Kerala proposes ‘stray dog zoos’

The Kerala government is planning “stray dog zoos” to keep them off the streets in the State. The State government informed a Supreme Court Bench led by Justice Dipak Misra that it had asked all district panchayats to keep aside two to three acres and notify them as ‘stray dog zoos’. The State government, represented by senior advocate V. Giri, was responding to a question from the Supreme Court on the construction of shelter homes for the stray dog population, which has increased aggressively over the years and become a dangerous presence on the streets, especially after dark. However, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and activists refused to be convinced by the solution Kerala has arrived at concerning stray dogs.

Senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing for an animal welfare association, said: “What the State is planning to do with these dog zoos? These dogs will become even more ferocious and their population will increase.” Instead, he suggested that the Kerala government embrace the Centre’s Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules of 2001 which emphasise on sterilisation and immunisation of stray dogs. “There is no room for dog zoos under the 2001 Rules,” Mr. Grover said. The 2001 Rules, framed under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, are aimed at eradicating the threat of rabies and reducing man-dog conflict. While a former member of the AWBI submitted that the 1994 Surat plague was preceded by massive culling of stray dogs, in that Gujarat city, Mr. Grover said garbage pile-ups in public places in Kerala had contributed rather heavily to the increase in strays. He said only sterilisation and immunisation would eventually see a dip in their population.

Countering this, Sabu Stephen, a petitioner from Kerala, said 2001 Rules had been prevalent for years and “where has the population of stray dogs gone down.”

“Do stray dogs have a natural right to attack humans?” Mr. Stephen asked.

Advocate V.K. Biju, counsel for dog bite victims, said 1.16 lakh people had been affected in the State and 22 died.

“Why is this menace in Kerala only,” Justice Misra asked.

“Simple, because Kerala has not adopted the Birth Control Rules,” advocate Siddhartha K. Garg responded.

Senior advocate V. Giri, representing Kerala, countered that local panchayats have enacted laws and the court should foremost decide the legal question whether the local laws or the Birth Control Rules of the Centre would ultimately prevail.

The court agreed with Mr. Giri’s stand and posted the case for hearing on the legal issue on August 18.

“Meanwhile, it is the responsibility of the State government to see that instances of dog bites are reduced and stray dog population is brought under control,” Justice Misra directed the State government orally.

Incidentally, the Supreme Court’s own committee led by former Kerala High Court judge, Justice S. Sri Jagan, in a report in October 2016, had found that “immediate reduction” in the excessive stray dog population, and not birth control, is the need of the hour in Kerala if the people of the State are to have a sense of security.

The Committee had contradicted the court’s own stand that sterilisation as per Animal Birth Control (ABC) Rules and not mass culling was the answer.

But in a categorical finding, the Justice Jagan Committee, which also includes the State’s Law Secretary and Director of Health Services, had said the ABC programme “cannot be a solution to the immediate problem of very excessive dog population faced by the people in the State.”

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2021 1:31:36 PM |

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