Rising dog attacks and rabies deaths spark debates but evade solutions

New Delhi, Oct 29 (IANS): The 19th-Century American poet, Emily Dickinson once said, “Dogs are better than human beings because they know but do not tell.”

Nowadays, it seems that the growing number of instances involving pets displaying aggression towards humans has challenged the notion that animals always keep their thoughts to themselves.

The recent demise of Gujarat-based businessman Parag Desai in Ahmedabad has brought the longstanding issue of stray dog attacks into sharp focus once again. Tragically, Desai lost his life while being pursued by a pack of street dogs during his morning walk. Suffering severe head injuries in the incident, he succumbed to a brain haemorrhage days later.

Desai's unfortunate encounter is far from an isolated case. Stray dog attacks, which have claimed lives and inflicted injuries on numerous people, including children and senior citizens, continue to raise concerns throughout the country.

Such incidents, involving both street and pet dogs, have frequently made headlines in recent years.

Parliament data until November 2022 revealed a staggering 16 million cases of stray dog bites in India between 2019 and 2022, averaging over 10,000 cases daily. Moreover, the National Rabies Control Program reported 6,644 clinically suspected cases of human rabies and related deaths between 2012 and 2022.

In the first ten months of 2022 alone, Kerala and Punjab reported over 10,000 cases of dog bites each, while Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Kashmir reported cases ranging from 1,000 to 10,000. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 4,146 reported cases of dog bites resulted in human fatalities in India in 2019.

Experts and activists have voiced their concerns about the inadequacies in India's animal healthcare and control mechanisms, which have contributed to the unchecked proliferation of the stray dog population. Factors such as food scarcity and infections have been cited as triggers for these dogs' aggressive behaviour.

In response to the escalating problem, there have been calls for robust measures to tackle the menace of stray dogs.

Disturbing videos of dog attacks that circulate on social media platforms have intensified public demands for action. These incidents often lead to confrontations between animal lovers advocating for the welfare of strays and those opposing their presence in public spaces.

A tweet by senior IPS officer Arun Bothra following the tragic death of Parag Desai stirred both support and controversy. He advised, "Carry a stick to keep safe from stray dogs on morning walks. If there are dog lover activists in your area, carry a bigger stick."

Facing backlash, he later clarified, "I'm not advocating violence in any way. My only concern is that no one should fall prey to dog bites. When one goes out for a walk, one is compelled to carry the stick for self-defence. Nobody goes out for a walk with the intention of hurting the dog. Dog lover-activists must understand and acknowledge that stray dogs are a problem."



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