A dog in the fight

By Valay Singhrai

26 February 2016

Street dogs are an integral part of community life in Indian cities.
Photo : Valey Singhai

Photo : Valay Singhrai

India’s cities and towns are home to about 30 million ‘stray’ dogs. However, the Indian city tends to treat street dogs pretty much the same way it treats homeless people: with mistrust and undisguised contempt. Although cases of attacks by dogs are sporadic, the 2015 incident of a child in Jamia Nagar in New Delhi getting mauled by dogs caused alarm and indignation over the ‘threat’ of ‘stray’ dogs.  From the capital to Kerala, street dogs have regularly been demonised in the mainstream media. This usually leads to calls for their culling. The usual reasons are trotted out: they are a menace to the public, they takeover public spaces leaving them unsafe for people, they spread diseases like rabies.  In August 2015, 40 dogs were killed by citizens under the banner of ‘Street Dog Eradication’ group in Kerala’s communally-sensitive Kannur district.

According to the World Health Organisation, the annual estimated number of dog bites in India is 17.4 million. While these figures might be debatable, there is a need to educate the public about dog-behaviour. Evidently, the attitude towards street dogs is largely of apathy and low tolerance, while pedigreed dogs are much sought after. The fact that more than half of all rabies cases and about 40 percent dog bites in India are by pet dogs is conveniently overlooked.

While fights between neighbours within gated colonies over feeding stray dogs is common, it is important to note that the areas in which dogs are born are where they belong. And taking care and feeding them is an enactment of a constitutional right guaranteed in India. The only humane and legal way to deal with dogs is for them to be sterilised under the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001.

The following photos are an attempt to show how street dogs are a part of larger community life.



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