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'Incentivize street dog adoption': Ecologist seeks moratorium on fancy breeds sale

By Rosamma Thomas* 
In a letter to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan last month, ecologist and member of the Expert Group on Biodiversity and Development of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity Dr S Faizi has suggested that one way to reduce the problem posed to public health by street dogs would be to impose a five-year moratorium on the sale of fancy breeds of dogs. Dog lovers must be encouraged and offered incentives to take in native breeds, so that such a large number of them do not go hungry and roam the streets.
Data from the directorate of health services shows that there has been a huge spurt in dog bite incidents in the state. There were 62,280 cases of dog bite in the state in 2013; 2.21 lakh cases were reported in 2021. “Street dogs menace has grown to become a civilizational crisis,” Dr Faizi wrote, adding that local self-government institutions have been hobbled in their attempts to deal with the situation by orders issued by the Union government during the term of Maneka Gandhi as minister of culture.
Faizi quoted Mahatma Gandhi, who in an article in "Young India" of the 1920s had defended his own approval of the killing of about 60 stray dogs by Ahmedabad industrialist Ambalal Sarabhai. Gandhi was then faced with severe criticism, for he was questioned about how a man who swore by ahimsa could support the culling of dogs. “A roving dog without an owner is a danger to society,” Gandhi wrote. Faizi points out that besides attacks on human beings, feral dogs pose a threat to wild animals and erode the efficacy of conservation measures for wildlife.
Faizi suggested to the chief minister that the Supreme Court must be petitioned to intervene to settle contradictions between the Prevention of Cruelty Act 1960 and the 2001 rules and the orders issued in this regard. The Act “may not stand judicial test as it is in repugnance with the State’s powers since the State Assembly alone can make laws on domestic animals, as it is a State subject; similarly it is a public health issue which is again a State subject,” Faizi explained.
The ecologist pointed out that in the past, it was not pointed out in court that Union government orders preventing culling of street dogs was illegal as the Prevention of Cruelty Act itself categorically asks the Animal Welfare Board vide section 9.f ‘to take all such steps as the Board may think fit to ensure that unwanted animals are destroyed by local authorities, whenever it is necessary to do so, either instantaneously or after being rendered insensible to pain or suffering’.”
Faizi points out that the killing of wild animals is allowed, once they are listed as vermin, under Schedule V of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. Nilgai, Wild Boar and Rhesus macaques have been culled after being declared vermin in four states. “Nobody can claim that the street dog, a pest or invasive species under the Biodiversity Convention, is superior to wildlife species in consideration,” Faizi writes, explaining, “At this rate, the eradication of rats, another mammal, will also be challenged at some point”.
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*Freelance journalist based in Kerala

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