The plight of stray dogs in India
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In Delhi, the streets are littered with stray dogs. They are at every roadside, ribs protruding from matted skin that is peppered with scars from old beatings and flea bites. Some simply lie on the road in the sun and the dirt, too weak to move. Walking in a poor part of the city, you may pass a dog that is apparently sleeping on the pavement – at second glance you will notice that its legs are positioned oddly; realisation will be quick and sickening. In September, a group of Lancaster University students and recent graduates, including myself, travelled to India and saw these things for ourselves. A lot of our party were distressed, as is understandable. The plight of these animals is a horrible thing to witness. In a country like India, which has numerous problems to tackle including endemic infanticide and the thousands living in slum communities, it is easy to see how problems that do not directly affect the human population can be brushed over. The issue of animal cruelty, against this torrid backdrop, is hardly likely to be high on the government’s list of priorities. However, the stray dog situation in India is a dire one, and one that does need to be addressed. The majority of the dogs we saw in and around Delhi (and believe me, there were a lot) were carbon copies of those described above. All are starving; the Indian sun has rendered them dehydrated. Most drink contaminated water. In the slums, they drink sewage. This is what we saw. Our host, an environmentalist and university professor, said that this is the case for the majority of strays. Domestic pets are cared for, she told us, but there is little provision made for those animals that wander indeterminably and belong to no one. Government policy is to sterilise the dogs, before returning them to the streets and hoping that they eventually die out. Is it working? I don’t have statistics (there probably are no statistics), but it doesn’t appear so from the number of strays we encountered. Possibly this is because the official approach entirely contradicts itself. The Constitution states that every Indian has a duty to feed the strays, and that it is a criminal offence to stop this task from being carried out. Come on India, you can’t have it both ways. If it’s in your Constitution, clearly you want them looked after. If this is the case then surely you should shoulder some of the responsibility?
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