Dogs day out

About four thousand dog bite cases were referred to SMHS hospital last year alone. The situation in districts is similarly alarming making up for another 10,000 dog bite cases reported in district hospitals. Three people have already succumbed to dog bites in 2010. Shazia Khan reports.

A shopkeeper in Pulwama main market trying his best to keep dogs off from his shop.

With the dog population going much above acceptable limits, the humans are paying the price with more than 40 cases of dog bites reported in different hospitals every day. Three deaths due to rabies have already been reported in 2010.

Srinagar and Baramulla districts witnessed the highest number of dog bite cases in 2009. The SMSHS and the state run district hospitals in valley registered 14,562 dog bites cases during the period. Doctors say many dogs bite victims receive treatment from private clinics and don’t show up at the government-run hospitals.
In the first three months of 2010, the SMHS hospital in Srinagar treated 657 people for dog bites. Two bite victims, including a six-year-old boy, died after the dog attacks. Another person succumbed to dog bites this month.

According to the official figures with 3,966 bites in 2009 Srinagar is placed at the top of dog bite list, followed by Baramulla with 3191, Kulgam 2318, Kupwara 1047, Pulwama 1215, Anantnag 1135, Bandipora 396, Shopian 300, and Budgam 61. Health officials say that most of the victims, around 40 percent, were children below twelve years of age.

Every day around 40 dog bite cases are reported in different government hospitals in the valley. Medical officials hold that the disproportionately large stray dog population in the valley responsible for the exponential rise in the number of dog bite patients. Dr Salim Khan, who teaches social and preventive medicine at the Government Medical College Srinagar and is a member of APCRI (Association for the Prevention and Control of Rabies in India), says that at present the valley is having the highest dog to human ratio in India – 1 to 14. “It is beyond acceptable limits. In Srinagar alone the dog population is anywhere between 80,000 to one lakh which means one dog for every nine persons,” said Khan. “In rest of India the dog to human ratio is 1:40.”

The officials at the SMHS hospital’s Anti- Rabies clinic fear that the actual number of dog-bite cases or the number of fatalities due to these are higher than the reported numbers. Muhammad Yousuf Mir in charge anti Rabies clinic Srinagar says, “We cannot say with surety how many people have died or were injured (this year), as we are able to count only those patients who are referred to (government run) hospitals.”

Mir says that all dog bite patients do not visit government hospital for treatment. “Sometime during unpleasant situation, many patients cannot manage to reach hospitals and prefer private clinics for getting treatment for dog bite injuries.”

The large stray dog population, experts say, will present a challenge to the security of human beings in near future. “The dogs will become aggressive as food will be scarce. They will intrude into homes, attack humans, cattle and poultry alike,” says Dr Khan.

Dogs have an average life of 14 years and they start breeding after two years of birth. “A bitch produces six puppies every six months and hypothetically speaking it produces 80,000 more dogs in its life span,” said Dr Khan. “Even if their mortality is high, and the estimates are conservative it produces 1000 dogs.”

Even in the face of the imminent threat from the alarming dog population, the civic authorities are yet to make any effort in controlling the dog menace. Officials at the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, say that they would cull thousands of dogs every year until March of 2008 when animal rights activists forced a halt on the cull. Animal rights activists have filed a case in the court of law against culling.

Health Officer Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Dr Riyaz Ahmad, says, “The case related to the dog problems is sub-judice, so we can’t talk about it right now…A case has been filed under the animal cruelty laws and the hearing is on.”

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