Ever since a 65-year-old woman was killed by a pack of 50 stray dogs in Thiruvananthapuram a few days ago, Kerala has been fuming over the increased stray dog attacks in the state and the government inaction towards curbing this menace.
Stray dog attacks are not unfamiliar to people of Kerala. Over the years, the state has been witnessing a steep rise in number of stray canine attacks and the demand for culling of dogs has been getting louder and louder by each passing year. Statistics from Kerala’s health department show that more than 1 lakh cases of dog bites have been reported in the state from 2014. However, due to proper awareness and access to health care facilities, the death toll in past two years has been contained at less than 15.
With people taking to streets to express their anger, the newly formed LDF government in the state has come out strongly on the issue. Local administration minister KT Jaleel said that strong measures would be taken to control stray canine attacks and said that there was no legal bar on killing violent dogs. The statement, however, did not go down well with animal lovers and animal rights activists in the state as well as the country. The minister’s comment drew a lot of flak from Maneka Gandhi, Union minister for Women and Child Development. Ms Gandhi, who is also an animal right activist, said that killing of dogs is unlawful and unscientific. “I am totally with the people of Kerala but killing dogs is not the solution and the law would be broken,” she said. Adding to this, she blamed the stray dog menace on the rapid urbanisation and poor waste management in the state.
Noted Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan also wrote to the Kerala government saying that he would go to the court against the government’s decision of culling stray dogs. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, however, was prompt in replying. Clearing the air, the CM said that the government was only planning to carry out mass sterilisation camps for the stray dogs and that Mr Bhushan got carried away by misleading reports in the media. Further, in his reply letter, the CM also ensured Mr Bhushan that sterilisation would be done only by qualified veterinary doctors and that the dogs undergoing surgery will be given all necessary health care facilities.
This is not the first time that Kerala is at the receiving end of backlash from animal lovers across the country. In July 2015, amidst reports of increased stray dog attacks, former chief minister Oommen Chandy passed an order asking local administrators to carry out euthanasia on aggressive and rabid dogs. Several petitions were filed against the government and protest marches were held across the country asking people to boycott Kerala and its tourism.
Coming back to the current crisis in the state, the government is now facing a dilemma with respect to formulating a perfect solution to the stray dog menace.
In a recent announcement, the local self-government department has ordered the setting up of a stray dog rehabilitation zoo in every district Panchayat. The order has also called for a pet policy, which will make licensing mandatory for pet owners. A slew of other measures have also been proposed by a cross-section of society.
Even though the state government is bombarded with solutions to deal with the stray dog issue, the final call rests with the Supreme Court, which is hearing a petition seeking legal clearance for culling of stray dogs.