Assault most foul for kindness to animals

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Assault most foul for kindness to animals

Saturday, 18 May 2024 | Hiranmay Karlekar

Assault most foul for kindness to animals

The man who savagely assaulted a young girl who was feeding stray dogs in Delhi must receive exemplary punishment

According to a report in the Free Press Journal, a young girl, Manisha Solanki, who feeds 150 stray dogs daily, was abused, harassed, beaten with a stick and left bleeding and crying in pain in Raghubir Nagar in North Delhi on May 14, 2024. The man, who reportedly attacked her, works in a roadside shop. He is also said to have savagely attacked the dogs who were quietly and peacefully eating the food she had brought. At least one dog was severely injured as the stick had nails attached to it.

The police, who have lodged an FIR following a complaint by the girl’s father, need to follow up the matter vigorously and ensure that exemplary punishment is handed out to the culprit. The report that the stick had nails attached to suggest indicates that the intention was not just to hit but cause the maximum amount of pain. Also, the report that Manisha Solanki was doing no more than pleading with the man not to attack the dogs who were just peacefully eating, suggests that the person is utterly vicious by disposition. Such men are a threat to society and have to be regarded as such by the police.

This is not the first incidence of its kind. In July, 2021, a 28-year-old woman was assaulted in East of Kailash by a mother-daughter duo. For the same reason, a woman was savagely beaten in Delhi’s Sunlight Colony May, 2018. These are just two examples; others can be cited. Besides being assaulted, those who feed and care for stray dogs in India are also abused and harassed. It is often argued that this is because stray dogs bite and feeding ensures that their numbers grow. What is not realised is that there has been a steep fall in the number of dog bites in recent years. According to a report in The New Indian Express (datelined December 3, 2023), by Jitendra Choubey, over 75 lakh cases of dog bites were reported in India in 2018; the figures were over 72 lakh in 2019, 46 lakh in 2020. It was over 17 lakh in 2021 and 21.8 lakh in 2022. Another report by Nikhil Ghanekar in The Indian Express (datelined March 27, 2024) cites data tabled in Parliament by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare showing an increase to 27.8 lakh in 2023.

Despite being higher than the preceding two years, the figure of 27.8 lakhs marks a massive decline from that of of over 75 lakh recorded in 2018.

Besides, the accuracy of these figures has been a subject of scepticism. A report (datelined March 19, 2024) by Shainu Mohan in The New Indian Express cited N. Jayachandran, an animal rights activist and a former member of the Kerala State Animal Welfare Board, as describing the figures of dog bites as inaccurate and saying that there were no specific details and even scratches by cats were recorded as dog bites.

Doubts about the reliability of the existing figures of dog bite cases, is implied in the communication dated March 7, 2024, from the Union Government’s Directorate-General of Health Services (DGHS), to State Governments asking them to provide quality data on animal bites from all public health centres, community health centres, district hospitals and tertiary care facilities with inclusion of specific details regarding bites by pet and stray dogs. Of particular significance is the directive to avoid multiple entries of the same animal bite victims by maintaining separate records for new and follow-up patients in the animal bite exposure register.

The suggestion is clear: there have been duplications.

In many cases, pet and not stray, dogs have been responsible. Reliable figures for the whole of India do not exist. The ones that are available clearly underline this point. According to a report by Anuradha Kher in The Times of India of May 24, 2004, Sassoon Hospital at Pune had recorded as many as 3,185 dog bite cases until May that year. She quoted Namdeo Patil, the hospital’s medical officer, as saying that pet dogs were responsible for 70 per cent of the cases.

That the percentage of bites by stray dogs continues to be very high and one needs accurate statistics regarding their involvement, is clearly reflected in the DGHS’s communication directing that the cases of pet dogs biting people be separately recorded.

Unfortunately, people who assault, abuse and harass those who feed and care for stray dogs do not realise this. They are emotional cripples brimming with hatred. Notwithstanding their aggression, the number of people looking after stray dogs is increasing all over India. Twenty years ago, one rarely saw people feeding them or vaccinating them on the streets.

Today, one sees them in most neighbourhoods. This is hardly surprising given the nature of dogs. Konrad Lorenz (1903-1989) wrote in Man Meets Dog, “The whole charm of the dog lies in the depth of the friendship and the strength of the spiritual ties with which he has bound himself to man.” Lorenz, ethnologist and ornithologist and recipient of the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Nikolaas Tinbergen and Karl Von Frisch, should know.

(The author is Consulting Editor, The Pioneer. The views expressed are personal)

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