According to section 11 (1) (a) to (o) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, it is illegal to kill homeless animals like dogs or treat them with cruelty.
Have you heard of #BoycottDelhi (because it’s the “rape capital”) or #BoycottMaharashtra (because it’s the “graveyard of farmers”) or #BoycottHaryana (because it’s the “hotbed of honour killings”)? Er… no. #BoycottKerala? Oh yes! That’s the new buzzword (rather, the hashtag) on social media. It was coined by god-knows-who to protest the alleged culling of stray dogs in God’s own country on the orders of the state government.
The Oommen Chandy government had proposed the “rapid and dangerous strays” to be killed, along with the sterilisation of stray dogs at special camps and opening of 50 new centres to handle animal birth control measures. With over two lakh stray dogs in the state and around one and a half lakh bites reported every year, the decision seemed logical and also, inevitable. But the Animal Welfare Board of India and other animal rights activists did not think so and they came up with a plan (was it them, really?) to hit Kerala where it will hurt the most—tourism.
The war bugle was sounded and all the animal lovers were urged to strike off Kerala from their bucket list of holiday getaways. It was followed by calls to boycott Kerala products, but off late it has started to attain a racial colour, with south Indians being targeted irrespective of the state they belong to. A group called Citizens of Kerala claimed that they tried to reason with the key people behind the Boycott Kerala campaign, which they said is based completely on misinformation, but in vain. Though the state has seen a rise in the number of dog bites, a fact missed (deliberately?) by many is the percentage of bites by pet dogs. For instance, around 75 per cent of the little over 1,000 dog bites reported at the Ernakulam General Hospital this year, are by pet dogs.
But that is not to say that stray dog menace is a myth in the state. Children have been particularly vulnerable to dog bites, and so are those who commute on two-wheelers, especially at night. From ‘requests’ to adopt stray dogs to being challenged to walk on the roads infested with stray dogs instead of zipping through them in the comforts of their cars, and being urged to abstain from eating meat and be an ‘animal lover’, the ‘dog lovers’, who include quite a few celebrities, are facing a backlash from those in favour of the government proposal. “Why only Kerala”, is the question raised by many, while referring to similar action in other states and consumption of dog meat in the northeast. Last heard, in Jamia Nagar area in Delhi, a fatal attack by stray dogs on a seven-year-old boy sparked protests by the locals. And it is a problem, reportedly, faced by the residents of many other areas in the national capital.
But, is culling an effective and the only solution? According to section 11 (1) (a) to (o) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, it is illegal to kill homeless animals like dogs or treat them with cruelty. Many cities like Jaipur, Bengaluru and Chennai have been able to effectively curb the problems caused by stray dogs by running successful neutering and vaccination programmes. In Jaipur, within eight years—1994 to 2002—NGO Help In Suffering-India managed to attain zero incidence of rabies in various parts of the city through animal birth control.
Amid the all-out war between the two groups on social media, Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, Shashi Tharoor, tweeted, “Keralites may not have handled stray dogs well, but that's no reason to hate the State.” He also shared a petition asking to stop the hate campaign. But is anybody listening?