Monday, October 2, 2023

The Dog Fight

The World Health Organization says rabies is endemic in India, which accounts for 36% of the world’s rabies deaths. The organisation estimates that the number of deaths caused by dog bites is 18,000-20,000 every year. The latest instance is a case in Ghaziabad where a 14-year-old boy died after being bitten by a pet dog. What can be done to stop this menace?

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Shavez was the name of the 14-year-old boy who died more than a month after being bitten by a pet dog in Charan Singh Colony under Vijaynagar police station area in Ghaziabad district. Nimish Patil, assistant commissioner of police, Kotwali area, said a complaint has been registered in this regard and legal action will be initiated against the owner of the dog. Ghaziabad Police registered an FIR on September 5 against four persons after the boy’s death. 

The FIR was filed on a complaint lodged by the boy’s grandfather, Matloob Ahmad, under IPC Sections 289 (negligent conduct with respect to an animal) and 304-A (causing death by negligence) against four people, including members of a neighbouring family in the colony and another individual who works for dog welfare.

The boy’s grandfather told the police that a woman in their neighbourhood sheltered about six to seven dogs that were not vaccinated and allowed them to roam free on the street outside their home. When he complained to the family, it said that the dogs are vaccinated and there was nothing to worry. “We believed them. After some days, we saw saliva dripping off his (Shavez) mouth frequently, he was getting afraid of dogs and acting very unusually. He was taken to a hospital where doctors said that he had been bitten by an unvaccinated dog and no treatment was possible. “It was very painful, the doctors had advised us to keep our distance from the boy, as he was in the last stage,” said the grandfather. Shavez was reportedly bitten by his neighbour’s dog one-and-a-half months ago, but hid it from his parents out of fear. Due to lack of treatment, the infection spread and the symptoms of rabies started appearing. Later, the child was being treated in hospital and died. 

While taking cognizance of the matter, Ghaziabad Municipal Corporation issued a notice to the accused family. “The above matter has come to our notice that you have kept a dog in your building unauthorized, which keeps barking all the time without any reason and it has also come to light that you leave this dog loose which is prone to biting and due to the danger of rabies, people nearby may have to face a lot of trouble. Therefore, you are informed that it is mandatory to get registration and vaccination done for keeping a dog under Ghaziabad Municipal Corporation limits. Have you done any registration for keeping this dog? If yes, then within 3 days of receiving the notice, present the copy of registration within 10 days to the office of the undersigned (Veterinary and Welfare Officer’s Office, Second Floor, Ghaziabad Municipal Corporation Headquarters, Navyug Market), otherwise, necessary action will be taken against you as per rules and a fine of Rs 5000 will be imposed on you, for which all responsibility will be yours”, the notice reads.

The menace is pan-Indian. Last year, the death of a 12-year-old girl, Abhirami, after being bitten by a stray dog sparked outrage in Kerala. Abhirami was bitten by a stray dog on her arms, legs and eyes near her home when she had stepped out to buy milk. She was put on ventilator support, but did not survive even after being administered three rabies vaccine doses. 

To curb stray dog menace, a division bench of the Kerala High Court on September 14, 2022, directed the state government to take steps to contain incidents of dog bites while also saying that people must refrain from “inflicting unnecessary harm on stray dogs”. The concerned bench had convened a special sitting, taking note of around two lakh incidents of dog bites in Kerala last year and 21 cases in which the victims died of rabies.

In April 2022, the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court had termed the death of a five-year-old and injury to his seven-year-old sister in Thakurganj, Lucknow, after being attacked by stray dogs, as “an extremely disturbing event”. The Court said nothing can be more painful for a human being than to learn that a human life has been lost in such a manner. As per newspaper reports, stray dogs attacked the brother and sister duo and killed the brother. The incident, said the Court, had the potential of disturbing even the strongest mind, “which compels us to take suo motu cognizance of the issue relating to the menace created on account of unchecked stray dogs on the streets of Lucknow.” 

In February 2023, the Urban Development Department in Uttar Pradesh laid down a new set of rules for dog owners. The decision comes after several cases of dog attacks have been reported in the state over the past few months. The UP government has also circulated new rules for breeders, residents’ welfare associations and individuals who adopt stray dogs in large numbers. Arvind Rao, Additional Municipal Commissioner, Animal Welfare, said the idea is to make dog owners accountable for the actions of their pets. Stray dog lovers will also have to be equally cautious. They will also be held accountable if they are feeding ferocious dogs, he added.

The new rules are mentioned below:

  • All dog owners in UP will now have to give an undertaking to the local authorities that they will make sure that their canines won’t create any public nuisance.
  • Those who are adopting stray dogs will have to first register with the municipal corporation.
  • The registration of stray dogs will be free of cost, along with sterilization and first vaccination.
  • Individuals and resident groups looking to adopt five or more stray dogs will be treated at par with shelter homes and will have to adhere to the guidelines framed by the Animal Welfare Board of India.
  • Civic bodies will also be required to give dog owners a chip or token that has the animal’s registration number as well as information like the owner’s name, address, and phone number.
  • The chip will have to be fixed with the collar when the dog is taken out for a walk or any other routine activity.

According to the senior officer from the Urban Development Department, the municipal staff has been authorized to seize and take away dogs to the government-run shelter homes if the dog is found without the chip while it is on road or out of the house in a public place. The local bodies will decide the penalty and will hand the dog back to its owner upon payment, he added. 

—By Adarsh Kumar and India Legal Bureau

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