Friday, January 13, 2012

The Bangalore Boy and Stray Dog Journalism

On 9th January the Times of India reported how a 5-year-old boy in Bangalore called Selva had been “pounced on” by stray dogs who had bitten his face and “mauled him” before passersby chased them away by throwing stones. This created an uproar and a lot of understandably bad feelings towards the strays.

On 11th January a different version of events was published online by The Voice of Stray Dogs. Here, 4-year-old Selva apparently knew these dogs and played with them daily. On the day in question he happened to have a carrot in his hand which he playfully tried to force down a dog’s throat. This dog, who often allows Selva to take pony-rides on his back, didn’t like it and reacted by biting Selva’s face. 

This is a classic example of a child pushing things too far with a normally placid dog who reacts by defending itself in just about the only way it can. Very unfortunate for the child who learns the hard way through direct experience. The alternative way of learning would have been for adults to warn him about the risk of playing too roughly with dogs. All kids should be taught this lesson by parents or teachers not dogs.

This story is also a classic example of sensational journalism that gets public attention and reaction. One dog becomes a pack and a single bite becomes a mauling. Both versions are actually written from a certain standpoint but the Voice of Stray Dogs is much more credible as an on-site investigation. 

There are so many immovable attitudes and misunderstandings when it comes to stray dogs that I recommend reading all reports from all sides with utmost caution.

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