day. He was subjected to extreme cold, had no access to food or water, and was only abused. "The person who beat me was let go at night, and in IPC 151, I was only made an accused and punished", says the photographer.

Animal behaviour & conservation biologist Kasturi, from Pune, too, shared her views with The Mooknayak. "My belief is that human-animal conflict can be minimized by sharing space, but this view is not widely shared. Humans range from extreme intolerance to anything perceived as an inconvenience, from bees to dogs and pigeons to beggars on the street. Most people are neutral and desire peace, but they can easily be swayed by mass hysteria" the counselor noted. Kasturi herself had several bitter experiences being an ardent animal caregiver.

At Dyal Singh College, Delhi University, dogs roam freely in the campus without any fear of being killed.
At Dyal Singh College, Delhi University, dogs roam freely in the campus without any fear of being killed.

"When a pet owner says “excuse me” as she would like to pass through a tight passage in front of the lifts ; why is the answer “why should I”? People object to pets being taken in the lifts, through the parking, through the grounds, they object if they bark, if they are in their own balcony, if they mark tyres, even if they are on leash and the owner cleans up solid waste, every single time. In an extreme case of harassment, the residents involved the pmc to brutally demolish a temporary shade in my balcony. Just one of over 500 such structures in the same society!" Kasturi frets. The activist has also faced a false FIR in September 2022 for using the lift with her pets. The police didn't listen to her and instead registered a case against her claiming that the people in her society were angry as she fed stray dogs.

Bridging the Divide between Love & Hate

"Only compassion towards other living beings can save this world," says Monika Singh, an animal lover in Delhi. "Teach your children to coexist with animals because at the end, the planet will only have animals. Humans would cease to exist if we don't start respecting mother nature's children."

Aparna Singhal, an activist from Ghaziabad, calls for government intervention and an Animal Welfare Ministry. "Our education system needs to integrate compassion for animals," she adds.

Animal rights activist Chaitanya Rajasekhar is on a mission to sensitize people on animal rights. He has cycled 12,000 kilometers through 24 states to raise awareness. Animal rights activists are demanding inclusion of animal welfare as a subject in schools.

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The Legal Provisions against Animal Cruelty

The debate between dog lovers and dog haters is a long-standing one that continues to spark passionate discussions and disagreements.

Animal welfare groups and the law of the land advocate compassion for the four legged creatures. The Indian Constitution lists “compassion for living creatures” as a fundamental duty of citizens, and killing dogs is illegal. Street dogs cannot be beaten, killed or displaced, and can only be sterilized, vaccinated, and returned to their original locations as per the Animal Birth Control (ABC) Rules, 2001. Only rabies-afflicted, incurably ill, or mortally wounded dogs can be culled as per the law.

The ABC (Dogs) Rules, 2001 require local authorities to establish dog pounds, have enough vans with trained personnel for the capture and transportation of street dogs, ambulances, and incinerators for disposal of carcasses. The Animal Welfare Board of India is the statutory advisory body on animal welfare laws and is tasked with ensuring that rules are followed and providing grants to animal welfare organizations.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, makes cruelty to animals punishable with a fine and imprisonment, but the fine of Rs 50 is hardly a deterrent. Unnatural sex with animals is dealt under section 377 of the IPC. The Supreme Court has repeatedly asked states to abide by the 1960 law and the 2001 rules and refrain from killing stray dogs. The apex court has also said that “nobody can destroy stray dogs in entirety. They also have a right to live”.

At its core, the issue of animal overpopulation is a matter of balancing human and animal rights. It requires careful consideration and a nuanced approach. Rather than resorting to simple solutions like mass killing, the problem must be addressed through well-planned policy measures, including sterilization drives.

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