09 May 2007

The strays of Bangalore

Stray dogs are a familiar sight in Bangalore. They hang around street corners watching the world go by. On hot, lazy afternoons they sleep curled up on quiet residential streets catching up on zzz’s during the day because at night they’re busy fiercely defending their territory from other dogs who are new on the block. They also loiter in market areas and around meat shops waiting for a yummy morsel to fall on the ground so they can gobble it up. I’ve often seen dogs happily trotting off with a pair of chicken feet in their jaws – donated by one of the workers at the chicken shop. They also linger at roadside food stalls where they beseech you with their eyes, begging you to please give them some of your lunch.

These mutts are also extremely streetwise: they negotiate crossing the road through several lanes of traffic with ease. One day while waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green on Infantry Road, I noticed a dog sitting beside me, also patiently waiting for the light to change. As soon as the signal turned green, he (she?) tottered happily across the road ahead of me! Another time on Airport Road I was nervously watching a dog weaving through several lanes of traffic and held my breath when it looked like it was going to be run over by a bus… but this clever canine just crouched down and let the bus pass over him (her?)!

These street-savvy strays have been in the news a lot lately. In January an eight-year-old girl was mauled to death by a pack of hungry dogs on the outskirts of the city. There was a public outcry and demands to curb the ‘stray dog menace’. Furious by the death of this young child, there were demands that all street dogs be culled while animal rights groups and other animal lovers called for more humane solutions.

NGOs have been catching street dogs, treating them for any illnesses, and then vaccinating and sterilising them before setting them free in the same area they were picked up in. A clipped left ear is a sign that the dog has been treated. I’ve been paying more attention to the dogs I see in my neighbourhood and have noticed that a lot of them have clipped left ears, but not all.

The stray dog issue escalated when another child was killed by strays in March – this time a five-year-old boy in BEML layout. There have been very disturbing reports that the city authorities have been indiscriminately capturing thousands of street dogs and systematically killing them by electrocution, beating and other cruel and inhumane means I don’t even want to mention. Letters appeared in the paper written by people complaining that their dogs have gone missing. Around this time I also observed that the strays in my neighbourhood were sporting new collars. A friend even saw some dogs on Old Madras Road with ‘I love you’ painted on them! Many strays are ‘long-term residents’ of a particular street and are fed leftovers and cared for by the street’s residents.

A more radical protest is the one taken by a holy man. I read in The Hindu newspaper that Basava Murthy Madara Chennaiah Swami of Shiva Sharana Madara Chennaiah Gurupeetha in Chitradurga began a ‘fast unto death’ on March 28 in protest to the mass killing of stray dogs.

Meet the strays of Bangalore:

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