Saturday, December 4, 2010

Street Dogs – Natural guards or a menace?

During the last few years, one news item of interest which keeps recurring off and on is that of some child being mauled by vicious street dogs. While at best the child involved has got of with some serious bites, there have been a couple of cases which have resulted in fatalities too.

Which raises the question……should the streets be rid of this menace so that common citizens can go about their business without becoming the target of marauding gangs of dogs? Not long ago, I must confess I was also one of those who vociferously advocated a campaign for rounding up these dogs and euthanizing them. This was because, in my opinion, merely rounding them up and sterilizing them didn’t serve the purpose. It was okay as a population control measure but it did nothing to curb their potential viciousness, or so I thought.

I now have a pet dog myself and, whether we like it or not, we are forced to take it out on the streets twice a day for its morning constitutional and exercise. As a result, over the months, I have had a chance to come into close contact with most of the neighbourhood strays and observe their territorial behaviour patterns. And guess what? Surprise, surprise…..While, initially, bands of dogs used to come rushing at us and bark vociferously, we have yet to face any serious attack from them. The only dangerous threat was from a pet (!), a full grown German Shepherd, which found its premises gate open and decided to have a go at us! In fact the strays are now so friendly with us that they act like pilot security vehicles and actually escort us through their territory!

Which brings me to the point I want to make. Dogs ARE very territorial (stray dogs even more so) and will protect their area tooth and nail against intrusion by other dogs. It is the only way they can protect their scarce food sources and survive. But this territorial attitude is directed more at other dogs than at humans. Yes, if they sense fear or uncertainty in a human it may trigger of an attack, due to their inbuilt conditioned reflex to chase prey. After all, they ARE descendents of wolves and that genetic coding still survives despite centuries of selective breeding! But, such cases are very rare. If you actually analyse it, there are reportedly more than 1,40,000 pet dogs in Bangalore alone. So, there must be  many more lacs of  stray dogs roaming around the city. As against this, how many cases of mauling have we heard of in the last ten years? Compared to the dog population, the number is almost negligible. Anti stray dog campaigns are a typical knee jerk reaction to an almost non-existent problem. It’s a bit like calling for a ban on doctors because suddenly a few are reported to have been arrested for malpractice, conveniently forgetting that the vast majority render yeoman service to humanity.

Neutering dogs IS the solution. It serves to control the population and also tempers their aggression. The local dogs know every human and animal in their locality and accept them as one of their own. In fact, the local dogs actually serve as natural guards and zealously protect the locality against intrusion by other strange dogs who COULD prove a real menace to the residents.

A case in point…..we had this grey coloured, female stray in our street, who used to chase all the strange cars motoring through, while barking furiously all  the time. I later came to know that it was because she had littered some time back and the pups were taken away by people in such cars! So much for dogs being irrational! Many of the locals had adopted her and also fed her, along with her male counterpart (I have named him Pappu 1. Pappu’s 2 and 3 are on Hayes road!), who takes care of the other end of the street. A local kid also got her spayed at her own cost. She used to act very protective with Misty, my golden Labrador, who was a pup at the time. Perhaps Misty reminded her of her own lost pups.

While these two were in action, I cannot remember even a single strange dog being allowed to enter the street, except the two who escort the garbage truck daily, but they used to just pass through! Now, for the past few months, sadly, I have not seen this grey dog around her usual station, near the Citibank ATM on Convent Road. Perhaps it just died, or someone has taken here away as a pet. The result was immediately evident.  I have spotted as many as five strays on the street in the last month alone, since one end is now open to ingress! At least two of them have snarled and made aggressive moves at us when we walk past. What used to be a relaxed walk has now become an alert prowl for me!

Moral of the to civic problems may look simple, but they rarely are. We need to consider all the angles. So, are stray dogs natural guards, or a menace? You take the call!
Moral of the to civic problems may look simple, but they rarely are. We need to consider all the angles. So, are stray dogs natural guards, or a menace? You take the call!

1 comment:

  1. Latest sad update to the story....the grey dog mentioned as one of the sentinels of Convent Road died a month ago. Her habit of chasing vehicles proved her nemesis and she had an accident. One of the local watchmen gave me the news. Farzana, the child who got her spayed will be heartbroken, I'm sure.