Stray dogs have dominated quite a few living room conversations this week. The death of famous Wagh Bakri Tea brand’s Director due to brain haemorrhage which he suffered when he fell down after being chased by stray dogs and Member of Parliament Mahua Moitra’s fight with her ex-boyfriend over their pet rottweiler ‘Henry’ put dogs in the news.
While Mahua Moitra’s ‘Henry’ is just an innocent canine stuck in the middle of a lover’s spat, the strays that got Wagh Bakri’s Director are not.
Stray dogs in urban India are going feral. They need to be studied and they need to be managed before they turn into apex predators in our Urban Jungles. According to a Lancet study, every year about 59,000 Indians are killed by dog attacks !
India has the highest number of stray dogs in the world. India has the highest number of stray dog attacks in the world. India has the highest cases of rabies death in the world. Shouldn’t we then have a world-class stray dog management policy and system in place? We do have policies but poor implementation.
In 2011, according to People For Animals (PFA), there were around 20,000 strays in Mysuru and 13,500 of them had been neutered. But in just a decade, PFA Mysuru says the stray dog population has significantly increased. But why? Because the neutering programmes have not been able to keep up with the stray reproduction rate. This is largely due to lack of personnel and funds.
Strays are on the rise in Mysuru. Not just stray dogs, we have cows, pigs, horses and the occasional leopard too. All these strays are a threat to either life or property and going for a morning walk in certain areas in Mysuru is risky business.
I am reminded of Dec. 18, 2018, when Parvathamma, a vegetable vendor, was attacked and killed by stray horses. In a strange coincidence, the very next day after the attack as I opened my gate to go for a walk, there in front of me stood a team of stray horses.
I was unnerved and confused. Unnerved wondering if these horses were Parvathamma’s killers and confused because, if they were the ‘accused’ killer horses then should I call the Police or MCC? But then I remembered the killer horses were rounded up the previous day. Phew!
Still paranoid with their presence I passed by their side and I nickered. By the way nicker is a low-pitched, guttural sound made by a horse considered a companionable greeting. So, I nickered as not to spook them lest they give me a killer kick.
A few days later my walk was again marred by cat-fear. When I say cat, I mean the roaring kind. In all the time that I have walked up Chamundi Hill I had never seen a leopard, but on this day just as the morning sun was breaking through one crossed my path.
Even though it was much ahead, I got goosebumps; I was filled with joy and fear…while also experiencing momentary lapse of bowel control. After this I started making noises and clapping as I walked up the Hill so as to warn the shy leopard that a human was approaching.
A few weeks later again my morning walk came to a ‘hair-raising’ halt. Stray dog menace had begun on Chamundi Hill Road as tourists made it a habit of eating on the road before going up the Hill.
Walking back from Chamundi Hill I noticed a pack of dogs baring their fangs at me with a menacing stare and low growling. The adrenaline rush turned me into an animal, and I started awkwardly roaring at them as if to confuse them into thinking that I was a leopard from the Hill that eats dogs.
Over the years, like most Mysureans I have learnt to moo and shoo cows from the road, neigh and nicker to get around stray horses, roar and carry an umbrella to deal with aggressive stray dogs. Morning walks are no more relaxing as they used to be.
That apart there is also the menace of pigs in certain areas in the city. Bannimantap, Yadavagiri and areas around there have a pig problem. Like ‘elephant corridor’ in Bandipur these two areas have become ‘handi-corridor’ as it is infested with pigs.
What is MCC doing about it? Nothing really. For starters, MCC has failed miserably in taking action against the owners of stray cows, dogs, pigs and horses, the four creatures that have turned into a traffic hazard and a health hazard.
The MCC in 2020 created a Special Team to catch stray cows and shift them to the cattle pound near Sewage Farm in Vidyaranyapuram. But alas, it failed. The MCC can book owners of stray animals under the provisions of law but they are unable to.
Adding to the stray dog menace is the bad habit of some Mysureans who feed stray dogs regularly at a set location making them territorial and aggressive.
Some feed strays out of love but many others feed so they can have a “cost-free” guard dog — no registering them, collaring them, vaccinating them or neutering them.
The High Court of Karnataka rightly observed, “Duty is cast upon such citizens (dog feeders) to ensure that the feeding activity shall not cause hindrance or health hazard to their fellow citizens.”
The Court also made an interesting observation that such stray dog feeders “are not coming forward to assist public bodies in the exercise of sterilisation or vaccination of stray dogs.”
Mysuru DC Dr. K.V. Rajendra has been proactive in that he recently approved four acres land for PFA to house stray dogs but the land has not yet been identified, let alone allotted.
The only way to manage stray menace is to penalise or prosecute people who let their livestock on the roads and involve more NGOs, pay them on time to neuter dogs… else people will take matters into their own hands. Who wouldn’t if their child is mauled and killed by a stray?
For now, since we cannot expect much from our authorities, it’s time we learn to adapt to the presence of strays, be it crazy dogs, dirty pigs, lazy cows or angry horses. They are everywhere — on the roads, in front of our homes and even inside our government offices… no pun intended.
PS: If you want to report about stray menace, contact MCC at 94480-34037 or 99863-03236. If you want to rescue injured animals, contact PFA on 98456-54429.
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