Right to Bite!

Dogs not only pose risk to human lives, but they endanger animal lives too. Something needs to be done at the earliest to control their numbers, writes Dr Zubair Ahmad War

A student trying to protect herself from hostile dogs outside MA Girls College in Srinagar.

Earlier this week, people held a silent protest demonstration against the growing dog menace in Press enclave Srinagar. The protestors carried placards like ‘Save children from dog menace’, ‘Are our children food for dogs’ etc.  Pertinently, some days ago a minor was brutally mauled by dogs in Baramulla district and he is battling for his life in SKIMS.  Unfortunately, there seems to be no end to the protracted canine menace in Kashmir. As a matter of routine, the print media reports the news of Kashmiris including women and children being mercilessly bitten by dogs in nook and corner of Kashmir.

Exaggerated Dog Rights

Animal rights activists in the past have resisted any move of authorities to deal with the dog menace effectively. They perceive the controlling of dog numbers as cruelty. Actually, politics is being played over the issue. Dog menace needs to be viewed beyond the prism of animal rights violations. Why are stray dogs being given such undue importance? What about rights of humans and other animals? We are not asking to kill dogs; we are only demanding the reduction of their numbers. Recently, the so called animal rights activists managed to get a Supreme Court ban on Jallikattu, the famous bull taming sport of Tamil Nadu, on the grounds of cruelty. Actually, the Jallikattu is in the interest of farmers as well as the indigenous bulls. If the sport is banned, the farmers will lose the incentive to rear the indigenous bulls. Pertinently, the Jallikattu sport is a part of Tamil culture. Some believe that the sport is as old as the Indus Valley civilization. The Jallikattu game should have been regulated, rather than a blanket ban imposed on it.

Dogs outnumber?

There are at least 4 reasons for the exponential rise of canines in the Valley. One, the dog meat is eaten by certain communities in the states of Mizoram, Nagaland, and Manipur. In sharp contrast, Valleyites can’t think of eating dog meat. Second, most of the Valleyites don’t domesticate dogs. Since dogs in Valley aren’t kept as pets within the houses, they are again added to the ‘stray dog pool’. Three, the reproductive health is directly proportional to nutrition. Since Valleyites consume lots of meat, so, dogs get comparatively good nutrition in terms of protein. In fact, in marriage season dogs make merry. This ensures that more healthy pups are born. Four, dogs in Valley don’t have serious competing species like pigs that could outnumber them.

Struggle for Existence

Early man, initially a nomad, tamed dogs for hunting purpose. Then, as he settled they were used as guard dogs to protect his livestock and dwellings. Subsequently, the modern man put them to various uses: as pets, in defense, for disaster management etc. Why has the oldest friend of humans turned a savage in Kashmir? The modern domestic dogs though adapted to live alongside humans are still similar in many ways to their wild canine relatives like wolves, coyotes and wild dogs.  The otherwise tame, tail wagging dogs easily display the wild instincts when put under stress due to their over population. Dogs are territorial creatures. They mark their territory with their urine to signal to the intruders that the place is already occupied. When an unknown intruder dog arrives into the territory of a pack, fierce quarrels take place to defend or usurp the territory. Further, dogs feed on our left over edibles. So, they often fight for food. Male dogs also fight among themselves to win over the females. Thus there is cut throat competition for food, space and mates. This competition paves way for ‘struggle for existence’. The tame, tail wagging dogs turn into predators. In sync with their wild instincts they attack the weakest: children, elderly and women. Clearly dogs per se are not problematic, but their numbers in Kashmir are quite worrisome.

Dogs violate Human Rights

A lot of hue and cry is raised about dog rights by various dog lovers. What about the human rights of beleaguered Valleyites which are being brazenly trampled? Or, are Valleyites not humans? Presently, dog menace is turning out to be a glaring example of human rights violation. Free movement of Valleyites has been curbed, especially during night hours. Some contract the deadly and lethal rabies and the body parts of others are disfigured. To add insult to the injury of victims, the cost of rabies vaccine and other medicines is on a higher side. Besides, dogs are a source of various zoonotic diseases and they make our surroundings filthy by defecation.

Dogs Violate Animal Rights too

The different newspapers rightly project the canine menace as a human rights violation. But unfortunately these newspapers seldom project dog menace as a direct animal rights violation. Dogs are not the only animals living in Kashmir with us. Apart from these stray dogs, people here do rear domestic animals. The stray dogs snatch the rights of these domestic animals by attacking them with impunity. What about their rights?  On a daily basis the dog-bite cases come to the Veterinarians for treatment. The dogs attack these animals and even kill them on the spot. The plight of such animals is often pathetic: torn bellies with protruding intestines, bitten limbs and eaten-away body tissues.  Apart from the pain, disability and conformational defects, the poor animals have to bear the brunt of the lethal rabies.  The owners of these animals, who are often poor, in turn have to bear a severe financial burden. The prognosis in dog bite cases is often grave. There is no guarantee that the domestic dog-bitten animal will survive.

Sterilization Solution

Dogs have a remarkably high reproduction potential and the population of dogs is expanding at a higher rate. Sterilization has been advocated as the “only solution” for the dog menace. But, sterilization is a slow process and apparently hasn’t proven to be effective in checking the dog numbers. Either the sterilization has to be carried out on a larger scale or other ways have to be explored. Dogs are killing us mercilessly, why can’t we kill the dogs by euthanasia? Why can’t the existing law be reviewed in the larger interest of public? We are only asking to control dog numbers, not wipe out dogs completely. If we can control human numbers by way of family planning methods, why not dogs?

Million dollar question

Will a dog stop biting after sterilization? Dog bites will come down surely, but bear in mind three things: One, Sterilization is a population control mechanism in dogs to check their numbers. Reduced dogs will face less competition for survival and hence ferociousness will be reduced. Two, the most ferocious dogs are the lactating females guarding their pups and ferocious males looking for a partner. Sterilized female and male dogs will neither lactate nor search their partners. Three, Biology is a science of exceptions. No scientist can tell with authority that a sterilized dog will not bite. It depends on the luck of the victim!

Status quo

Dogs are intelligent creatures. They not only read the body language of humans, but they can also smell fear or anger. When people approach the dog in a fearful manner or in an apprehensive manner, the canine realizes it. It perceives it as an opportunity to show its dominance and pounces on the target. Rabid dogs can be easily distinguished from normal dogs as the former show clear signs of madness like running continuously in a haphazard manner, biting anything that comes in their way, salivating profusely, being chased by other normal dogs etc.

Tail Piece

Clearly, if the dog menace is left unaddressed, the situation in future can go out of hand and lead to an ugly turn. In the larger interest of dogs as well as public, a meaningful action has to be put in place to alleviate the trouble.

 

Zubair Ahmad War
Zubair Ahmad War

 

The columnist has Masters in Veterinary Science from SKUAST-K and can be mailed at zubi744@rediffmail.com

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