Be a friend to man’s best friend to stop attacks by stray dogs (IANS Opinion)

New Delhi, Oct 29 , Recently, the issue of man-animal conflict in urban spaces was brought to the fore again by the death of the scion of the Wagh Bakri Tea Group, its Executive Director, Parag Desai, in a freak accident involving stray dogs.

It is ironical that a man who loved animals slipped and fell because of them while out for a walk and died of a brain hemorrhage a few days later. It was a tragedy no doubt, and a big loss to his family and the group.

When incidents, particularly deaths involving stray animals take place, it is justified for people to be angry at the local bodies and the government for not keeping the stray cattle and dogs off the streets with effective implementation of the Animal Birth Control (ABC) initiative and also not preventing the spread of rabies in canines by giving them the five-in-one vaccine.

However, what is not justified is the vilification and demonisation of stray animals, particularly dogs after that, by the media and by society at large.

Because, whether we like it or not, animals have as much right to live on this planet as humans have. The human race is the one which has caused a population explosion and pushed every other species into a corner and in thousands of cases extinction.

Attacks on animals by humans for pleasure, expansion and for fashion and food needs are more numerous than we can even imagine or count.

Yet, while mainstream media and social media spaces are filled with cases of attacks on people by dogs in cities, they are silent about attacks on dogs by people in Delhi, Noida, Gurugram, Telangana, Kerala and in other parts of the country.

Every time a dog attack happens, strays around the country pay a heavy price as they are beaten, burnt, bludgeoned to death, poisoned and dragged to death by representatives of a so-called superior race.

Speak to any animal activist, NGO or animal lover and they will tell you hair-raising tales of the kind of inhuman treatment we mete out to dogs on our streets on a daily basis.

Older dogs and puppies that are unable to avoid an approaching vehicle are frequently run over; some drivers intentionally target these animals out of amusement or a dislike for dogs.

For fun or to go viral, some people poison them, burn them, tie them up, and toss them off buildings or into the water. Some people douse them in chemicals, acid, or hot water. The list is endless. But none of this is reported because ‘Animal Lives (don’t) Matter’ to us do they?

The sad part is that it does not have to be this way. If all local bodies were doing their job honestly and following the ABC programme diligently, we would not have so many strays on our streets.

Dogs have coexisted with humans for centuries, so we have to try and understand why man’s best friend is behaving in an unfriendly way now.

As any animal expert will tell you, dogs forage or hunt for food. If your neighbourhood strays are not being fed by the community or by an animal feeder from an NGO, they will be compelled to do the same.

Stray dogs often fight among themselves over food, however, when food is plentiful, they won’t fight over it. So, the aggressive behaviour brought on by hunger pangs will not occur, and the chances of people being caught in the middle will be reduced.

Animal experts say that dogs that live in an area where they are loved, medically taken care of, where the ABC programme is implemented and where they are watered and fed by the residents or NGOs regularly, become a part of the community and not a threat to it.

According to them, the majority of dog attacks occur in places where stray dogs are viewed as enemies rather than members of the community.

Dogs in turn begin to see humans as the enemy if they are denied food and water, mistreated, beaten or chased away. Keep in mind that anger and an animal’s instinct to protect themselves kicks in when their survival is in jeopardy.

The increasing number of attacks on children may be related to this cruelty towards strays by society, say animal experts. It has been observed that even grass eaters in the jungle, such as wild buffaloes and bisons, kill lion cubs when the lionesses are not around.

The goal is to eliminate the predator while it is still young and defenceless. Humans are the predators in areas where strays are not given proper care, which explains why attacks on young people and the elderly occur. The main goal is to survive.

Plus, when an animal is defending its young, it can also become aggressive. In order to decrease the likelihood of having puppies and maintain control over the number of dogs in your area, the first step should be to have the local SPCA or NGO neuter and spay the dogs.

If there are puppies in an area, people must avoid approaching or threatening them because, just like a human mother, an animal mother, too, will protect her young if she believes they are in danger.

Additionally get the puppies spayed and neutered as soon as they are weaned from the mother so that the numbers remain in control.

Being territorial animals, dogs don’t usually leave their birthplace, so making friends with a puppy and getting a neighbourhood guard dog in the bargain is better than having an adversarial relationship with the strays in your area.

Diseases like rabies are the other area of concern for most people so connect with animal welfare groups that will assist in getting the puppies or dogs vaccinated against rabies and other diseases.

Plus, if your neighbourhood stray dog becomes ill or gets into an accident, get free treatment from an NGO or SPCA for the dog. Remember, like any other animal an injured dog which is in pain, if left unsupervised, may pose a threat to humans.

Plus we as a society need to teach our children to be kind to animals not hateful of them.

Dogs were, are and will always remain our best friends. We just need to be more compassionate towards them in our increasingly condensed urban areas.

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