As I write this, my communications are abuzz with more cities resorting to an SOS human-dog conflict situation. Cases of possible dog bites, and resulting dog deaths or displacement, have arisen in Barielly, Amritsar, and Lucknow, all just in one week.
We all feel deeply aggrieved over the lost lives – humans and dogs. But I despair over the vigilantes who seem to take the ‘eye for an eye’ approach by ruthlessly culling every dog they can lay their eyes upon. And though like so many of us, the first animal I ever truly loved was a dog, I am also frustrated by the dog lovers who deny the existence of this conflict. There’s a path in the middle we must take, finding solutions to balance both variables in this equation – humans and dogs alike.
While effective ABC and ARV is needed for dogs, dog-bite prevention programmes are needed for people too. Working on a multi-pronged, holistic approach provides long and short-term solutions to address this rising conflict across India.
Human-dog conflict has been most magnified in Kerala – and so we launched our state-wide campaign Rabies Free Kerala in 2016 to engage with the government, communities, NGOs and the media. The thrust of the effort is to simultaneously work on enabling effective ABC with the local government, engaging communities to prevent dog-bites, and engaging with the media to present dogs’ side of the story.
With the enormous efforts of our partners, the movement has already secured the support of the Minister of Urban Development and nearly 10 local bodies (municipalities and panchayats). The media has started to regularly present a more balanced view, and lakhs [hundreds of thousands]of people have been educated, busting dog-bite myths.
Of course despite all our efforts, dog killings sometimes still happen. Amidst such anti-dog hysteria, it’s particularly important to remember the wonderfulness of dogs, and how they rely on us to resolve conflicts with love, not death. From the Ghats of Varanasi, to the galis of Jaipur, we have found that peaceful, friendly ways to end conflict work best, dealing with people not confrontationally, but always collaboratively.
By collaborating we can—and I believe we will—see a day when dog protectors far outnumber those stray people who have missed the obvious: that dogs are, indeed, humanity’s best friends.
Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations(FIAPO)