THE US ALLOWS for the killing of stray dogs humanely when certain conditions are met and, on the whole, euthanasia of the animal is commonly done there. Likewise, France allows for it when there is no one to adopt the dogs from the shelters they are taken to. In developed countries, even where dogs cannot be killed, they don’t remain on the streets; shelters take care of them until they can be adopted. In India, the situation is a little different. We have some of the toughest animal protection laws when it comes to dogs. They cannot be killed, only isolated, even when they have rabies—the sole exception is terminal disease. They cannot even be relocated from one place to another. The threat of criminal charges back these provisions. The state is very good at passing such laws but when it comes to the flip side of the coin—the responsibility to providing shelters to house stray dogs or to make adoption more popular—it throws its hands up. The only thing that can be legally done to control the population is to neuter them. That is a long-term generational project even assuming that the government manages to sterilise every single dog. In reality, they don’t even manage micro-fractions, which is why it has so far failed.
We are reminded of this because of the death in Ahmedabad of Parag Desai, executive director and part of the family that own Wagh Bakri Tea, a `2,000 crore company. It was the result of a fall while trying to run away from attacking dogs. There are umpteen videos online of stray dog packs attacking and mauling old people and young children, sometimes to death. Desai had good reason to run. It is a death that has once again opened the battlefront between dog lovers and haters.
Without some form of control, all animal populations will keep going up and then they need space and food, both of which come at a cost. Instead of addressing the issue, India recently came up with a new concept of “community dogs”, which effectively gave to dogs living rights in neighbourhoods. You can make a fair bet that the ones who chased Desai are still around in that area because no government agency, from the police to the municipality, can do anything about it. There is no reason for those dogs to not attack humans again.
It is proper that humans be kind and tolerant to animals but like everything else, compassion also works only in rational moderation. Dogs live under the shadow and protection of humans, which makes it all the more reason to be watchful of their behaviour. We really have no clue what two years of Covid lockdown have done to them but if anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, both numbers and aggression, seem to have increased. The longer we hold on to irrational laws that protect burgeoning dog populations from any human intervention, the more the chances of a breaking point, and then people taking the law into their own hands.