It is a question that dogs beleaguered Kerala: to kill or not to kill

No stray dog sterilisation has taken place since November.

No stray dog sterilisation has taken place since November.   | Photo Credit: S.K. Mohan

Densely-populated Kerala disgorges a massive amount of everyday waste that piles up on the roadsides, nurturing strays.

For well over a quarter of a century now, Krishnan of Kannur has been knocking at the doors of justice after he was mauled by a stray dog in 1983.

Evidently, the dog that got at him was kinder than the anti-rabies vaccine that the doctors administered afterwards: the vaccine left him paralysed in both legs, he says . And since then, Mr Krishnan, now 63, says he must have spent some Rs. 30 lakh for medical treatment seeking the elusive cure.

After making many futile attempts in the courts to seek compensation, Mr. Krishnan now pins his fading hopes on the committee appointed by the Supreme Court to decide on dog-bite cases and compensations in Kerala.

Mr. Krishnan is not alone. Several others have been victims of stray dogs attacks — an estimated 2.5 lakh stray canines are loose on Kerala’s streets — and some have even died, the latest being a 65-year-old woman at the Pulluvila suburban beach near Kanjiramkulam in Thiruvananthapuram who was killed by a pack of feral dogs last week.

Densely-populated Kerala disgorges a massive amount of everyday waste that piles up on the roadsides, nurturing stray dogs. Data compiled by the Director of Health Services, Kerala, show 1.22 lakh cases of officially logged canine attacks in 2015, almost double the figure for 2013. Thiruvananthapuram continues to be the capital in terms of dog attacks too, recording the highest number of street dog attacks for the last three consecutive years. In 2015, 29,020 persons were bitten up from 14,698 of 2013.

Legal wrangle

With a steady stream of dog-bite victims pouring into hospitals, the issue reached the Supreme Court, which appointed a committee headed by S. Siri Jagan, a former judge of the Kerala High Court, to assess complaints of victims, the nature and gravity of their injuries and the availability of medicines and treatment. The apex court also directed the victims seeking compensation for dog bites to move the committee.

But the panel has a tough task: it has to first dissect each case to see if the attacks were by stray dogs or domesticated ones, since no compensation can be given for attacks by pets.

Managing the street dog population has kicked up a raging debate in the State with a section ferociously arguing that stray dogs be put down , which has got the goat of the equally agitated animal lovers and animal rights groups. Two days ago, the State government, under tremendous public pressure, modified its initial push for Animal Birth Control (ABC) measures for dogs and decided to order the culling of all feral dogs by lethal injection, which it felt was the only way out as the sterilisation route would no longer be viable. The State veterinary department, however, is reluctant to take this forward.

Union Minister Menaka Gandhi has waded into the row, slamming the State government and calling the move “illegal”. This has raised the pitch further with calls to sue the Minister for her “anti-human” stance. But two days after Kerala’s Minister for Local Self-government, K.T. Jaleel announced that the government would ask all local bodies to facilitate the culling of feral stray dogs by lethal injection, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Saturday maintained that such mass killing was not on his government's agenda.

The fate of the State’s quarter million street dogs and the tens of thousands of dog bite victims now hangs on the pronouncement to be made by the apex court, which is hearing a petition seeking clearance for killing stray dogs. Significantly, during its proceedings in February, the Supreme Court had decided to stand up for man’s oldest companion, observing that “a faithful dog is a faithful friend.”

Veterinarians leading the ABC campaign in Kochi, who have successfully sterilised around 2,000 street dogs in one year, have cautioned against the move to eliminate stray dogs. While assenting to the elimination of hyper-aggressive dogs with violent tendencies and the rabid ones, they point out that culling was never a one-stop solution to the issue.

Veterinarians instead urge effective reduction of edible waste. The Siri Jagan panel too has suggested waste management, sterilisation and vaccination and licensing of domestic animals, instead of their summary extermination.

PTI adds:

Infant, toddler bitten

Three persons, including two children, were injured when stray dogs bit them at a village in Palakkad district, police said on Saturday.

While a six-month-old baby girl was bitten by a dog as she was being bathed by her mother, a three-year-old boy suffered dog bite injuries in another incident in Kuthambully, a weavers’ village, police said.

A 45-year-old man was bitten by dogs in the same village, police added.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in a letter to Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, said the government was not doing anything wrong in tackling the stray dog menace. Referring to media reports quoting Bhushan that the stray dog attacks were “paid news”, the Chief Minister said the remarks were “unjustified”.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 2:12:45 AM |

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