Resolve the stray dog problem in our cities
Only a judicious mix of short-term emergency measures and long-term shifts in civic behaviour can help reduce the number of stray dogs and their dangers in urban spaces
The tragic death of a four-year-old boy after being mauled by a pack of stray dogs in Hyderabad spotlights a long neglected problem with deep roots in rapidly expanding urban populations generating mountains of municipal and food waste and inadequate efforts by civic authorities to contain the problem. Unfortunately, such fatal dog attacks have been reported across the country, including in Ghaziabad and Noida, leading to familiar cycles of outcry and inaction, usually inaccurately depicted as a fight between dog lovers and dog haters.
There are mainly two reasons that push up the stray dog population — access to food and abandonment by pet owners. In the absence of a robust disposal system, most urban waste is discarded in open spaces, attracting dogs. In some cases, owners abandon pets — who breed and multiply.
A two-pronged approach can help. Civic agencies need to implement what is known as animal birth control rules, in which authorities trap and sterilise dogs, ensuring their population dwindles over time. Commitment to this approach needs to move beyond paper approvals, and involve community stakeholders, who can broker a solution between dog lovers and residents wary about the presence of dogs. Shelters can be a temporary solution, but for any long-term relief, civic bodies and residents will also have to resolve the problem of unscientific and unchecked garbage disposal. Only a judicious mix of short-term emergency measures and long-term shifts in civic behaviour can help reduce the number of stray dogs and their dangers in urban spaces.