A Stray dog’s life is nasty, brutish and short.
To counter the growing incidence of dog bites and thus quell public outrage, the Sindh government directed the municipal authorities to revive a campaign to cull stray dogs in September 2019. The order followed the death of child in Larkana who had contracted rabies from an infected dog. The heartbreaking video of the mother holding her child as he gasped for breath was widely shared and caused mass outrage. Earlier this month, a young boy passed away three weeks after being mauled by six dogs in Larkana. Six children were attacked by a pack of dogs on their way to school in Sukkur in December.
At a recent hearing, the Sukkur High Court was informed that a total of 34,700 dogs have been killed across the province. Such extreme measures may receive the support of large sections of the public, particularly pedestrians who cannot afford the luxury of a car, but they are not a solution. Rather, they are indicative of reactionary, short-term thinking that ends up creating a bigger problem. Authorities have been carrying out dog culling drives for many years — whether by shooting or poisoning the animals — and yet their population only keeps increasing, as do the number of attacks on humans.
There are alternatives that are not only humane, but far more effective. Firstly, stray dogs are loyal to the places that sustain them, and so are mostly found living near garbage dumps. Sindh has had a problem with garbage collection, and the stray dog population can be combated through sustained cleanliness drives in residential areas.
Secondly, while it may be more expensive and time-consuming, the success of the Trap-Neuter-Return programs cannot be understated. In October, the Indus Hospital launched the Rabies Free Program which administers vaccines and oversees sterilisation of stray dogs. While still limited in its scope, such programs are performing an essential service and must receive all the support they can get.