Public Policy for ANIMAL WELFARE in INDIA. Issues, Challenges and Recommendations Submitted by – DR. PUNIT G. (PGP-2), IIMA. ARTICLE 51 of INDIAN CONSTITUTION Article 51 of Indian constitution provides protection to animals in India by ensuring “Compassion to all living creatures”. For ensuring the same, PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS act was enacted in 1960 under which the Government of India instituted the ANIMAL WELFARE BOARD of INDIA for carrying out the activities mentioned in the above mentioned act. Following are some of the important points to be discussed in this backdrop: 1.
Saving of DOG population from mass killing by local municipal corporations. a. Enforcing the ANIMAL BIRTH CONTROL PROGRAMME throughout India, i. e. replacing mass killing of stray dogs with vaccination & sterilization programmes. 2. Creating SPCA’s (Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), monitoring their activities, and derecognizing those which are non-working or misusing their mandate. 3. Work towards licensing and taxation of all dog and cat sellers. The report that follows will discuss each issue in the backdrop of the necessity for creating such an article in the act, the relevance in today? time, critical analysis of the policy, any suggestions/recommendations to improve the efficacy for the purpose for which it was put in the first place. ABC program: “SAVING of DOG POPULATION from MASS KILLING” OVERVIEW: Mass killing of stray dogs was started in India in the 19th century during the times of Britishruled India. Almost 50,000 dogs were killed every year even after Independence by the local municipal authorities with an objective to eradicate RABIES and also reduce the stray dog population in India. But in 1993, finally the government admitted that this policy had een a complete failure as human deaths due to rabies had actually increased, and also the dog population was on a rise. This meant that the application of the technique (mass-killing) which was followed in developed countries, did not work in India (a developing nation) as the two environments and scenarios are hugely different from each other. Hence in 1994, the killing programme was replaced by ABC (Animal Birth Control) which meant masssterilization (with mass-vaccination against rabies) instead of mass-killing. In either case, the final objective of the programme is straight-forward – “Controlling the population of stray dogs. OBJECTIVE of POPULATION CONTROL program: Rather than understanding the pros and cons of any method, let us first begin by laying out the objectives for any such system to be in place. Here are a few of the possible objectives: 1. Protecting the public health at large (as dogs are carriers/vectors for many diseases, including Rabies) 2. Maintaining community hygiene, especially in the urban context. The reasons for doing so are based on some of the facts and statistics highlighted below: i. ii. India has the highest population of stray dogs in the world, an estimated 19 million. 0% of all rabies deaths world-wide occur in India, about 30,000 deaths reported each year. iii. iv. 42% of dog-bite victims are children Noise pollution caused by night fights between dog-packs is a severe problem for senior citizens. v. Stray dogs on runways have forced pilots to take evasive action, causing near-accidents to aircraft and necessitating orders from the Mumbai High Court to IAAI to take all necessary measures to clear airport areas of stray dogs. UNDERSTANDING THE “STRAY DOG” ISSUE: “Stray dogs” are the ownerless, abandoned, un-muzzled, wandering dogs on the urban road, i. . Free-ranging urban dogs (wikipedia). This means either they are ownerless right from their birth, or become ownerless at some point in their lifetime. These may be pure-bred, true mixed-breed, or un-bred (e. g. Indian pariah). Overpopulation of these stray dogs can cause public health problems for the societies in which they wander freely. The important point to be understood here is that – the societies at risk are majorly the URBAN societies. A lot of literature regarding the stray dogs talks in the context of urban landscape only.
Hence it is imperative to understand the reason behind strays becoming a nuisance/menace/problem for the urban landscape, but not majorly for the rural landscape. Is it an URBAN MENACE? Stray dogs or the Indian pariahs are considered scavengers. Principally, this means that they live on the scraps or leftovers from the human households. This is not shocking as history tells us that dogs are those descendants from the wolves which got domesticated due to the humans using them in their hunting expeditions, and rewarding them by passing over chunks of meat or leftovers from the kill.
This also implies that this particular evolution of the wolf species has been artificially induced by the humankind. This backdrop is essential in the light of the discussion ahead, as the SCAVENGER nature or utility feature is a part of the domestication feature during the evolution of the dogs. Since ancient times, dogs domesticated around villages serving two primary functions. These being: A. Sanitation B. Security As dogs used to live off on the scraps and the edible waste from the house-holds, they became scavengers in addition to the other natural scavenger animals (including birds).
This also meant that they served as an important step in the maintenance of hygiene of the villages by performing effective waste management. In the urban scenario, such a natural waste management system is of no use as there are better waste management systems at disposal. This led to scarcity in the natural food (leftovers) for dogs, leading to the usual survival phenomena of forming packs and searching for food. Hence, this puts the urban society at risk. But given the open access to garbage (a result of improper waste management) in urban areas of developing countries, dogs have found a way to live and breed freely.
Hence, the resultant has been that the stray dog-population has been on a rise even when mass-killing was in place. So the technique of control is not a problem in first place, but the lack of proper waste management in the urban scenario. This also brings out an important hypothesis – “Population control measure of any kind is bound to fail in absence of proper urban waste management systems which lead to free-access of these stray animals to waste which acts as their source of food. ” Dogs are territorial animals – that means they guard their territory, not just from other dogs but from anyone they perceive as intruders.
This is a feature which has been exploited / put to use by the humans for decades of their symbiosis together. But in the urban setting, this utility feature is not put to use at all, except the use of certain breeds of dogs (mainly nonIndian origin) for security/guarding purpose. The innate guarding nature of dogs lead to these strays barking on beggars entering into new territories, attacking speeding vehicles ONLY DURING NIGHT TIMES, etc. An interesting example to prove this case is the instance of a few stray dogs barking on the 26-11 attackers when they landed by a ferry in Mumbai.
These strays were continuously barking at those people trying to make the locals aware that they are sensing some deviation from the normal – perhaps sensing a major threat. But the locals chose to ignore this, and the rest is a fateful history. This also brings out an important hypothesis – “Stray dogs are nuisance in urban settings not because they are not a fit in the urban environment, but because we haven’t been able to tap into their innate abilities and utilize them for maintain the centuriesold symbiosis between the two species. ”
ANALYSIS/EVALUATION/CRITIQUE OF THE FACTS: i. India has the highest population of stray dogs in the world, an estimated 19 million. A simple look at this fact makes us think that it is time to control this population. But a deeper understanding of dynamics of dog population will clear a lot of air. Dog populations follow a specific growth curve – the initial being an EXPONENTIAL growth curve, followed by decrease in birth rate and increase in death rate reaching equilibrium depending on the carrying capacity of the environment to keep this balance.
The carrying capacity of environment means the availability, distribution and quality of resources (shelter, food and water) which aid the natural growth of dog population. (Jimenez-Coello) This also implies that dog population control measure cannot be seen independent of the factors which impact it. Hence, control on the carrying factors is a pre-requisite for the direct control measures like “sterilization” to actually succeed. ii. 80% of all rabies deaths world-wide occur in India, about 30,000 deaths reported each year. Rabies is a preventable viral disease transmitted through the saliva of INFECTED animals.
Dogs are the most common source of transmission to humans. The control measures adopted currently are the “Vaccination programs” against rabies. Now the efficacy of such a program depends on a lot of factors which involve maintaining the cold storage or cold supply chain of the vaccine, administering the vaccine when the dog is normal health, administering in puppy stage, regular annual vaccination, etc. The question which arises here is how a stray dog, living in open conditions, can be made to confirm to all the above criteria. Hence, the efficacy of this system will always be questionable.
Also, a major loophole exists in actual implementation of this measure – the number of dogs vaccinated by any animal welfare organization is simply taken at the face-value by the AWB. Shouldn? t there be a correlation between the population of dogs in a given area, number of dogs vaccinated and number of rabies incidents reported/found? This should be an evaluation criterion to confirm if the organization is efficient in performing the objective of rabies control. iii. Noise pollution caused by night fights between dog-packs is a severe problem for senior citizens.
Do dogs bark only when they fight? If yes, do they occur only during the night? Many such questions can be raised to actually test the truth behind this fact. Yes, barking leads to noise pollution, disturbance during night etc. but dogs bark when they feel threatened OR perceive someone to be a threat to their territory. We also need to prepare a report on number of petty thefts (stealing car audio, burglary etc. ) being prevented due to stray dogs barking at night. That would be a valid critique for the above fact. THE SOLUTION (Combination of CONTROL and UTILITY)
A unique model which suits a developing nation like INDIA needs to be created for ensuring that the dog population doesn? t actually become a menace to the society. A species which has long been living in harmony and symbiosis with the human race since ages, doesn? t mutate into a pest for humans – just because we haven? t found a utility of this domesticated species. Along with ANIMAL BIRTH CONTROL PROGRAM and VACCINATION PROGRAM, a „COLLECTIVE PETTING? methodology is proposed which is as follows: POLICE SYSTEM Aid to curb urban crime (theft, burglary, etc) Search & Rescue assistance during DISASTERS.
EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS Involving students in proper care of strays. Development of a broader understanding of urban environmental balance in students. Development of caring attitude for animals in students. – NGO’s Driving force of this entire project VETERINARY HEALTHCARE Preventive Health care system. Market research. Outsourcing of food & medicines for the project. Efficient implementation of the project. – – Main co-ordinator between all the key players. Think-Tank for this entire project. – HOUSING SOCIETIES Collective Adoption of Stray dogs. Better security solution. Reduction in menace to the society.