Thursday, December 27, 2012

Let India’s Independent Dogs Live

Citizen Matters website based in Bangalore has posted a heart-felt plea to leave “independent dogs” in India alone following a court judgement that allows for the extermination of dogs deemed a “menace” or “nuisance” without defining quite what these terms mean. This judgement effectively allows the authorities and complainants to make their own definitions and thereby gives a powerful tool to those wishing to see dog-free streets. This problem was flagged by analysis of the court judgement by the Voice of Stray Dogs voluntary organisation (see detail here).

The article makes many good points about the situation and history of free-roaming dogs in India, for example, about the unsolved garbage situation being such a large part of the problem and the fact that we only ever hear one side of the story when a dog bites but in many cases it may well have been a defensive reaction following provocation.

In discussing the role of these dogs as communal security alerts, which is usually taken to mean helping to protect property from human intruders, they add a new slant with the question, “At a time when attacks [by men] on the elderly and single women are increasing, should the city authorities be going after independent dogs?”. Too many people are far too quick to call street dogs a menace without seeing the safety they provide through their alertness.

This is the first time I have seen the word “independent” used to describe dogs that most people would call “stray”. I agree with the article’s author that it is a much better description, as for the most part these animals are exactly where they belong and not at all stray. My feeling is that “stray” should only be used for abandoned pets or pet dogs on the loose, and that we should recognise independence as a perfectly legitimate lifestyle for dogs in many countries. I also like another relatively new term, “community dogs”, as a way of describing the relationship between many free-ranging dogs and people but this perhaps puts a slightly different emphasis on their role by implying (communal) ownership. I hope the tag of independent dogs spreads as it is not only a good description but also hints at respect and acceptance.

As this article about Bangalore says, independent dogs are part of the city’s soul.

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)


  1. An update:
    Supreme Court stays Karnataka High Court order directing the BBMP to cull strays that are a ‘menace’ or ‘cause nuisance’