Authorities continue to be indifferent as stray dogs are unleashing horror across Srinagar and other districts of Kashmir.
Hafeez Ur Rehman
Srinagar is facing an alarming growth of stray dogs who are feeding themselves on nutritious dumps of garbage. This has created a worrisome situation as dog bites are on a steep rise. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has reported that the canine menace has become grim across Kashmir with an average of nearly 50 cases of dog bite reported every day during the last four years.
The facts on the ground are painting a scary canvas. In the last one decade, a total of 59,282 cases of dog bite have been reported to the Anti-Rabies Clinic (ARC) of Srinagar’s SMHS Hospital.
With more than one lakh stray dogs marauding Srinagar city alone, the canine-human conflict has become a routine in the summer capital with over 5000 children, mostly in the age group of 3-15 years, suffering bites every year.
With such a background, the menace of stray dogs has become a cause of major concern for the denizens of the Srinagar city. The dog population has visibly increased across Srinagar and particularly in areas like Syed Hamidpora, Dabtal, Chamandori, Dalal Mohalla, Gurguri Mohalla, Rahbab Sahab, Batamaloo, Qamarwari, Noorbagh, Bemina, Maisuma, Jawahar Nagar and Raj Bagh. While dog bite cases are obviously increasing, there are also cases where dogs are causing accidents as they chase motorists after dark.
After sunset, stray dogs can be seen in large packs around garbage dumps. A pack of at least 10 to 15 dogs can be spotted in the street where I live in Maisuma, a central neighbourhood in Srinagar. These dogs have made life hell, particularly for women, elderly and children.
Stray dogs can be seen chasing residents when they go for prayers early in the morning. The locals allege that Srinagar Municipal Corporation instead of relieving them of the dog menace have been releasing trapped dogs in vehicles during night hours.
My residential street is about 150 feet long and 15 feet wide. The residents of this street are irritated with the dog litter and the women have to wash the lane several times every day. Apart from this, these dogs enter or jump into the residential compounds and tear apart leather shoes and sandals or take them away. Multiple times in a year, when I wake up in the morning, I find my leather shoe or a sandal either missing or torn into pieces.
Packs of stray dogs lurking in street corners, public parks and markets are a common sight in the city. Many people living in residential colonies say they hesitate to venture out after dark. On a walk down the city roads, one can spot hundreds of stray dogs roaming freely, feasting on garbage dumps and chasing residents.
Even inside the Kashmir University campus, dogs find free access. As one walks towards Kashmir University’s Rumi Gate, one of the two main gates, the first sight that catches the attention is a huge pile of garbage and a pack of dogs trying to salvage whatever they can find. Dogs not only chase students but even enter the premises of the departments. Students and visitors are constantly at the risk of getting bitten by dogs even inside the campus.
The authorities have so far failed to initiate any concrete effort to control the scourge, despite many complaints and incidents. A proper waste management will help reduce the stray dog population. People litter the streets without thinking of the consequences.
The dog population, if kept unchecked, could trigger fear psychosis among people, if it hasn’t already.
As per an official from ARC SMHS as many as 5,629 bite cases were reported to ARC SMHS from 1st April 2021 to 31st March 2022 and most of them were from Srinagar.
Among the 5,629 cases reported in the past one year to ARC SMHS, 4,264 – nearly 80 percent were from Srinagar. Budgam accounted for 230 dog bite cases while 143 were reported from Baramulla, 58 from Kupwara, 184 from Bandipora, 299 from Ganderbal, 186 from Pulwama, 58 from Shopian, 101 from Kulgam, 30 from Anantnag and 76 from outside.
In the year 2009-10, 3,711 dog-bite cases were reported to ARC SMHS, followed by 4,515 in 2010-11; 4,154 in 2011-12; 4,489 in 2012-13; 6,041 in 2013-14; 4,917 in 2014-15; 7,324 in 2015-16; 6,548 in 2016-17; 6,802 in 2017-18; 6,399 in 2018-19; 6,984 in 2019-20; and 4,149 in 2020-21.
SMC officials say that Srinagar has more canines than any other place primarily due to energy rich waste which they get to eat here compared to any other city. According to one of the SMC reports, around 450 metric tons of garbage is generated every day in the city which includes exclusive non-vegetarian waste of around 200 metric tons produced from poultry outlets, households, hotels and restaurants which is consumed by stray dogs.
It is an established fact that the multiplication rate of dogs is quite high but their survival rate mainly depends on the availability of the food. If the food is available in abundance, the multiplication and survival rate will be higher, and if the availability of food waste is curtailed, it will have a bearing on the lifespan and proliferation rate of stray dogs.
Dog bite injuries in Kashmir have become quite frequent and dog population is increasing at an alarming rates. Large number of dog attacks have taken place in the last couple of years and children younger than 10 years represent the high-risk group for dog attacks. One has to be pro-active to control the meace. Few years ago, animal rights campaigners forced authorities to stop the poisoning program to kill stray dogs, therefore, prevention strategies should be a focus for strict dog population control.
The Supreme Court had suggested people who routinely feed stray dogs to be made responsible for their vaccination and also liable to bear the costs if those animals attack people. We need to have a holistic response to this grave problem that is endangering human lives. The easily available high energy rich waste has aggravated this problem.
Street dogs fall in the domain of the town’s municipality or corporation. So the municipal corporation (or the concerned local body) should be responsible for vaccinating and neutering stray dogs. The same corporation should also be made liable to provide anyone who is bitten with anti-rabies treatment free of cost. A strict legal action should also be taken against municipality or corporation head and a handsome compensation should be given to the victim in case of a dog bite.
On 29, April 2022, on Friday evening, a pack of stray dogs attacked 39 persons including 17 tourists and 22 locals in tourist hub Dalgate area of Srinagar. All received multiple injuries and were shifted to Srinagar’s SMHS hospital.
On 10 May 2022, a pack of stray dogs barged into the cow shed of Mubarak Ahmad Raina in Ganiwan area of central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district and killed 13 sheep and left another 14 critically injured.
A photograph showing a dog inside a meat shop in Pahalgam went viral on social media on 4 May 2022.At least nine persons were injured after stray dogs attacked them in Uri area of North Kashmir’s Uri area in May 2022. The injured people were shifted to Sub District Hospital (SDH) Uri for medical treatment.
In the early March 2021, Azhar Manzoor, 8, went out to play with his cousins when the neighbourhood dogs mauled him to death.
A senior lawyer Abdul Majeed Rather, 58, of Baramulla suffered multi-organ failure days after he was attacked by dogs in December 2020. He was rushed to SMHS hospital for medical treatment. Rather eventually landed in a coma and was on the ventilator and put on dialysis as well. He died on December 7, 2020.
In July 2019, two persons namely Mushtaq Ahmad (35) and Moueen Khan (23), both residents of Smote village of Surankote, were attacked by the street dogs and suffered injuries. Both the injured were taken to the Sub-district Hospital Surankote.
On 5th February 2018, a minor girl of 6 years, Hadiya Mushtaq, was mauled to death by a pack of stray dogs in Wadoora Payeen village near Sopore town. Her death had triggered massive protests by the locals in the area who chanted slogans and alleged that the government had failed to provide security to the people, especially children from the canines.