Sunday, September 14, 2008

Neuter ‘em, now!

Read an article in yesterday’s paper… something about the extreme reactions that sections of our society have towards stray dogs… It talked about how Bengalooru’s municipality was up in arms last year after two children were bitten to death. Apparently, in a bid to free the city of its canine conundrum, over zealous officials slaughtered thousands of dogs from various neighbourhoods. And yet, the strays are back, and in greater numbers. And this has been the story of every city in the country which has tried to thus exterminate these ever-barking, tail-wagging, mangy-limpy denizens of our streets.

Now, depending on which side of the great dog divide you happen to be, I can pretty much predict your line of thought… “Serves them mutts right! Filthy savage beasts… they should be boiled alive in oil if you ask me”, or my uncle, who hates them and fears them, and therefore hates them even more; conversely, if you happen to be like one of those really sweet, slightly loony neighbourhood aunties who religiously feed every stray dog within a 50km radius, you’re sure to say “Oh, how horrible… how could we allow such barbaric cruelty… Just because these mute innocents don’t have a voice, they’re made into scapegoats for administrative failure and brutalised… this canine holocaust must stop!” At this stage, if you’re wondering which side of the alley, I might be barking from, I must confess I’m inclined to back the latter… and if my uncle and those who agree with him refuse to read more in protest, I’ll understand and maybe accost their sensibilities some other day… some other way…And that ought to leave me with kindred spirits – souls sympathetic to our four legged friends; those of us who share our lives with a pet dog. And in truth, it is you I hope to reach out to today, because more than anybody else, it’s dog owners like you and me who are a) primarily responsible for India’s stray population and b) who understand the subject (stray dogs) and are not clouded by fear or prejudice and therefore can do the most to solve what unquestionably is a problem.

Stray dogs are a definitely a problem and no one wants them on the streets, least of all the stray dogs themselves. While those dogs that do survive a few years on our streets are unquestionably canine survival geniuses, having survived sibling rivalry, lived on toxic waste and scurried under and around enough wheels to know a screeching Dunlop radial from a smoking MRF; and to get this far, they’d have to be brilliant at canine diplomacy, whining and wagging at the right people, dogs and cats and growling at the wrong ones, but the end is always painful, lonely and horrible. And then of course, if they’ve survived all that and happen to end up near the right hostel room, they might still get bludgeoned and butchered for the plate like Kali, the friendly JNU dog. Nobody wants that life, least of all, the dog.

And while the dogs are most affected by the fact that they’re strays, there are also people like my uncle who fear them, believe them to be carriers of deadly diseases like rabies which they might well be, to be considered. And then there are those who’ve been chased on their two wheelers by stray packs, often to death or serious injury and the rare but tragic cases of children being killed like in Bengalooru.

Animal rights groups, and people like you and me have (rightly) condemned attempts to electrocute, poison, relocate, confine or shoot strays in an attempt to exterminate them and (mistakenly) believed that the ABC (Animal birth Control - read slip stream) programme for strays alone would solve the problem. The unfortunate truth though is that while most strays in our locality might get vaccinated against disease and get sterilised, we hardly ever bother with neutering or spaying our own pets. And the reason why strays always return to our streets is because people like you and me look down our polished noses and ‘pooh-pooh’ at the idea of a castrated pet. (Guess we take the idea of our pets being an extension of ourselves a little too seriously. If you ask your dog though, he’ll tell you he’ll be happier neutered than with forced celibacy.) Dogs can smell a bitch in heat a continent away and if your pet is ‘whole’, it will (do what you may to prevent it) contribute to a litter (more if it’s a male) every season; a litter, that in all probability will find itself on the streets before long to perpetuate the cycle all over again. So if you care about your pet’s peace of mind, and really care about animals and don’t want to inflict a short but terribly painful and traumatic life on its progeny, and most importantly, care about your fellow man who might not share your love for that wagging tail and who, sometimes with good reason, might only be familiar with and traumatised about that mouth full of teeth at the other end, do everybody a favour and invest in some birth control… for your pet, to begin with, and make it a point to clamour about the rest of the nighbourhood (dogs) right after…

PS Don’t leave it to the administration though… try this for comic relief – An article in HT mentioned Delhi MCD councillors suggesting in all seriousness “shipping dogs to Korea (where they’re eaten)”!, drugging them “so they sleep all day”!!, and relocating them to “a neighbouring state”!!!, as possible solutions to the ‘stray problem’. Don’t laugh, we elected them… and call your vet now!

ABC of a problem

The Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme is the single most comprehensive programme to control the forever rising stray dog population. For example, in Delhi alone the free roaming dog population is over 250,000 and the programme aims to spay/neuter these dogs to gradually slow and eventually arrest the indiscriminate breeding amongst the dogs. This is important because with a rise in their population survival becomes a struggle for these dogs leading to diseases (read rabies) that can be transferred to humans. The Animal India Trust alone sterilises 550 dogs every month. The dogs are caught in the most humane manner possible and all it takes for the entire process is three days, including surgery, post which, the dogs are released back to where they were captured.

However, 11 years (since the Animal Birth Control programme was initiated and several NGOs working for the cause) later, the stray dog menace refuses to die down and the reason is not stray dogs alone but the pet dogs that come into contact with street dogs. In the absence of a mandatory breeding license for back-yard breeders, dog owners don’t bother with neutering their pets even though the entire cost of such a procedure is a mere Rs. 2,000-3,000 for a dog and 3,000-4,000 for a bitch. Therein lies the problem.


1 comment:

  1. my email to PM on Dog menance on 5-Mar-2007. It is in my blog.