Saturday, October 6, 2012

Never-ending Stray Dog Problem in India

Not a day goes by without news stories getting published about the stray dog problem in any number of Indian urban centres. Today’s (here) is about strays biting people and being a nuisance to traffic on roads in the coastal town of Bhatkal south of Goa. Apparently, 8 people needed treatment for bites yesterday and the large roaming packs (a photograph in the report shows 20 stray dogs strung out across a road) have made many fearful to go outside, particularly the elderly and schoolchildren. As usual in these reports, the local residents complain about a lack of action from the relevant authorities who are accused of not taking the situation seriously.

Although they clearly do have a problem, there are two points that strike me here. The first is the sensationalising from the media who seem to report what people want to read without any real investigation, which ends up distorting the actual situation and stirring resentment towards the dogs. I only have their report to go on and so have no idea how these 8 people came to be bitten but I do not trust the implication that every one was an unprovoked attack. Many such cases turn out to have been provoked in some way by the person bitten who then understandably claims it was an unprovoked attack. But as I say, the information is too scant to be sure because there was no real investigation.

However, what is very clear is that, as ever, the problem has been created by the community and they have the power to improve the situation themselves rather than waiting for the authorities to act on their behalf. I can tell this from the report’s statement that “these dogs are getting crazy after feeding on spoilt food and wastes littering on the streets”. Stray dogs are scavengers and will do extremely well if you litter the streets with “food and wastes” (without the dogs they would probably have a plague of rats by now as has happened elsewhere). Whatever failings in waste and dog management the authorities are guilty of, this waste comes from the residents themselves who have the power to reduce it or manage it in a way that makes it less accessible to scavengers.

There may be cultural reasons in India beyond urbanisation for people’s dependency on the authorities and their apparent weak sense of their own community’s potential but I would have more sympathy if they did more than just blame the dogs and the authorities. 

Learn more about the lives and issue of unowned dogs in my e-book ”A Stray View” available from Bangkok Books (readable as .pdf on any computer)

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