Morning walks on halt as dogs take to streets

By Sanu George, IANS,

Thiruvananthapuram: “If it wasn’t for dogs, some people would never go for a walk,” goes an anonymous quote. But ask the early risers of Kerala’s capital and they’ll tell you how the presence of some 25,000 dogs on the streets is denying them their staple morning walk.

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“We have been regularly going for morning walks but after the experience of being chased by a dog last month, we started carrying a stick to chase away dogs. But after that too became difficult, we now drive to the local stadium and then walk in the stadium for 20 minutes,” Renjini Nair, a housewife, told IANS.

The street dog menace has become the hottest piece of discussion in the city and according to Thiruvananthapuram Corporation officials, the stray dog population has crossed the 25,000-mark.

K. Sudheesh Kumar, who owns a plush seaside resort overlooking the sun-kissed Kovalam beach, says the issue got into limelight after two foreign tourists were bitten by these dogs.

“The sad truth is that it is these very foreign tourists who are the biggest saviours of stray dogs. At times, I see more stray dogs than tourists hanging around the beach!” Kumar said.

“Most countries do not have stray dogs and hence the tourists feed them and pet them. Once they leave, these dogs which get used to good meals turn their ire towards the locals,” he added.

Thiruvananthapuram Corporation secretary K. Biju says the seriousness of the issue was highlighted before the house committee of the Kerala legislative assembly.

According to a Supreme Court ruling, stray dogs cannot be culled. “The house committee is considering an appeal against the apex court ruling. Our dog squads catch these stray dogs, vaccinate and sterilise them, and have them dropped at the same place”, Biju said.

But a not-too-pleased retired engineer, George Thomas, who had to stop his precious morning stroll because of the dog menace, says it appears that a dog’s life is more precious than that of a human being.

“It is strange that these issues are not being looked into by those who matter. I am told that even a lick by a stray dog leaves you poorer by some Rs.3,000 as no one wants to take a risk and prefer taking precautionary injections,” Thomas said.

A doctor at the General Hospital in the heart of the capital says he gets around 70 dog bite cases a day.

“It is only the below poverty line patients who get the injection free of cost; others have to buy it,” said the doctor.

Meanwhile, there are reports that stray dogs are being transported from neighbouring Tamil Nadu areas to the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border in the middle of the night when all except dogs are in deep slumber.

(Sanu George can be contacted at [email protected])