Going Astray

March 10, 2007

For those of you who haven’t heard, a few days ago, a pack of stray dogs attacked and killed a small boy.

The dogs weren’t rabid – as far as is known – but were hanging around near a meatshop, which might account for their unduly aggressive behaviour.

This is the second such incident in a few months. The first was in a different area, and without the added provocation of a nearby meat shop.

The powers-that-be, in this case, BBMP (Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike) have reacted predictably, by launching a stray-dog-culling exercise. To this, the dogs have reacted, also predictably, by biting people – not necessarily limiting themselves to the BBMP stray-dog-catching people.

This bodes ill for the dogs.

As far as I can tell, there is currently no plan to “euthanize” (to put it politely) the dogs. The BBMP plans to put them in compounds, but they simply don’t have the space.

As a passionate dog lover – the type who snaps her fingers at a passing stray dog and immediately has a new friend – I wish there were some better solution to the problem. The sterilization drive that has been ongoing for some years now, is clearly not going to bring about a reduction in the stray dog population unless many more people and a lot more money is pumped into it. I don’t – in principle – agree with the sterilization plan either, but I do agree that it is more humane than simply rounding them up and injecting them with something lethal.

The fact is that we do need to do something about the strays. They breed like rabbits, and while I don’t go so far as to blame the existence of rabies or other diseases entirely on the stray dogs, it is true that rabid dogs are a serious menace. That apart, there is the traffic problem – the not infrequent, gruesome sight of dog remains on the road is a visible reminder that stray dogs don’t always thrive for long.

And when strays start attacking humans, whether merely biting or actually mauling and killing, I can’t find it in me to say that they should still be allowed to roam freely. I do feel that it is highly unusual and unlikely for strays to attack humans unprovoked – in the absence of rabies – but, if that is what they are doing, for whatever reason, then it obviously can’t be allowed to continue.

I don’t know what the best solution is. Killing them off is inhuman; sterilizing them will take a decade to show tangible results; putting them into compounds will not only require huge area and infrastructure, but will also probably lead to social and health problems in the compound. Dogs, though pack animals, aren’t used to living in packs of hundreds, and there certainly will be vicious fighting, and perhaps starvation, in-breeding, disease.

Clearly, whatever solution is implemented will take a substantial amount of time, money, human resources, skill, and patience. And, in whatever solution, ultimately the dogs are the losers. It’s sad… this is our attitude to dogs, man’s best friend.

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