When leftover food became scarce during Covid, strays went astray

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<br>However, Covid times changed it all.

People stopped going out. There were no leftovers to be given away. Restaurants had shut down and stray dogs went without food for days.

Rana, a canine breeder explains, “During the pandemic, dogs desperately went around looking for food. The moment they saw any human on the streets, they would run towards him or her, begging for food. People — who had already become extremely conscious of getting infected — started shooing away the strays. They would pelt stones, beat them with sticks and even throw acid on them. This created a sense of hostility between dogs and humans and that is when the attacks began.”

He added, “Covid also killed compassion and man became an animal in a bid for survival.”

Radhika Suryavanshi of PETA says, “Dogs are friendly, social animals who would not normally attack a human. Yet when people shout at stray dogs, kick or beat them, throw rocks at them, toss hot water or acid on them, poison them or abuse them in other ways that make them feel severely threatened, they may feel the need to protect themselves or their puppies. Fights between dogs may occur when dogs are competing for a mate or trying to protect their puppies, and rarely, can a human be caught in the middle.”

Shaurya Kulshreshtha, a resident of a high rise building in Jankipuram where five incidents of dog attacks have taken place in the past two months, substantiates this when he says, “Stray dogs have always been living in the compound. The first attack took place when a child, while playing, started throwing stones at a puppy. The mother dog reacted and attacked the child. Since then, every time when the residents see a dog, they beat it with sticks. The security guard has also been asked to beat the strays. We cannot control their entry into the compound which has three entry points.”

The residents in the high rise building are becoming increasingly hostile towards strays. They feel that strays are a threat to their safety and security and also litter the compound.

The increase in the strays population can also be attributed to the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown.

As an animal expert says. “During the lockdown, there was minimal vehicular traffic and puppies born during this period survived which added to the canine population. Moreover, during this time, the focus was not on animals and there were no sterilization programmes being carried out.”

A retired veterinary officer feels that an effective sterilization programme can help prevent this as stray dogs are surgically neutered and then replaced in their own area.

They are also vaccinated against rabies. Since territories are not left vacant, new dogs cannot enter. Over time, as the dogs die natural deaths, their numbers dwindle. The dog population becomes stable, non-breeding, non-aggressive and rabies-free, and it gradually decreases over a period of time.

“It is the duty of municipalities under the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001 to run an effective dog sterilization programme and this has been a requirement for 22 years. If all municipalities had taken this lawful duty seriously, there would hardly be any dogs on the roads today,” he said.

Several NGOs, dealing with animals, are of the opinion that a sustained awareness campaign is needed to encourage the adoption of strays and particularly the Indie breed.

“A dog is a dog. In fact, Indie dogs are sturdier, more affectionate and are low on maintainability but people feel that owning a foreign breed adds to their status,” said a member of one such NGO.

–IANS <br>amita/bg

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