Many years ago, there was a guy who I had to unfriend and block on Facebook for putting up the same comment under every post of mine – about how all of Kerala was a hellhole owing to the then-recent news of illegal culling of stray dogs by several groups of people in the state. Of course, it wasn’t just one guy commenting trash under my posts that was the only reaction to it. I remember a rather systematic and synchronized attempt at not just posting generalized toxic content against the state, but really hurting the state’s economy by trying to hit its biggest source of revenue – tourism. In fact, they were so spiteful, I remember seeing posts that said the heavy floods of 2018 that wiped out so many places of the state completely, along with countless helpless people, was a well-deserved punishment to the entire state for what they once did to stray dogs. I started writing this blog back then and then kept putting it off. But today when I see news of the same pattern repeating, I thought that maybe it’s time to write this. Not that this would make any difference, to be honest.
I have never been for people creating anarchy by taking the law into their hands. For that matter, I have never understood how people can harbor and spread a generalized hatred for dogs only because the stray dog situation was turning increasingly dangerous over time. After all, dogs are animals who, unlike people, aren’t attacking us with a sinister plan to kill us all or anything. It’s dumb to talk about them with that kind of hatred for that reason. And it was horrific how the ones who did kill the stray dogs carried them around on poles for the world to see, as if they were making a statement to terrorize all dogs who would ever cross their paths. It wasn’t just dumb; it was barbaric too.
But (I’m sure this “but” would be enough for the “Ah here it comes, the justification for those brutes!” response from those who are always ready to judge from a bubble) keep aside these brutes, I have personally seen the helplessness of people owing to the uncontrollable and unbelievable jump in the stray dog population in Kerala – an issue that is no longer restricted to Kerala as we speak; it is very much going to be the story of many other states too, sooner than we would like to believe. In the last five or six years the number of cases of grave and fatal attacks involving stray dogs, a number of times in packs, have been so many, that I don’t think there’s a single day when the newspapers haven’t got at least one column of stray dog attack news, and that’s counting out the ones that don’t make it to the papers. And no, it is not an orchestrated propaganda pulled off by dog-haters, if that is what some people would want to believe. It is a sad reality that I have witnessed first-hand.
Every time I go over to my parents’ home, I see that the number of stray dogs on the streets around have doubled or tripled. So much so that I literally get scared walking over to visit my relatives and friends who live just 3 or 4 houses away, either down the street or in the street next to ours. There are so many dogs on the streets, sometimes just taking a nap, sometimes growling at us as if warning us to move faster, sometimes fighting ferociously in groups, sometimes walking right behind us despite us trying to shoo them away. Especially when I have the girls with me, I hold them close to me so tightly that if at all there is an attack, I can hold them under my body and shield them. This might sound very dramatic and overdone to at least some of you; but that is how it is.
The present condition is solely because of the absolute ineffectiveness of the sterilization procedure that has to be followed by the state government, no doubt about it. This ineffectiveness is not just in sterilization of strays, but also in anything that even remotely resembles waste management. And with the stray population rising uncontrollably, the number of feral dogs has increased, thereby increasing the number of attacks on people.
But the role that a lot of clueless “pseudo animal lovers and activists” play in this disaster, in the name of love for dogs, is in no way lesser. I use the term “pseudo activists” here because just like in the case of any noble cause, true activists who are sensible, try to bring in a positive change, taking into consideration all the factors that are part of the issue. Unlike the pseudo activists, whose only aim in life seem to be showing off to the world how they are “crusaders for the right, voice to the weak”, without having any ability to relate to the real world and find a practical solution, considering the bigger picture. Sometimes I wonder if their motto in life is “Let anyone who doesn’t agree to my view die and go to hell”.
I have personally known of people hiding stray dogs on our streets in Hyderabad every time government workers come as part of their sterilization drive, because they like these dogs who are literally like pets although they are strays. And in their stupidity, they are putting these dogs and the residents of the area in more danger, because in the five or six years that I have stayed here, I have seen one single dog who lives right outside my building pregnant and giving birth to more puppies than I can even remember. Some of them died, some of them moved to other streets, some of them stayed back in our street itself and made it their home too. If only these people would let the dogs be taken for sterilization, it would have made at least a small difference. Do they do encourage adoption or vaccination of these dogs? Hell no! And that is what happens in every street. In addition, they keep feeding them, I’m sure, out of love. But now every time someone from the building comes out, the dogs look on in anticipation, sometimes following us very closely, especially if we are carrying a packet. I can’t blame them for that, that’s what they have been conditioned to by these people. Thankfully, none of the dogs in our street has attacked anyone… yet. That’s not what happens everywhere though.
For those like Maneka Gandhi and her ardent followers, it is easy to stay in the safety and security of their bubble and say “Sad that a 90-year-old woman was ripped apart and killed by a pack of dogs. But I think she must have been carrying meat. Dogs don’t attack just like that”. Ehm, I might be talking stupid here – but we don’t need to carry meat; we are meat for a pack of hungry, feral dogs. Anyway, if her logic is that it is normal for people to be attacked if they are carrying meat, then I wonder what kind of safety on the streets we are talking about. In fact, their reluctance to budge even an inch from what they wanted (for the dogs apparently, or for their own ego, I’m not sure) was so clear from so many instances of outright rejection to proposals from local people and entrepreneurs offering solutions in terms of private shelters to move the strays to, from places where the number was way too high. The response was always “Don’t you dare move them anywhere. They will stay on their own streets, come what may.” While leaving stray dogs out in new unfamiliar localities to fend for themselves is considered bad, I never understood why these people were so adamant of not even coming half-way to think of an alternative like private shelters, which others were willing to sponsor, only so that the street menace would somehow come down.
Dogs aren’t a bad species and the strays are trying to survive, just like us. Of course! But when we root for co-existence, we also need to think of what is the right way to ensure a peaceful and safe co-existence. Killing off all the dogs is not the solution. But letting them overpopulate and take over the streets completely is also not the solution – that is what a lot of pseudo activists do not seem to understand.
It is because of these senseless and insensitive people coupled with a useless government, that more and more people seem to be moving to the other extreme of thinking it is up to them to do something about the danger, even if it means killing off stray dogs illegally. It is almost (wrongly) perceived as a fight for survival between the two species – man and dogs. The problem right now is that the animal activists blame the government for not doing sterilization procedures properly; the government and authorities in turn blame the animal activists for not letting them resort to culling to bring down the number to a manageable level. While they are at loggerheads and not doing anything other than this war of words, the question is – what the hell are common people supposed to do???
And in a situation where the stray population is already much beyond manageable limits, and resulting in so many attacks every day, like in Kerala, what do you think people will do? Especially when, in the last two or three months, there have been cases of even those who got anti-rabies treatment without delay after a dog bite ended up dead, the latest being a 12-year-old girl. Which is yet again a failure from the government’s side, unless there is some sort of a scientific explanation for the virus evolution that makes the existing vaccines ineffective, I really don’t know.
When there are proper rules and laws in many countries, that govern the required culling of some species to maintain a proper balance and co-existence, our people are resorting to illegal culling of dogs, sometimes killing off even harmless and non-feral strays, because to them any dog seems dangerous now. That’s only because safety on the streets seems to be the last priority for everyone in power. “What if we resort to culling and the government proves useless in managing it and letting the stray population shoot up yet again?” is a very sensible question of course. But a bigger question from helpless people who are the victims of those attacks on the streets is – “What do we do while you fight it out, contemplate and keep delaying any action for years?” When little kids and the elderly keep becoming easy targets on a constant basis for attacks that even a full-grown, young and healthy person can’t save himself/herself from, it’s no use preaching about love or rationale. Even if they don’t take up arms, they would at least start rooting for, overtly or covertly, those who seem to bring them some sense of safety, no matter how brutal, illegal or irrational their means are.
In short, this anarchy is the making of the very same people who were supposed to do something about a very real issue, but wouldn’t. So please, keep your saints’ suits to yourselves, when you aren’t the ones who have to deal with the fear and danger every single day. Feel free to continue your judgements and sermons from your bubble until the day you are ready to open your eyes to the ground reality and do something that is best for everyone, not just to show off your crusader’s title. Oh, and if anyone from the “We will kill all dogs and bring justice to the dead” squad is reading, guys, you seriously need to get yourselves checked by someone sane!
Also published on Medium.