Kerala High Court to lift ban on killing stray dogs
It is with great distress that we learned earlier this month of the interim order to lift the ban on killing stray dogs in Kerala. Up until December 2003, the killing of stray dogs in Kerala had been illegal, but due to public pressure, a petition was filed in Cochin with the High Court of Kerala to lift the ban, effectively giving the municipalities the go-ahead to recruit dog catchers to exterminate the stray dog population. The reasons stated in the petition in favour of lifting the ban are that stray dogs are a menace to people and that the only preventive measure against rabies is to kill them.
On hearing the news, we immediately contacted one of our patrons, Maneka Gandhi, as well as Doctor Chinny Krishna, head of the Blue Cross of India, to see what we could do to stop the killings going ahead. Maneka told us that she was in the process of filing a stay against the judgement. A few days later, Doctor Krishna informed us that a petition was being filed on behalf of DAYA (an animal welfare organisation affiliated with the Animal Welfare Board of India) and that they were pleading with the local municipalities to hold off on the killings until the case against the lifting of the ban was heard. Unfortunately, On 10 December, we learned that the municipality of Cochin, exploiting the delay in getting the stay vacated, killed 40 strays that day.
Since stray dogs are our main area of concern, we were worried that the animals we had sterilised, tattooed and vaccinated would nevertheless be targeted as a result of the High Court’s decision on lifting the ban. Although our animals are easily identifiable by a tattoo number, a nick in the ear and a collar bearing ’International Animal Rescue’, we were not convinced that they would be spared the fate of their less fortunate counterparts. We therefore went to see Professor Chandra, Mayor of Trivandrum, to request that if nothing else, the street animals in the areas in which we operate be spared. During our meeting, the Mayor stated that she had no intention of starting the killing of the dogs until all other options had been explored. She went on to assure us that the street animals in our areas would not be affected, since the dogs we had sterilised, treated and vaccinated against rabies posed no threat. Furthermore, she suggested that we meet with the veterinarian who has been responsible for sterilising dogs in Trivandrum to discuss how best we can deal with the situation and see what our options are. Although the channels of communication appear to be open, we are nevertheless seeking to have all these promises in writing.
In additon to our meeting with the Mayor, we have also written letters to the editors of major newspapers regarding our position on the killing of stray dogs and have sent a copies to reporters whom we’ve had dealings with in the past and who have been sympathetic to our cause.
IAR believe that killing stray dogs is not a solution. The only approach which will yield long term results is a sterilisation programme (such as the Animal Birth Control scheme, commonly known as ABC, under which we are registered). The purpose of such programmes is to reduce the number of street dogs in a humane manner and to bring down the number of rabies cases. But time and effort have to be put into making sterilisation programmes work. Unfortunately, many local municipalities have failed in implementing the ABC scheme in a consistent manner and have, as a result, resorted to killing the animals which they had already sterilised and vaccinated! It is important to note that over one hundred years of catching and killing stray dogs has not worked in either reducing the canine population nor the incidence of rabies in India (nor anywhere else in the world). We must therefore turn to more humane alternatives, such as the ABC scheme, which have proven to be highly effective if properly implemented.