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  • Deadly strays? Or docile ‘community dogs’?

Strays outside a small hospital in west Delhi. An apprehensive patient looks on from within the gates

Deadly strays? Or docile ‘community dogs’?

Civil Society News, New Delhi

Published: Oct. 28, 2023
Updated: Nov. 29, 2023

A resident of Ganga Apartments in the south Delhi colony of Vasant Kunj was on her way down the stairs of her building, when a pack of stray dogs on the loose rushed at her. She lost her balance, fractured her leg and ended up at the AIIMS Trauma Centre where surgery was recommended. At the age of 56, this was the last thing she needed to happen to her.

A lawyer appeared in the Supreme Court with his arm in a bandage. The Chief Justice asked him what happened. He said he had been attacked by some dogs and severely bitten. The Chief Justice graciously asked if he could get the lawyer some medical assistance. This in a courtroom short of time for judicial matters.

At Lotus Boulevard, a gated community in Noida in the National Capital Region, a seven-month-old infant of a labourer was mauled to death by a pack of sterilized and vaccinated dogs which were being regularly fed by some residents of the housing colony. No one was held accountable. On the contrary, when the majority of residents had the dogs removed, animal activists brought them right back with the help of the police.

So, what is going on? Why are dogs making unprovoked attacks on people in different settings with such regularity? A lawyer showing up in court with his arm bandaged. An infant mauled to death in a condominium. A middle-aged woman off for a morning walk. And these are just a few incidents. The list is really too long to be recounted here and comes from all over the country — big cities and small towns alike.

The Animal Birth Control Rules or the ABC Rules as they have come to be known were recently amended to define strays as ‘community dogs’. But what are ‘community dogs’ and why are they making unprovoked attacks on members of the community itself?

Under the ABC Rules, stray dogs have to be fed by resident welfare associations (RWAs) and located at the same spot even if they bite and kill. They are to be vaccinated and sterilized, for which they need to be taken away, but they have to be brought back.

With such conditions, residents are up in arms. They don’t see aggressive strays, rapidly increasing in number, as ‘community dogs’.

As the woman in Vasant Kunj, awaiting surgery on her broken leg, plaintively told reporters: “I do not hate dogs. They deserve care. But not at the cost of human lives. The children cannot play freely in parks inside the compound due to dogs. Residents also fear getting out at night.”

“Dog lovers do not understand the pain we (victims of dog attacks) go through,” she went on to add.

Nor have the courts been in any great hurry to find a workable solution. In fact, they don’t seem to have been moved by the many deaths of children.

The original case was filed more than 20 years ago from Goa, questioning the ABC Rules. A paediatrician in Vasco received a patient, a young girl, whose nose had been bitten off by a stray dog.

There were other children who used to come to the paediatrician with dog bites. He and some public-spirited individuals finally filed a case seeking a serious solution to the problem of strays. The case lingers in the courts after two decades.

Animal rights activists, funded as they are, being NGOs, have the resources to give them a disproportionate say on the issue in comparison to ordinary folks.

It appears this is how the term ‘community dog’ seems to have recently come up and been adopted as the definition of a stray. Our picture above shows stray dogs at the gates of a nursing home in west Delhi. A patient inside is fearful of coming out. The dogs hardly look like they have community ownership of any kind.

As neighbourhoods get overrun by packs of dogs there is growing anger among residents. When Vijay Goel, a senior BJP leader, called a meeting on the stray dogs problem in Delhi it was widely attended not just by people in Delhi, but by those who came from Mumbai and Pune as well.

“There was a time when there would be a stray dog or two in a lane and local people would look after them. That is not the situation now. In many instances it is getting difficult to go on morning walks and move about freely because of packs of aggressive dogs. It is wrong to put on to RWAs the responsibility of looking after these feral dogs,” says Goel.

Even as cases have gone ding-dong between the high courts and the Supreme Court and back, there has been little clarity and certainly no relief for victims of dog attacks. Children of poor families who have been mauled and killed have been completely forgotten in sharp contrast to the sympathy that a lawyer with his arm bandaged evoked in the Supreme Court.

 Some of the episodes have been outright bizarre. For instance, in February this year a seven-year-old was mauled by sterilized dogs in a housing society in Pune. The municipality caught and removed 50 stray dogs from the premises.

“An activist, who does not live in the society, filed a case in the Bombay High Court to bring back all the stray dogs into the premises. The court ordered the release of the dogs inside the society citing the ABC rules of 2023,” says Meghna Uniyal, who promotes an animal welfare philosophy, points out that matters have gone too far.

“At 2 am, without any intimation to the residents, a bus full of policemen accompanied a municipal van and dumped 20 stray dogs inside the premises. The dogs did not have any identification, collars or documents to show their vaccination status,” she says.

Uniyal has been arguing for dogs to be taken off the streets and dealt with in pounds as they are in the rest of the world.

She says the definition ‘community dog’ has no basis because the ABC Rules can’t be at variance with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

The act in fact disallows animals being put on the street. If the dogs indeed belong to the community, they have to first be taken off the street. The community has also to be accountable for attacks and injuries.

Decades of confusion and dithering by the courts and governments have resulted in an exponential growth of dogs on the streets. The numbers run into millions. The chances now are remote that strays can be fed in designated places and sterilized for their numbers to be reduced. Adoption of millions of dogs is also impossible.

In the meantime, dogs on the street, whether vaccinated and sterilized or not, are a growing danger to innocent citizens and a reason for decline in the quality of life in Indian cities.


  • Deepti Pillai

    Deepti Pillai - Nov. 25, 2023, 12:07 p.m.

    100% agree with the article. Both humans and dogs need a good life. One cannot call them "community" dogs one fine morning and enjoy throwing waste food at them in front of cameras. Stray dogs should be taken off the streets and given proper shelter/food. The real animal welfare activists adopt stray dogs whenever they can, and understand the importance of these animals getting a safe life. The pseudo or the fake animal activists, have only one agenda - to be in the limelight and ensure that human-dog conflict continues so that their fake NGOs benefit, residents are implicated in false cases, and stray dogs remain stray and hungry all the time, risking their lives on the streets and under vehicles.

  • Abc

    Abc - Nov. 23, 2023, 1:58 p.m.

    Stray dog lobby has established businesses model to earn monetary benefits at the cost of Human well being. Nowhere in the world existence of unhygienic , nusience creating stray dogs is imposed on people (who do not want stray dogs in their vicinity ). This is pure business in the name of Animal love. Thanks for putting this article!

  • A Kumar

    A Kumar - Nov. 22, 2023, 5:45 p.m.

    The arrogance and adamancy by purported animal welfare activists are actually damaging the cause of stray dogs. The bullying by the feeders who have vulgar support of these NGOs who are hell bent not to consider the issue of safety of residents and children has already caused a lot of damage of life and unpleasant accidents. Inaction by Government machinery and the not taking up the menace earnestly by courts is turning many dog lovers, (due to some people who disregard Article 21 of Constitution at the cost of their hobby) against stray dogs and their feeders. Alas all this inaction is to affect election results, as politicians have to bear the brunt. As the people are fully aware that there is one MP for the cause of stray dogs however irrational that may be, but there is no MP capable of talk on the issue of human life, safety and hygiene which is being affected adversely and keep on rising due to stray dogs.

  • Abc

    Abc - Nov. 22, 2023, 4:17 p.m.

    Stray dog lobby has established businesses model to earn monetary benefits at the cost of Human well being. Nowhere in the world existence of unhygienic , nusience creating stray dogs is imposed on people (who do not want stray dogs in their vicinity ). This is pure business in the name of Animal love. Thanks for putting this article!

  • Nagen

    Nagen - Nov. 22, 2023, 3:58 p.m.

    Very Apt and so well articulated... this is a problem being faced across the country with zero ownership of the problem. Neither the Municipal authorities doing their job right nor the dog feeders showing a sense of responsibility o the "semi" owned stray dogs as per their convenience. Interestingly they have also been an obstruction to the Municipal authorities even if they wish to work within the laws..It is high time that we stick to the parent PCA acts and other acts of Municipality and Police than get bullied by the life threatening ABC rules..btw amidst all this it's the poor animal is suffering and no one is concerned about it and only satisfying their egos or the corrupt business model..

  • Vineeta S

    Vineeta S - Nov. 22, 2023, 3:21 p.m.

    Spreading false information- Animals can sense fear!! Dogs don’t bite unless provoked !! Hungry dog will bite ! Sterilisation reduces dog bites !! ALL THIS IS MIS-INFORMATION SPREAD BY THE STRAY DOG MAFIA. Animals , particularly dogs are meant to be owned or if not owned, then should be in a shelter and not free-roaming on the streets because keeping them homeless, ownerless on the streets and feeding them there causes congregation of the stray dogs, resulting in the stray dogs displaying their aggressive territorial pack nature as per which they chase , attack and bite.

  • Meghna Uniyal

    Meghna Uniyal - Nov. 22, 2023, 3:03 p.m.

    Dogs are domestic, companion animals that need to be owned. Canis lupus means dog of the household, not streets. The only way to co-exist with dogs and improve their lives is to ensure that they are owned or taken care of in shelters. Being homeless on the streets, regardless of being sterilized or not, having jackets or not, is the definition of cruelty. Stray dog control is also the statutory duty of the State, NGOs and activists, however well meaning, cannot be involved in animal and disease control. Their intervention must remain limited to running shelters and adoptions. Unfortunately, we have allowed harmful policies like ABC to be implemented for 20 years and this has created severe between people and dogs. Dogs do not belong on the streets.

  • Jyoti Rawat

    Jyoti Rawat - Nov. 20, 2023, 11:15 a.m.

    I understand your concern for the welfare of both humans and animals, particularly in the context of stray dogs facing difficulties. It can be disheartening to witness the challenges faced by these animals and the apparent shortcomings in the implementation of government schemes aimed at their well-being. Addressing the issue of stray animal overpopulation is crucial for their welfare and the safety of the community. Implementing effective birth control measures, such as spaying and neutering programs, can help control the population of stray animals. Collaborative efforts between government bodies, non-profit organizations, and local communities are often necessary to achieve meaningful results. If you're passionate about this issue, you might consider getting involved in local animal welfare organizations, advocacy groups, or community initiatives that focus on improving the lives of stray animals. Raising awareness about responsible pet ownership, supporting sterilization programs, and collaborating with local authorities can contribute to positive change. It's essential to engage with your community and government officials to highlight the importance of addressing the root causes of animal suffering and advocating for more effective and transparent implementation of animal welfare programs. Together, collective efforts can make a difference in the lives of both humans and animals.

  • Anna

    Anna - Nov. 19, 2023, 9:59 a.m.

    You know WHAT is deadly? Writing, publishing and sharing/forwarding articles that instigate more fear in society. Fearful people are unreliable and easily turn violent because they wish to destroy what they are afraid of. Animals can smell fear pheromones/hormones. They naturally do not trust fearful humans a bit - and rightfully so. This becomes a negative action-reaction spiral and hence a self-fulfilling prophecy. Media has power and should use it wisely. To solve human-animal conflict, media should promote effective ways to coexist. Disseminate good practice examples, tools and resources. Encourage people to be compassionate as per Indian constitution. Bridge the gap between polarised groups in society instead of widening the rift. Capacitate communities to take responsibility to control and manage the population of their fellow non-human residents in a humane manner through positive action instead of negative arguments. For example: following a humane and holistic community adoption model, the free living dog population in our colony was reduced from 26 in 2018 to 13 in 2023. The RWA had formalised a dog management committee. All community dogs were mapped and put on record, fed, sterilised, vaccinated, medically taken care of, collared, and provided with winter jackets or a place to sleep/shelter. Individual cases of undesired dog behaviour were analysed methodically with the involvement of a dog behaviour expert to identify and address the root causes through interventions aiming at desired behaviour changes in the dogs. Awareness on how to harmoniously coexist was raised through webinars / info sessions with residents and guards, kids activities, photo- & poster competitions, quiz, posters, flyers, canine carnival fair etc. The model is now being adopted in other colonies in a formal or informal manner because it is showing results. More RWAs are showing interest to replicate the approach. Unfortunately, such effective solutions and positive news do not seem to be worth any media attention. People prefer to write, publish and share negativity so that they have something to fear, crib and complain about. A voter-bank is being created for politicians… and the problem persists. THAT is what I call dangerous if not deadly! #coexistenceispossible

  • B.S.Vasudev

    B.S.Vasudev - Nov. 19, 2023, 1:47 a.m.

    Totally agree with the article

  • Damien

    Damien - Nov. 18, 2023, 1:04 p.m.

    No one is against dogs, but the stray problem has gotten outnof hands. As it is, cities are filthy, don't make it it worse. Straya are dangerous, will activists pick up the tab for injections when people get bitten?? You cant build fancy international standard cities with garbage and strays lying around.

  • Dr Prashant Singh

    Dr Prashant Singh - Nov. 6, 2023, 7:17 p.m.

    Excellent article . Stray dogs are a threat not only to humans but wildlife as well .