AS per 2011 dog census, there were around 90,000 street dogs in Srinagar city. It is estimated that this population is now more than double and will further multiply rapidly if authorities don’t come up with some severe Animal Birth Control (ABC) policy. The growing population of street dogs is not only a serious threat for people living in Srinagar city but is also a major concern for the people living in different towns and rural areas of Kashmir as well.
Since the last 10 years, the number of dog attacks on humans has also been on the rise. As reported by Press Trust of India in February, this year, there were more than 6,200 cases of dog bites reported in Govt Medical College Srinagar alone (SMHS hospital) in ten months i.e between April 2022 to February 2023. On an average, 40 to 50 people are attacked by dogs in Srinagar city daily out of which 30 to 35 cases are referred to SMHS hospital of Govt Medical College (GMC) Srinagar. The hospital records of Anti Rabies Centre of SHMS hospital also authenticate the fact that 25 to 30 cases of dog bites are referred to this hospital alone.
Maqsooda Begum Attacked
Recently, Maqsooda Begum, a resident of Lokripora, Nowshera in Srinagar‘s old city, was attacked by street dogs just outside her house. Masooda, 65 , was badly injured in the attack. Pertinently, the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) has created a garbage collection point just outside their house. The people living around this area come and throw waste around this designated spot where garbage collecting vehicles come and take away the waste. For many years Maqsooda Begum’s family has been requesting SMC to close down this site but all in vain. In the past too, Masooda Begum was attacked and Srinagar city Mayor had tweeted on October 10th 2021 that the site be shut down in 48 hours but SMC’s sanitation staff didn’t act at all until the old lady was attacked again — this time severely. Pertinently, the street dogs who attacked Maqsooda Begum feed on the waste that is dumped outside the boundary wall of her house. SMC is yet to take action against the officials who made Maqsooda’s Begum’s house a waste collection point which is a clear violation of Municipal Solid Waste Rules (MSW Rules 2016). Infact this author brought this issue into the notice of Commissioner Srinagar Municipal Corporation Athar Aamir Khan. In his reply the Commissioner said:
“We are trying to remove bins and dumpsters from most of the sites. We have doubled our collection fleet. In the coming 2-3 days fresh public details will be shared of door to door collection”
He further added that the Dog Sterilization centre at Tengpora Srinagar would be made operational by this week.
Dog attacks in Towns and Villages
As per official data, around 25 to 30 cases of dog bites are referred to SMHS hospital alone in Srinagar. This number would be more than double when we count total dog attacks on humans in towns and rural areas of Kashmir. Infact, the official data on this issue isn’t available but I would suggest Directorate of Health to make these details public on its website by asking all the Sub District and District hospitals to update this information. This is also mandatory under the section 4 (1) (b) of RTI Act 2005 as well.
In January 2022, a 10-year-old boy from Gund-e-Ibrahim village in Pattan district Baramulla was mauled to death by stray dogs. Local residents of Pattan and surrounding villages protested for many days against the authorities as they failed to take up scientific waste management in the area which has resulted in huge increase in stray dog population. The local residents of Gund e Ibrahim and Pattan allege that municipal authorities in Pattan had failed to set up a scientific waste management site with the result solid waste generated from Pattan town especially the poultry waste , food waste and other kinds butchery waste collected from the main market was being dumped unscientifically around the town. Even the waste generated around Gund e Ibrahim, Singhpora and other localities on Srinagar Baramulla road was being dumped unscientifically. The rural waste management programme under SBM Gramin phase 2 has also failed to give people proper service vis a vis solid waste management.
Azan was attacked near Singhpora Jheel bridge when he was walking on the roadside and suddenly a group of stray dogs attacked him. Media reports say that the little boy was badly injured and died within no time. Before that incident in January 2022, another boy was mauled to death by stray dogs in Baramulla. In December 2020, a noted lawyer from Deewanbagh Baramulla Abdul Majeed Rather was also mauled to death by stray dogs. The middle aged lawyer was on a routine morning walk when stray dogs attacked him. He was badly injured and after 21 days he died at SMHS hospital Srinagar.
Animal Birth Control Programme
Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme was developed by World Health Organization (WHO) as a practical solution to control the street dog population plus to eradicate rabies. The ABC programme is combined with anti rabies vaccination (ABC-ARV) which consists of a process of sterilization to control stray dog population as well as vaccination to prevent rabies. The success of the programme hinges upon the sterilization of 70% of the dog population in a given area within one reproductive cycle, which is normally 6 months.
The method of ABC is of 2 types. One is the Surgical method which is recommended and most practiced. This technique is called Overio-hysterectomy or spaying involves the surgical removal of the uterus and both ovaries in females and both the testicles in males. The flank or mid ventral abdominal incision are practiced for females and pre scrotal and over the scrotum incision are practiced in males. These are permanent and irreversible procedures. The Non surgical methods of birth control is using hormonal injection or chemicals. These are less practiced and not recommended by experts. For the last 15 years we have been hearing that the Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme would be taken up in Srinagar city by SMC but till date this has not been made operational. As Commissioner SMC has reassured now, one hopes that the ABC centre at Tengpora Srinagar would be made operational this week.
Dog Poop is More Dangerous
Not only do the street dogs attack humans but their stools (poop) is also equally dangerous for human health. The risk to public health from the large number of dog stools present on streets of urban areas is a cause for concern.
Dog faeces may be a serious hazard because it may contain microorganisms that are both pathogenic to humans and resistant to several classes of antibiotics. Canine faeces left on the streets may represent a risk factor for transmission of microorganisms and a reservoir of multidrug- resistant bacteria thus contributing to the spread of resistance genes into an urban area.
The Department of Community Medicine Govt Medical College Srinagar must undertake a research study on this in association with the College of Veterinary Sciences Shuhama & SMC. The results would be alarming. As per the research conducted by Centre for Disease Control USA, a single dog dropping contains 3 million faecal bacteria along with viruses and parasites which easily pass on to humans. Dog poop is so dangerous that a single dog dropping will produce more bacteria in one day than a human being , cow and a horse jointly.
The dogs who defecate near water bodies especially river banks contaminate the drinking water sources like Doodh Ganga and Jhelum in Srinagar etc. These bacteria and viruses contaminate air as well once the poop gets dried up which affects human health ultimately.
Srinagar city which has a population of more than 16.50 lakh, has around 2 lakh street dogs as well. This number will cross 5 lakhs in the next decade and then the situation would be more alarming.
It is advisable that the Government acts now. One hopes that Commissioner SMC Athar Aamir Khan will fulfil his promise of making Tengpora Animal Birth Control centre operational by this weekend plus 100 % door to door waste collection should ensured and all that waste should be directly transported to landfill site rather than dumping it near different waste collection sites which is open violation of MSW Rules 2016.