Srinagar/Pampore, Jul 20 (IANS): Has Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital finally gone to dogs? That's what many among Srinagar's 1.3 million residents are asking, considering the city is home to at least 91,000 stray dogs - if not more. That's one mutt for every 14 humans.
As schoolchildren, women and the elderly continue to become victims of packs of stray dogs, the people's patience appear to be weaaring thin.
"Enough is enough. People fear going to the mosques during mornings and evenings because of ferocious looking dogs prowling the streets.
"The government is testing our patience, we have had enough. We will henceforth act on our own to protect our children and ourselves. Let the government retaliate however it wants to," a highly angered Javaid Ahmad, 41, a resident of Srinagar's Lal Bazaar neighbourhood, told IANS.
The city has been battling the stray dog menace for the last three years with little success - and some humans have a hand in this. The canine population continues to swell with animal rights activists stonewalling efforts of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) to physically eliminate the strays.
Officials here say the city has over 91,000 stray dogs prowling the streets, while unofficially, the number is stated to be much more than 100,000.
"Just the other day we had over three dozen people reporting with dog bites who were treated with anti-rabies vaccine," said a doctor at the Anti-Rabies Clinic (ARC) located within the SMHS Hospital here.
SMC officials have started an ambitious dog sterilisation programme to check their population, but nine months on, just 300 strays have been neutered.
"We are continuing with the sterilisation process as at the moment, this is the only available means to check the canine population", an SMC official said.
Interestingly, SMC commissioner G.N. Qasba has issued advertisements calling for suggestions from the people on controlling the city's canine population.
"The government is trying every legal option to get rid of the dog menace and the people should give suggestions on how to tackle the problem," Qasba said here.
The menace is equally evident in south Kashmir's Pampore town.
"The holy month of Ramadan starts on Saturday. People have to be in the mosques offering late evening prayers. The streets are full of stray dogs. If the government still refuses to take drastic steps we must do it on our own," said Pampore resident Rashid Bhat.
He also said the dumping of animal carcasses by the authorities outside the town was providing readymade food for the stray dogs.