Just like all men are not rapists, all dogs are not rabid, killers

We, as a society, need to do some introspection and ask ourselves many soul-searching questions. Why is it that when a dog attack happens we feel justified in beating and poisoning other dogs in our vicinity?

Of late, quite a few incidents of dogs biting people or mauling children to death have been reported in the media. Each time heartbreaking and horrifying incidents like the ones in Noida, Rajasthan or Hyderabad take place; I am shocked and filled with grief. I can feel the heart-rending pain of the parents whose children have died horrific deaths and empathise with those who have been hurt by stray dogs. At the same time, being a human and an animal lover, I am mortified by the outpouring of hate for animals that comes through in social circles and via social media.

Don’t get me wrong. I am in no way trying to trivialize the deaths of our children mauled by strays. There is no way anyone can do that and be called a human. However, just like all men are not rapists, all dogs are not rabid, killers. This article is a humble and honest attempt to try and create some level of understanding in the minds of those who don’t have a natural affinity to animals, particularly dogs, so that the cruelty and conflict can be mitigated.

First off, we humans have to realize that animals have as much a right to life as we do. And one gets sickened by the cruelty that humans feel morally justified to mete out to the strays in their locality. Of late, after the unfortunate maulings, there have been many incidents of stray dogs being beaten to death by vigilante groups who have taken it upon themselves to “protect” their colonies. Innocent dogs that would never have bitten a single human being are paying the price for the misdeeds of a few others of their ilk.

We, as a society, need to do some introspection and ask ourselves many soul-searching questions. Why is it that when a dog attack happens we feel justified in beating and poisoning other dogs in our vicinity?

Humans kill and hurt each other all the time! If the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) figures are to be believed, India recorded an average of 80 murders and 77 rape cases daily in 2020! There were 105 cases of acid attacks and 6,966 recorded cases of dowry deaths.

When we talk about our children, look at what we do to them! The NCRB data revealed a disturbing picture as 140 children were raped and murdered in 2021, while another 1,402 were killed. There were 121 registered cases of foeticide and 49,535 children were abducted and 53,874 cases were registered in 2021 alone under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

Not a pretty picture at all. But, where is the public outcry? Where are the demands for justice or capital punishment to the rapists and killers? Why is there such a deafening silence on the vicious attacks on women, children and the elderly, by the same society that spews hate and gives blood-curdling cries of “kill the dogs” when it comes to any violence and misdemeanors by animals? Maybe we have become desensitized and immune to crimes by humans due to their frequency!

Also, why are we so silent when it comes to raising our voices against animal abuse? Recently, in the news there were reports of beastiality where female strays were raped. Why was there no public outrage over this? Don’t animals have any rights to a cruelty and abuse-free life? Just because laws meant for animal protection are not so stringent, we don’t think twice before killing, hurting or raping them. Why does it not shake our collective conscience when things like this happen?   

Why is it that we are so tolerant of inhumanity by humans and not so tolerant of any beastly behaviour by animals who don’t know any better? The bludgeoning to death of some dogs in Noida and elsewhere in the country is a case in point. The poisoning of dogs in Kerala last year after a rash of animal bites, is another.

Ask any person who works for the welfare of animals and they will tell you horrific tales of the beastly behaviour that animals suffer at the hands of humans on a daily basis. Old dogs and puppies that can’t get out of the way of an oncoming vehicle are regularly run over, some vehicle drivers deliberately target the animals for fun or because they hate dogs. Some poison them, burn them, tie them up and throw them in the water or off buildings just for fun or with the intent of going viral. Some pour acid, hot water or chemicals on them.

All because the animals don’t have a voice and form protest groups and raise their collective voices for the right to life, food and a cruelty-free existence. Imagine, if animals could speak what tales of deprivation, hardship and cruelty would they relate?

They would tell us that Earth does not belong to humans alone. The space and resources of this planet are meant to be shared and shared alike. That the human population has grown beyond its fair share and pushed everyone into a corner; that humans are destroying habitats; they are taking over vast spaces and making it tough for the other species that inhabit this planet to survive.

They would say that animals are fighting for their survival with their backs to the wall as the most invasive and dangerous species on this planet greedily gobbles up all its resources and pushes the Earth and millions of plants, insects, animals and marine life into extinction.   

The same is the case with dogs. A friendly species that has co-existed with humans for centuries is now at the receiving end of the humanity-triggered man-animal conflict. The courts of the country have been trying to ensure the welfare of the voiceless by trying to come up with solutions and animal-friendly rulings. But, unless society as a whole does not come on board, nothing will improve.

So, as a first step, we will have to see animals in a more sympathetic light. We will have to acknowledge the fact that they are a part of our universe and we have to live in harmony with them and not in conflict, especially in increasingly shrinking urban spaces.

We must also remember that dogs in the wild will hunt or forage for food and if you don’t provide food to the neighbourhood dogs they will be forced to hunt or forage.  Also, stray dogs get into a fight among themselves for food. If food is in plenty they will not fight for it. Hence the aggressive behaviour triggered by the hunger pangs will be missing and the chances of a human getting caught in the middle of it are slim.

According to Charu Dev, Founder, Cleo Foundation, “Dogs that live in an area where the residents are kind to them, where they are fed, watered, loved, spayed, neutered and are medically taken care of, will become a happy part of the community and not a threat to it. This is the rule, rather than an exception. Hence, people should work with the animal lovers and feeders in their area, rather than against them.”

Most cases where dogs have attacked humans have been in places where the strays are looked upon as adversaries rather than a part of the community. If they are constantly ill-treated, beaten, shooed away, are not provided with food, water and cared for, they start viewing humans as the enemy. We have to remember that this is an animal we are dealing with at the end of the day. When survival is at stake the animal instinct kicks in and they get aggressive.

This cruelty towards strays could well be the reason for the increasing attacks on children. In the jungles, animals that are usually preyed upon, like wild buffalos and bisons, have been documented killing lion cubs when the lionesses are away. The idea is to destroy the predator while it is still young and helpless. In places where strays are not treated well, the predators are humans, hence the attacks on children and the elderly. It’s all about survival.

Another major factor to blame is our poor disposal of bio-waste by hospitals i.e. dressings, bandages and cotton swabs with body fluids, blood bags, human anatomical waste, body parts etc. Bio Waste disposal has to be done carefully so that they don’t get used to the taste of human flesh. Recently in the Hyderabad case, Minister Rama Rao made a very vital point when he brought up the issue of proper disposal of bio-waste. While offering condolences to the family of the child mauled by strays, Rama Rao said, “We will ensure our best is done so that these incidents do not recur. Biological waste disposal also needs to be increased. We will do everything in my capacity so that it does not repeat again.”

Animals also get aggressive when they are protecting their young. So the first thing to do is to get the local SPCA or NGO to neuter and spay the dogs in your area which reduces the chances of having puppies and keeps their population in check.

And in case there are puppies in your area, don’t go near them or threaten them. Remember, if a mother feels that her babies are threatened, she will defend them, just like a human mother would. Also, be kind to the puppies as they are growing up. Once they are weaned from the mother, get the puppies neutered and spayed too. Build a bond with them and earn friends instead of foes. Dogs are territorial animals so the chances of them leaving their place of birth are slim, so befriending a pup and earning a good guard dog for the area in return is way better than being in a confrontational relationship with your neighbourhood dogs.

The other area of concern is rabies and other diseases. This is where your neighbourhood animal lovers play a vital role. More often than not they would be in touch with animal welfare organizations that will help in getting the pups/dogs their rabies shots and jabs for other diseases. They can be your first point of contact in case a dog falls sick or meets with an accident. An injured dog left unattended and in pain can be a threat. So helping the stray out is a better option.

We as a society also need to teach our children well where animals are concerned. We have to educate them to be kind to animals and raise them to be animal lovers instead of haters. Plus, we have to understand the problem and work with animal activists rather than against them so that man and animal can co-exist in harmony like they should.