Not Dogs’ Own Country: Why Kerala is seeking Supreme Court’s permission to kill strays

Twenty-one people have died because of rabies and around one lakh have suffered dog bites in Kerala so far this year. The recent demise of a 12-year-old after being bitten by a stray has raised the ire of the public

FP Explainers September 13, 2022 12:33:04 IST
Not Dogs’ Own Country: Why Kerala is seeking Supreme Court’s permission to kill strays

Kerala’s streets are home to an estimated 280,000 strays and their population is growing by about 20 per cent every year. PTI

The southern state of Kerala is facing ‘ruff’ times. In the backdrop of growing incidents of deadly stray dog behaviour and rising rabies deaths, the state government said it would seek the permission of the Supreme Court to cull aggressive and rabies-infected stray dogs.

Local self-government minister MB Rajesh said that the decision was taken after a high-level meeting was convened to discuss the harrowing situation arising from the stray dogs in the state. He also announced that a mass vaccination programme on animals for birth control would be carried out from 20 September to 20 October. Around 10,000 dogs will be vaccinated per day under the program run by the local authorities.

Rajesh also revealed that a long-term solution for the stray dog menace was also discussed in the meeting, where shelters at panchayat level came out as one of them.

What’s the reason for the Kerala government’s move to approach the Supreme Court? We take a better look.

Kerala’s stray dog menace

The state has long been struggling with the issue of stray dogs. As per information available, Kerala’s streets are home to an estimated 280,000 strays and their population is growing by about 20 per cent every year. Additionally, another 900,000 dogs are kept as pets in Kerala.

This year till date, around 1,00,000 people have suffered stray dog bites and 21 rabies deaths have been reported.

Of the 21 deaths, authorities said five had received anti-rabies vaccines. The matter earned the spotlight in national and international media when a 12-year-old girl, identified as Abhirami, from Perunadu in Pathanamthitta district died on 5 September of rabies after suffering the bite in August. Her death sparked demands for stringent measures against stray dogs.

Another incident on 5 September also put the focus of strays in the state; eight people were attacked by a stray dog in Attingal in Thiruvananthapuram district.

There are numerous instances of strays attacking people and biting them. On 11 September, a 12-year-old boy, Nooras, was riding his bicycle in front of his house in Kozhikode district’s Arakkinaru when a street dog suddenly jumped up on him and began biting him, before his family pulled him to safety. News Minute< reported that the 12-year-old was later admitted to Kozhikode Beach Hospital.

Manorama Online reported that on 7 September, 26 people were bitten by stray dogs across the state. Of them, several were children.

Leader of the Opposition VD Satheesan speaking to India Today said, “It’s a harrowing situation in Kerala, with more than two dozen people—mostly women and children — being bitten by stray dogs every day. The state government is doing nothing to provide quality healthcare for them.”

Some of the reasons for the rising stray dog population are poor management of waste, inadequate sterilisation of stray dogs and shortage of the anti-rabies vaccine.

Kerala has long been struggling with its stray dog menace. In 2016, the state saw a massive campaign to kill stray dogs. Jose Maveli, as reported by BBC, was one of the men who participated in the campaign and wanted to put an end to what he called the “dog menace”. He was then quoted as saying, “The government should allow people to kill dogs threatening human life.”

What the government is doing?

The Left government has announced that they will carry out a mass vaccination drive of dogs from 20 September, aimed at checking the stray dog problem.

In fact, the government has already initiated steps including setting up of Animal Birth Control (ABC) centres in 152 blocks. Currently, there are 37 centres in place.

Vaccinating strays is a practical solution to tackle the menace and helps in ensuring that the dog bites don’t turn fatal.

The Animal Birth Control Project, initiated by the animal husbandry department, has achieved sterilisation of only 20,000 dogs since 2016, highlighting the failure of the programme.

Dog lovers speak

Animal rights activists are up in arms against the Kerala government’s decision to cull ‘aggressive’ and rabies-infected dogs.

Some of the activists have taken the matter to the Supreme Court, opposing the culling of the dogs and providing a set of alternate proposals which can help in resolving the issue.

The dog lovers said that if the court allowed culling of the strays it would be in contravention to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, that restricts killing of any animal (including stray dogs) by any method.

Sreedevi S Kartha, a member of People for Animals, said to New Indian Express, “Media should stop the hate campaign against stray dogs. People are turning more hostile towards stray dogs due to the unfair coverage and are resorting to illegal practices like poisoning to kill stray dogs. Culling the canines is not a healthy solution.”

The apex court hearing the matter had earlier called for a balance between kindness towards stray dogs and the necessity of protecting people from the aggression of strays. It even observed that those feeding strays should be held accountable for the violence of these dogs.

With inputs from agencies

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