India is a country where we find a large number of street-dwellers, including humans and animals. Street animals, or stray animals, are a grievous issue that our country is facing right now. The menace of stray dogs is in its worst form in the southern Indian state of Kerala. The condition of stray animals is very unlikely to be on the government’s list of priorities; hence it is all the more important for the people to address this issue. The plight of stray animals, especially dogs, is a horrible thing to witness. These animals could be carriers of zoonotic diseases especially given the bad conditions in which they live. We need to ensure that animals are not left on the streets to endanger the lives of humans.
The population of stray animals in India mostly consists of cats, dogs, cattle, and pigs. A majority of these animals are dogs. How did these animals become strayed? Haphazard urban planning and human overpopulation have led to a correspondingly huge population of stray dogs in most Indian cities. The size of stray-dog populations always corresponds to the size and character of the human population of the area.
Urban India has two features which create and sustain the stray-dog population. They are:
- Large amounts of exposed garbage, which provide an abundant source of food.
- A huge population of slum-dwellers and street-dwellers, who often keep the dogs as free-roaming pets.
India’s cities and towns are home to about 30 million stray dogs. Mumbai has over 12 million human residents, of whom over a half are slum-dwellers. At least 500 tonnes of garbage remain uncollected daily. Therefore, conditions are perfect for supporting a particularly large population of stray dogs.
The multiplying stray-dog population in India is causing the following problems:
- Rabies is a fatal disease which can be transmitted to humans. Though all warm-blooded animals can get and transmit rabies, dogs are the most common carrier. India has the highest number of human rabies deaths in the world (estimated at 35,000 yearly).
- Dog-bites: Most bites occur when dogs are trying to mate and fighting among themselves, when pedestrians and other humans in the vicinity often get bitten. Females with pups to protect may be aggressive and bite people who approach their litter.
- Barking and howling, often accompanied by fights, invariably takes place over mating.
India has a major problem with rabies. World Health Organisation (WHO) reported in April 2014 that India has about 18,000 to 20,000 cases of rabies a year, and 36% of the world’s deaths from the disease are found in the country.
Mass killing of dogs as a population control measure was started by the British in the 19th century. It was continued on a large scale (up to 50,000 dogs killed every year) after Independence by municipal authorities all over India, aimed at eradicating human rabies deaths and the stray-dog population. By 1993, it was admitted to be a complete failure, since human rabies deaths had actually increased, and the dog population was also perceptibly growing.
Studies by World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Animal Welfare Board of India (Ministry of Environment and Forests) show that dog population control measures which work in developed countries are unsuccessful in Third World countries, since urban conditions are very different. The urban environment here encourages breeding of stray dogs; so no matter how many dogs were killed, they were quickly replaced by more.
(Read the full Article from the November Issue of Safety Messenger Magazine 2015)