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Kerala goes barking mad

Friday, 30 September 2016 | VR Jayaraj | Kochi

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Generating a feeling that dogs perhaps have no place in Kerala, anti-stray-dog campaigners are going on a canine-killing spree by cashing in on the fear prevailing among the people in the wake of the death of a 65-year-old woman in a dog attack in Thiruvananthapuram last month. In yet another incident of cruelty to dogs in the State, about 40 canines were brutally killed in Kalady in Ernakulam district. This was the fourth major incident of mass culling of dogs in Kerala in less than a month. Illegal culling of dogs had started in the State after the Thiruvananthapuram incident on August 20. The Kalady incident took place just 48 hours after activists of the Kerala Youth Front, the youth wing of Kerala Congress (M), killed ten stray dogs in Kottayam.

The canine-culling was executed in Kalady on Thursday as per a unanimous decision taken by the local Grama Panchayat council on September 23 after it reportedly received several complaints regarding stray dog menace. The culling was carried out by six dog-catchers from the Stray Dog Elimination Group, an outfit providing assistance in matters related to dog menace, as per the instructions of the council.

Panchayat members acted as guides for the dog-catchers in executing the job by taking them to places where stray dogs were present in large numbers.  Several of the nearly 40 dogs killed in the panchayat area were just puppies, panchayat members admitted.

The Kalady police have registered a case against all the 17 ward members of the panchayat including its president K Thulasi and vice-president Biju Manikkamangalam under Sections 428 and 429 of the IPC and Section 17 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

Though Stray Dog Elimination Group’s chairman Jose Maveli reportedly stayed away from the exercise, two women members from it were present. Eyewitnesses said that the dogs, which were caught with traps, were killed using unimaginably cruel methods like bashing the head against the ground, gyrating in the air using ropes tied around the neck, hitting the heads with wooden blocks and pulling on the neck.

“I could not stand the sight though I am no animal-lover. It was that brutal,” said Joseph, a local shopkeeper.

Apart from animal rights organizations, local people also raised protests against the inhuman way in which the culling was executed. “Stray dogs have indeed been a problem in some areas of the panchayat but there was no situation that could justify such killing. Even if some dogs had to be killed, there were more acceptable ways. This is not culling. This is brutal massacre,” said a former member of the panchayat.

The mass dog-culling campaign by local administration bodies assisted by anti-stray-dog groups had started in Kerala following Local Administration Minister KT Jaleel’s statement in the wake of the Thiruvananthapuram incident that ferocious and aggressive dogs would be “dealt with” despite the fact that the LDF Government’s affidavit in the Supreme Court did not say anything about killing of the canines.

The first incident of illegal culling was reported from Njarakkal Grama Panchayat near Kochi on September 6 where seven dogs were killed under the leadership of a woman panchayat member, Mini Raju. On September 16, a municipal councilor gave leadership to the exercise of killing ten dogs in Piravom Municipality in Kottayam district.

As many as 24 stray dogs were killed by the authorities of Chengamanad Grama Panchayat in Ernakulam district on September 19. The exercise was carried out as per a decision taken unanimously by the 18 members of the local body who wanted to make it the first stray-dog-free Panchayat in the country. The panchayat had entered into a pact with the Stray Dog Elimination Group for this.