Have you heard about what’s happening in Kerala with the stray dogs? If you haven’t already, here is the story so far- after an all party meeting the Chief Minister of Kerala, Mr. Oommen Chandy, decided to kill all aggressive stray dogs in the state. If you want more updates on how the killing has been done so far, here is a link that will give some shocking visuals and stories. We strongly recommend you not to browse the contents with a full stomach! If you have a weak nerve, do not go to the website, period!
Animal lovers and activists of our nation stood up against the brutality that’s been done to these helpless animals and will be rolling out a nationwide protest march on 26th July from 11 am.
We caught up with one of the organizers of “Boycott Kerala! Kolkata Protest”, Ms. Atrei Chatterjee, to find answers to some common questions the masses have regarding the issue.
BongRong: The decision of the Kerala Government to kill stray dogs came into being based on a verdict of the Kerala High Court. Is there anything wrong with the verdict?
Atrei: Firstly, let’s figure out what the decision of the court was. Let’s start from there. What they said is that all aggressive dogs will be killed. They also came up with some good ideas like setting up shelters, ABC program etc. and that’s all very good. However, the cause for concern here is that they said all aggressive dogs will be killed. There are no criteria for this so called aggression. What would entail an aggressive dog? And as you see various reports coming out of Kerala by animal activists; they are very anti-canine over there. There are loads of videos that show how inhumanely the general public has been killing off street dogs. I recently saw this video, this pregnant dog was killed and the puppies are still alive inside of her and the bystanders are laughing about it and saying that they will make a good meal.
In addition to this, the verdict, which states that they can take away stray dogs and kill them, is also illegal. Because, according to The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 – you cannot arbitrarily pick up a dog and kill it. It has to be either rabid or has to be beyond saving for killing to occur. For a dog to be labeled “aggressive”, the dog has to be observed for 10 days by a veterinary professional. None of this is mentioned.
BongRong: We all know that dog bites do happen frequently. How can we not hold stray dogs responsible for that?
Atrei: Interestingly, one of the largest district hospitals in Kerala, the Ernakulam General Hospital came up with a statistical report that got published in the Times of India (click to read the story) and it says that 76% of the dog bites are by pet dogs. Which leaves only about 24% bites caused by strays. Now if people in Kerala are saying dog bites have increased, it’s pretty evident that it’s majorly the fault of irresponsible pet owners, not stray dogs.
You have to understand we human beings have blocked off all access to food resources for stray dogs and they are dependent on us humans for their food. They can only feed themselves through human kindness. We have set up our society that denies them their basic necessity. And now we blame them for their aggression?
The real question should be why there are no legislations against irresponsible pet dog owners?
BongRong: So, how are you planning to fight against this decision of the Kerala Government?
Atrei: A group of animal right activists from Delhi started this fight. They basically contacted people whom they are connected to on Facebook to organize this protest march in various cities. If there is just one march in Delhi or in Kolkata, it might not make a difference. But if a nationwide thing is happening on the same day at the same time, it might create enough public pressure and awareness to stop the act. Right now the movement has spread beyond our country and we have chapters in UK, US, Brazil who will be participating in the march.
BongRong: What’s the agenda of this protest march? What exactly is the plan?
Atrei: We’re going to walk from 8B bus stand till Jadavour Thana on the 26th of July, from 11 am onwards. We also have a few known faces joining our march. Our aim is to let people know that the genocide of an entire species is being planned. Our dogs will march with us. We’ll help our dogs speak up for their kin in Kerala.
BongRong: Apart from this protest march, is there any other way you are trying to convey your message to the government or the judiciary system?
Atrei: There are nearly 20 online petitions (you can find few links below the article) currently which are appealing to the Kerala government to overturn this rule. Because honestly, this ruling leaves a lot of space for abuse. The court did not define what aggression is. Say I approach a shy dog and try to touch, it might just bite me. That’s not the dogs fault. It’s my fault because I invaded his or her space. I am sure there are a few cases of aggression, I can’t entirely discount that. But I am also sure it has been fueled by external factors like not getting enough food, people being cruel to the dog and that leads to the dogs developing a general mistrust towards humans. So how do you define aggression? If you want to live and can’t find food, and everyone around you is eating and being cruel to you, will you just die lying down?
BongRong: We can understand the animal right activists are totally against killing dogs to control stray population. Is there any alternative solution?
Atrei: Sterilization is always a better alternative than killing. Because killing will eventually bring about 10 times worse problems than what they are facing right now. Let me explain why…
Indian street dogs are the smartest and hardiest breeds in the entire country. They are technically called pariah dogs. They are a part of a family called pariah morph that exists in every continent. These are the naturally selected and evolved species. Their extreme intelligence and survival capacity got them here today from ancient times. Once you start killing them, this is what will happen- you kill the dogs in one particular area and the neighboring dogs will come in and try to take over the territory and there will be territorial battles. It will lead to more aggression and that’s exactly what the Government of Kerala does not want.
Next, they will learn the signs of the catching attempts and they will very quickly learn human tricks. So what you will have is a bunch of aggressive dogs that are super intelligent, scared and wary of humans and they will be hiding. In the long term, when Kerala government will roll out their vaccination and sterilization program, they won’t be able to catch any dog. So, they will hide and the population is going to increase more and more. And without vaccination programs, rabies cases will be constantly on the rise.
On the other hand, sterilizing the dogs will give a lot of benefits. When a dog is neutered, the dog becomes less aggressive. Secondly, it is only through sterilization that the stray population of any area and of any species can be controlled in the long run. Additionally, killing dogs en masse will have untold effects on urban ecology. The rat population will rise, feral animals will invade the spaces and it will create havoc in the environment.
BongRong: What kind supports are you getting from Kolkata dog lovers and animal right activists?
Atrei: The support has been brilliant. We’ve had everyone from school kids to retired members of the community and everyone in between speaking up for us. The pet shops we visited were more than happy to put up posters and help with flyer distribution. People from as far as madhyamgram wanted to help with the awareness program. I think Bengalis are a very affectionate and loving people, and our love extends to the animals very strongly as well.
BongRong: Thank you for your time Atrei and you can be sure our BongRong team will walk beside you in protest. We call out to all animal lovers in Kolkata to walk together on 26th July to show our support for the stray dogs in Kerala.
Special Mention :
We would like to thank Anushka Dasgupta from It’s A Dog’s Life for connecting BongRong with this event.