By Ummar Jamal
Often regarded as ‘man’s best friend,’ dogs have historically been celebrated for their loyalty. However, the increasing incidents of canine attacks in Srinagar are challenging this cherished bond. Stray dogs in the city have become a growing concern, posing a threat to residents and visitors alike.
In recent times, there has been a noticeable surge in dog bite cases in Kashmir, particularly in Srinagar. According to the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), an estimated 91,000 stray dogs roam the streets, putting everyone from elderly individuals to toddlers at risk. The aggressive behavior of these dogs includes chasing cars, pulling down bicycles, and frequently attacking pedestrians. The severity of the issue has prompted the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission to label dog attacks as a “violation of human rights
The statistics from Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital paint a grim picture. In the 2021 alone, from April 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022, there were 5,629 reported dog bite cases. Over the past decade, a staggering 58,869 individuals have fallen victim to dog bites, as reported by the Department of Community Medicine, Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar.
Srinagar city bears the brunt of this crisis, with 3,975 out of 6,319 dog bite cases occurring between April 2019 and February 2020. Over the last five years, Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS) has reported 30,000 dog bite cases, with 2,800 cases in Srinagar alone.
Several factors contribute to the unchecked growth of the stray dog population in Kashmir. Notably, the accumulation of garbage and poultry waste on the streets has become a breeding ground for dogs. The daily generation of 450 metric tonnes of garbage and the slaughter of 100,000 poultry birds in the city, producing 40,000 kg of poultry offal daily, create an environment conducive to the rapid reproduction of dogs.The availability of offal and leftover food in garbage exacerbates the problem, with five to ten thousand breeding females adding approximately five puppies each year to the dog population.
Despite the escalating crisis, municipal corporations, particularly the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), have failed to implement effective measures to address the dog menace. Urgent steps are needed, focusing on improved waste management, intensified sterilization and vaccination programs, and the establishment of shelters for stray dogs. The Animal Birth Control (ABC) program, emphasizing sterilizations for long-term control, should be prioritized.
In March this year, the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh directed the Commissioner of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) to provide information on the actions taken to address the issue of dog bites. The court also directed details regarding the sterilization centers established in Srinagar City.
During the examination of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) presented by law students from the Central University of Kashmir, the High Court granted an extension to the municipal authority, responding to the request made by its legal representative.
While reiterating its instructions regarding the provision of information on the number of stray dogs in Srinagar city, the court also instructed the Commissioner of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) to furnish details concerning animal birth control measures and the establishment of Anti-rabies Centers. In a previous ruling, the court had directed the SMC to present a comprehensive action plan to address the challenges posed by stray dogs, with a specific focus on dog bites and the potential spread of rabies.
Mayor of Srinagar, Junaid Azim Mattu, has consistently expressed the city’s commitment to reducing the stray dog population within 6 to 7 years, emphasizing the imminent commencement of large-scale sterilization efforts by the corporation.
While some advocate for culling as a solution, it is crucial to approach the issue with moral sensitivity. The humane treatment of animals is paramount, emphasizing public awareness initiatives on maintaining a clean environment to discourage dog breeding. Education on proper behavior around dogs is also essential, as dogs often react defensively when provoked. SMC Commissioner Athar Amir Khan maintains that sterilization is the primary strategy to effectively manage the stray dog issue in Srinagar.
The government, in collaboration with municipal corporations, should consider constructing dog ponds on the outskirts of the city, as suggested by former Chief Justice F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla in a ruling on a public interest petition. NGOs can play a crucial role in assisting with birth control procedures and vaccination efforts, complementing municipal initiatives.
A comprehensive approach to dog management must be developed and put into action, aiming to provide a morally sound and efficient substitute for culling. These strategies necessitate sustained dedication over the long term. The formulation of such policies should be guided by specific goals, including enhancing the health and well-being of both owned and stray dog populations, diminishing the number of stray dogs to a tolerable level, fostering responsible ownership, aiding in the establishment and upkeep of a dog population that is immune to rabies or free from rabies, lowering the risk of zoonotic diseases, addressing other threats to human health like parasites, preventing harm to the environment, and safeguarding other animals.
The escalating stray dog menace in Srinagar demands urgent and comprehensive action. Collaboration between municipal corporations, the government, and NGOs is essential to implement effective waste management, sterilization, and vaccination programs. By prioritizing the humane treatment of animals and fostering public awareness, a harmonious coexistence between humans and dogs can be achieved, preserving the cherished bond often celebrated as ‘man’s best friend.
Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
- The author is a Kashmir based columnist. He tweets at ummar_jamal and can be reached at [email protected]
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