Srinagar, Feb 13 (IANS) Is Srinagar going to the dogs? Packs of ferocious canines nip at the heels of the devout at the entrance of mosques, chase students on way to tuition, and bark raucously at people taking an evening stroll. The pretty city’s stray dog population stands at over 100,000 and in four years is estimated to outgrow the 1.4 million human beings there.
People in Srinagar live in fear of the stray dogs with authorities themselves unsure about animal laws and ways to check the menace.
“The stray dog population in Srinagar city is over one hundred thousand at present and given the statistics we have, the dog population is growing in geometric proportions.
“In layman terms, the dogs in Srinagar would outgrow the human population within next four years if immediate measures are not taken to control the menace”, said Muhammad Saleem, member Association for Prevention and Control of Rabies in India.
The four-year-old son of Abid Wani was chased by a pack of dogs last year and the boy while running for life, fell into a drain, resulting in damage to his liver.
“My son had a lacerated liver injury and had to be treated in the hospital for around a month.
“These dogs even run after me many a time and I have to threaten them with stones to save my life,” said Abid, who lives in north Kashmir Ganderbal district.
“It is impossible to enter a mosque in the morning for prayers without facing the threat of being bitten by a dog,” said Gowhar Maqbool, a hotelier here.
“Students who go to tuitions early in the morning and late in the evening are terrified because of the ferocious dogs lurching around,” he said.
“Packs of dogs ranging from 100 to 150 can be seen daily around the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) garbage points in Jawahar Nagar and other residential areas,” Saleem said.
“In addition, various security force camps have plenty of spare food which they give to the stray dogs helping their growth. These dogs also help in vigil around the camps as they bark at every movement during the night,” added Saleem.
The city municipal authorities have pleaded helplessness in tackling the menace.
“Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules prevents the killing of a dog unless it is highly infectious or rabid,” a senior SMC official said on condition of anonymity.
“We have plans to sterilize the dogs but this campaign is handicapped due to shortage of funds,” he said.
According to Saleem, a maximum of 10 dogs can be sterilized daily given the present SMC infrastructure.
“Sterilization needs medication, post operative care and special feeding for which the present infrastructure is not adequate. The SMC cannot sterilize more than 10 dogs in a day and this is highly ineffective to control the menace,” Saleem said.
Just recently, hundreds of people chased a rabid dog and stoned it to death in city centre Lal Chowk.
The state government has now proposed an ambitious dog-sterilisation programme under which 100 dogs would be sterilised a day. The sterilised dogs would have their ear pierced as a marker, said an official.
In the past, the most effective method of controlling the dog population was their physical elimination, but with animal rights laws, poisoning dogs is not permitted.
Ironically, SMC authorities have no clear idea about whether the central animal birth control dogs’ act is applicable to Jammu and Kashmir as it is elsewhere in India.
“Because of our special status under article 370, central laws are only applicable to Jammu and Kashmir after these are adopted by the state legislature or promulgated through gubernatorial order.
“I’m not sure the laws that prevent dog poisoning are applicable to Srinagar,” said Suhail Ahmad, a young lawyer here.
But residents are not bothered about law and vent their anger against the government.
“Ironical, isn’t it? Our laws are softer when it comes to shooting a human being and very strict when a dog has to be killed to protect humans,” Maqbool remarked.
People in Ganderbal, Kangan, Haripora and other north Kashmir towns complain that truckloads of dogs are brought to their areas at night and offloaded by the SMC.
“In order to keep the dog population under control, the SMC is releasing dogs in towns and villages outside the city,” said Abid.
Saleem recommends a multi-pronged strategy to check the dog menace.
“If the laws disallowing physical elimination of dogs are in force here, then these laws must be amended,” he asserted.
“The government must establish dog parks with facilities so that they are isolated from human population.
“A massive anti-rabies campaign must be started to ensure that the stray dogs are not infected.”
Said Khwaja Nisar Hussain, a retired chief engineer here: “Unless authorities rise to the challenge immediately, this city, which has already gone to dogs, would be eaten up by them.”