BY PRAVEENA SHARMA
The death of Wagh Bakri Tea Group scion Parag Desai, a week after he tried to dodge a dog attack, has brought canine issues to the fore again. It’s put the spotlight on co-existence of humans and dogs; a concern that has been raging on for some time now with graphic videos of dog attacks and cruelty being inflicted on dogs circulating on social media.
One of the causes of conflict between man and dog is the massive explosion in dog population. Estimates reveal that the number of pet dogs in India reportedly stands at one crore and it is at 3.5 crore for stray dogs.
Closer home, in Goa, as per the Livestock Census, 2019, the population of dogs was 86,976, which was higher than the population of cattle (60,247), buffaloes (27,203), goats (9,446), pigs (35,480) and sheep (8).
In the same year, the state’s human population was 14.58 lakh. It can be deduced from the above statistic that dogs were 5.96% of the human population in 2019. This percentage number must be have risen since then, which could be causing the strife between the two territorial species.
The state reportedly witnessed 11,542 dog bites between January and April this year, translating into one dog bite every 15 minutes or 90 dog bite cases daily. Last year, 23,903 dog bite cases were reported.
The only silver lining in this canine story is Goa is practically free of rabies, but otherwise it’s a grim tale for both – the dogs and the humans.
Prasad G Volvoikar, Director, Department of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services (AHVS), told GT Digital that the state has initiated many schemes and programmes to contain rabies and dog population, keeping in mind the rules of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and ethical norms of animal rights firm People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and other NGOs.
Prasad G Volvoikar, Director, Department of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services
“We just concluded a month-long programme on rabies and vaccination awareness. These were held at taluka levels. As far as stray dogs and cattle are concerned, they come under the mandate of local bodies (Panchayat and Municipal). We have schemes for them (local bodies) and pay them for cattle and dogs impounded,” he said.
The department is mandated to carry out vaccinations and sterilizations. AHVS data in the draft Animal Health and Welfare Policy, 2020-2025, reveals 56,681 dogs were vaccinated against rabies under Goa’s Mission Rabies in 2015, which jumped to 96,518 in 2019.
The government, however, has not been very successful in its efforts to check uncontrolled rise in the dog population under its animal birth control (ABC) programme – The Goa Small Animal Rescue Management Scheme, 2014.
“It (ABC programme) is being implemented by different AWOs (Animal Welfare Officers) through local bodies. Though, it started long back its effect is not as per expectation,” informs the state government’s draft policy published in 2020.
Volvoikar puts the blame for the failure of sterilization or animal birth control programme squarely on NGOs and PETA. These animal rights bodies fiercely oppose government measures taken to control rising density of the dog population.
“Most NGOs oppose it (sterilization). Breeding among dogs is rapidly on the rise. This has led to a huge spurt in the growth of their (dog) population. There is also a lot of imposition by PETA on us,” he laments.
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and other such laws have very clearly chalked the rights of dogs. It is illegal to evict dogs from any locality or prevent them from being fed within a residential area or outside it. They have the right to roam the streets unless they are adopted. A Supreme Court ruling has banned their killing, and Article 51A(G) of the Indian Constitution states: “it is fundamental upon every citizen to protect wildlife and have compassion for all living creatures”.
Even as lawmakers and animal rights advocates rack their brain to find solutions for this issue, Netherlands, a northwestern European country, has become the first country to free its streets of stray dogs. And, it’s not done it by putting the strays to sleep but through humane approaches involving imposition of inhibitive taxes on pet dogs bought from stores forcing people to adopt from dog shelters.
Additionally, its government-funded scheme Collect, Neuter, Vaccinate and Return (CNRV) and creation of a special police force for animals have yielded desired outcomes in keeping strays off the Dutch streets. In contrast, the Goa government has preferred to be a pacifist by announcing a ban of certain breeds of dog, which addresses neither unchecked increase in dog population nor their rehabilitation.