STRAY DOGS ARE A SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY – A PERSPECTIVE

May 08, 2020 Dr. Aparna Srivastava

Most of the population looks at stray dogs as a menace and a threat. Just a few unfortunate events of dog bites are enough to turn people against stray dogs and perceive them all viciously. In all probability, a dog does not bite unless provoked, sick or in pain. In fact, according to a study conducted by The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists published in Psychology Today, sometimes dogs might not even prefer to interact physically. On the other hand, dogs are often expressive and social animals, eager to ‘talk’ to us, provided we hear them out.

dog feeding

As per a news report in Scroll.in, a couple of years back in 2016, citizens in Kerala took matters in their own hands to seemingly solve ‘the stray dog menace,’ resulting in large-scale culling of dogs. That was nothing short of mass murder and definitely not the way to go about solving the issue. In fact, stray dogs have as much a right to live with dignity and peace as we humans do.

Why does the attack & abuse happen?

People generally attack stray dogs, kill or take away their puppies and call for their mass slaughter if they bite in retaliation. Erich Fromm, a renowned psychoanalyst and social philosopher gave an insight into man’s irrational and brutal behaviour in his famous book, ‘The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness’. He wrote, “Man’s history is a record of extraordinary destructiveness and cruelty and human aggression, it seems, far surpasses that of man’s animal ancestors, man is in contrast to most animals, a real “killer.’”

Prevalent Myths

Animals can’t be trusted

The relationship between humans and dogs has existed since more than 15,000 years. Humans have raised canines to be their friendly and eager companions with an added talent of interpreting the former’s emotions.

According to the National Geographic, a new study reveals that even stray dogs who are untrained, homeless and abused can interpret our body language.

Strays are seen as carriers of rabies

Even though not all dogs have rabies, all dog bites definitely need to be treated - unless the dog had been vaccinated against rabies in the previous year.

Stories about stray dogs biting & mulling

Surprisingly, there are a lot of people who love their own pets but are extremely wary of stray dogs. Their reasons could range from common beliefs that strays are dirty, disheveled and can’t be trusted. Viral stories on social media on how a dog or a pack of dogs were seen brutally mauling a child are a big reason for this kind of a behavior. Sometimes, we just need to stop & analyze these stories and question ourselves before jumping off to conclusions –

Ask yourself question: Why did someone just stand there, watching the incident, shooting such an incident instead of immediately saving the child/victim or informing others about it? The animals unfortunately, would never be able to reveal their side of the reality, thus giving another reason to torture those animals.

Way forward

Implementing a thoughtful & safe Sterilization drive

Municipal bodies across the country need to control the population of stray dogs by implementing sterilization programs. Sterilization drives by the Government have been successful only in a limited way so far because of various reasons. For instance, these drives need to be sensitively handled which means stray dogs must be picked up with kindness, they should be sterilized by experts and there should be proper monitoring of the same by respective panels. These panels must strictly include members from animal welfare societies, resident welfare associations, animal care takers and technical staff.

Respect towards feeders/volunteers 

One needs to understand that by feeding stray dogs indirectly helps with sterilization drives. The feeders or volunteers are able to win the dogs’ trust, making it easier for them to get the dogs vaccinated/ sterilized. People should therefore not try to create hurdles for well-meaning volunteers who feed and look after them, even if they lack compassion towards these creatures. In the ultimate analysis, this gesture which in turn leads to sterilization of dogs and therefore lessening of their numbers helps the society. And of course more importantly, new born puppies do not have to face the brunt of living on the street without food and water and ultimately getting run over by a vehicle.

Cruelty to animals is not done

Let’s not create bad karma for ourselves by being cruel to these voiceless, helpless animals. Hitting or beating them may turn them aggressive in self-defense, resulting in more attacking or biting. Treat them with love and kindness and notice how they will reciprocate the same emotion will be reciprocated unconditionally.

Do not violate Animal Rights

Stray dogs of India have co-existed with humans since the Vedic ages. The localities, in which we live, belong to them, as much as to us. In fact, they had been residing in some areas long before human settlements there. Cribbing about the issue, hating dogs, beating them up or dislocating them does not help anyone or resolve the issue in any which manner.

Some Noteworthy Legal Facts and Provisions in this Matter

  • Article 21 of the Constitution of India protects all forms of life, including animal life.
  • In addition, Article 51A(g) imposes on all citizens a fundamental duty to have compassion for living creatures. The Supreme Court of India has interpreted Articles 21 and 51A(g) to mean that animals have a right to lead a life with intrinsic worth, dignity and security.
  • The Central Government has enacted a law specifically with regard to animals, namely, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Under the Act, the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001 (‘ABC Rules’) have been framed and prescribe comprehensive rules relating to stray dogs, amongst others. Under the ABC Rules, stray dogs are to be sterilised, vaccinated and subsequently released into the same area, from where they were captured. The Rules also provide that dogs who are sick are to be treated, prior to their sterilisation and vaccination.
  • The Constitution of India gives precedence to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the Animal Birth Control Rules, 2001 over state and local laws, such as the Kerala State Municipality Act, 1994, under which Section 438 permits the Secretary to order the “seizure and destruction” of stray dogs in a municipal area. In a recent development, Rule 13 of the ABC Rules provides that “in case of any conflict between the Rules and local laws, the provision that is less irksome to the animal shall prevail.”

Punjab and Haryana High Court Verdict on JUNE 8, 2019

It is important to remember that animals and birds have legal rights, just as humans - as stated by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in an exceptional judgment on Animal Welfare Law on JUNE 8, 2019.  It further declared citizens as “guardians of the animal kingdom” with a duty to ensure their welfare and protection.

 “Live and let live,” Justice Rajiv Sharma asserted in his 104-page order after issuing 29 mandatory directions for the welfare of “animal kingdom”. The directions, after according the status of legal person or “entity” to animals, came in a case where 29 cows were packed in cruel and brutal manner in two trucks for being exported to Uttar Pradesh from Haryana.

Justice Sharma ruled that animals, including avian and aquatics, had a right to life and bodily integrity, honour and dignity, and could not be treated merely as property. In the court statement, it was given, “The entire animal kingdom, including avian and aquatic, are declared legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.”

Stressing the need to show compassion towards all living creatures, Justice Sharma asserted animals might be mute but “we as a society have to speak on their behalf”, as per a report by Tribune India.

As per the historic judgment and also as highlighted in The Better India, it would be the duty of the citizens, to ensure the following:

  • Animals are healthy and comfortable,
  • Well-nourished and in a safe environment,
  • Express innate behavior without pain, fear and distress.
  • Be entitled to justice, and;
  • Safe from being treated as objects or property.

Report abuse

It is unacceptable to remain a mute spectator to animal abuse. In such cases of possible animal abuse, one shouldn’t hesitate to step in, object & report to higher concerned authorities like the police. Since animals are voiceless, we as evolved species need to step forward and protect them to the best of our capabilities.

Allow them to sit or rest in public space around your home

If possible, allow stray dogs to sit in spaces close to your home, if not within your premises. It is indeed unfair when people extend their boundaries illegally by grabbing public land and then prohibit the strays to sit in that space!

Adopt a Stray

Instead of going for fancy & costly breed of dogs, try adopting a stray. They are low maintenance and are as good and dedicated to their family members who adopt them.

The best place to adopt a stray is from either a shelter home or just a roadside. They deserve that chance.  It would be a noble deed as well. However, after adopting them, do not give up or abandon them ever that would be emotionally traumatic for them, leaving them forlorn and disheartened for the rest of their lives.

Conclusion

While strays certainly don’t have the luxury of a cushy life that house pets fortunately have been blessed with, the former is still adaptable to humans and they too respond to human empathy.

Surely a little empathy and respect for another species can reduce a lot of conflict and make the world a happier place. So let’s try and make Mother Earth, a peaceful place for all creatures big and small, with shared thoughts of kindness.

References

(With gratitude)

About Us

Stray Relief and Animal Welfare (STRAW) India is a registered nonprofit /non-government organization and its focus is summed up in its motto, Animal Welfare through Education. It promotes empathy and compassion for all living beings and care for the environment by educating young people through its humane education programs and workshops.

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