INDIAN KASHMIR AUTHORITIES CANCEL PLANS TO POISON MORE THAN 100,000 STRAY DOGS
The Press, March 7, 2008
Spinagar - Faced with protests from animal rights groups, authorities in the main city of Indian Kashmir have canceled plans to poison its nearly 100,000 stray dogs as part of an anti-rabies program, an official said Friday.
Local officials would instead work with animal welfare groups and a team from the federal Environment Ministry to chart out a plan to sterilize the strays, said Syed Haq Nawaz, commissioner of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation.
"We're not going ahead with this poisoning. Not at all," Nawaz said.
India has the world's highest rabies fatality rate and has struggled with ways to control the millions of stray dogs that live on its streets, a problem exacerbated by its rapidly growing cities and slums.
A senior health officer in Srinagar had said that the city planned to poison its nearly 100,000 stray dog s with strychnine.
"These dogs have become a big nuisance and they are threatening humans," Dr. Riyaz Ahmad, the Srinagar city health officer, said Thursday. About 500 dogs have already been killed.
Nawaz gave no reason for the change in plans but angry animal activists had vowed to go to court to try to stop the slaughter, calling it illegal and inhumane.
Animal rights activists welcomed Friday's announcement.
"It's a welcome step that they have given up the idea of poisoning dogs. They should create awareness that not every dog is rabid," said Javaid Iqbal Shah, the deputy head of the Srinagar Society to Prevent Cruelty to Animals.
"The poisoning drive was not only cruel, but it was also against the law," Shah added, citing an act banning abuse of animals.
India accounts for more than 60 percent of the estimated 35 ,000 annual global rabies deaths, according to the World Health Organization, and stray dogs are often blamed.
In some areas, dogs form feral packs that have attacked people. However, other strays are "community pets," semi-tame animals who are cared for and fed by local residents.
Other Indian cities have also struggled to curb the stray problem.
India's high-tech hub of Bangalore called off a drive to slaughter strays last year following allegations that untrained workers were stoning, strangling and beating the dogs to death.
In New Delhi, one city councilor suggested shipping the country's strays to Korea, where dog meat is considered a delicacy.