Dogs are often nicknamed as ‘man’s best friend’ and are considered as most loyal animals, but the soaring incidents of canine attacks do not bode well for this age-old bond. Dogs in Srinagar are running amok and have turned into ferocious enemies of humans.
For quite some time now there has been a rapid surge in dog bite cases in Kashmir, and particularly in Srinagar. As per Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), there are about 91,000 stray dogs roaming the streets of Srinagar. From elderly persons to toddlers, everyone is vulnerable to the huge population of stray dogs. They chase cars, pull down bicycles (which happened with me recently) and frequently attack pedestrians.
Things have become so awful that the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission has declared dog attacks as “violation of human rights”. The gravity of the issue can be realised from attacks by canines on 41 persons including 9 tourists at the Boulevard Road near Garibal area of Dalgate lately. The attacks have left both tourists, in addition to locals, terrified.
In the last one year, from 1st April 2021 to 31st March 2022, a total of 5,629 dog bite cases were reported at Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital. In the last one decade, 58,869 persons were bitten by dogs, as per a report by the Department of Community Medicine, Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar.
Srinagar city is the worst hit. Between April 2019 and February 2020, 3,975 out of the 6,319 cases of dog bites took place in Srinagar, shows the data for eleven months. In the last five years, 30,000 dog bite cases have been reported at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS) alone, of which 2,800 cases were reported in Srinagar only.
There are myriad reasons as to why the dog population in Kashmir continue to spiral. The ubiquitous mounds of garbage and poultry waste on roads being two major reasons.
On daily basis almost 450 metric tonnes of garbage is generated by Srinagar, while 100,000 poultry birds are slaughtered daily in the city, which generates 40,000 kg of poultry offal every day. Owners of meat shops also dump animal waste in water drains of the city.
The availability of this offal and other eatable leftovers in garbage lead to faster breeding of dogs. There are five to ten-thousand breeding females in the dog population in Kashmir. Each year, breeding females add five puppies on average to the dog population.
The number of dogs, thus, is increasing by the day. Dogs freely roam on streets, markets, lanes and now even enter shops, as was seen recently when a dog entered a meat shop in the city.
So far, the various municipal corporations of Kashmir, especially Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), have miserably failed to take effective measures to curb the dog menace in Kashmir. Sincere efforts should be made to tackle this menace. The first thing that needs to done to reduce the stray population is to manage the garbage better. Sterilisation and vaccination should also be intensified. The authorities should make shelters for stray dogs. Moreover, long-term Animal Birth Control through sterilisations — colloquially referred to as the ABC programme — should be adopted.
Dogs are part of our ecosystem. Culling of stray dogs is proposed by many as the only effective solution to this menace. However, this is morally wrong and animals can’t be annihilated like this. Human rights are of great consequence but at the same time there should be no denial of the rights of animals.
Rather, awareness among public regarding the cleanliness of surroundings to provide hygienic environment should be created to prevent dog bites. The public also needs to be taught how to behave near dogs, because dogs don’t merely bite without any instigation.
The government should build dog ponds on the outskirts of the city to shift the stray dogs there, as was ordered by F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla, the former Chief Justice of J&K High Court, in a ruling on a public interest petition. In addition to the municipal corporation’s efforts, NGOs should step in and take up animal the task of birth control procedures and vaccination of street dogs.
The writer is a Law student at Kashmir University. He tweets at ummar-jamal and can be reached at [email protected]