Stray Dog Bite Menace rises: 79% Indians surveyed say stray dog attacks have become common in their area and district, a jump from 61% who claimed so in 2022
- ● 79% respondents say their local or municipal body is ineffective in tackling stray dogs/registering pet dogs
- ● 71% want Government to make Stray Animal Management effectiveness a criteria for Swachh Bharat rankings and provide funding for it
April 25, 2023, New Delhi: Children being mauled to death, people in different parts of the country being attacked by groups of stray dogs are making news literally every day for the last several months. In Delhi alone, in the last six months over 45,000 dog bite cases, mostly by stray dogs, have been reported. While animal welfare organizations have questioned the veracity of some of the incidents, citizens have been complaining on social media about the growing menace. Has the sterilization and vaccination program of the municipal bodies stopped, people have been wondering given the rise in reports of dog bites.
In a curious move, Ministry of Animal Husbandry in consultation with the Animal Welfare Board of India has reached out to the states to get local self-governments (LSGs) and Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) to help in implementing the new set of Animal Birth Control Rules, notified on March 10, 2023, thereby trying to shift the onus of maintaining and controlling the population of stray dogs on them.
According to The State of Pet Homelessness Index data for India: There are around 6.2 crore stray dogs and 91 lakh street cats in India. A pan-India survey by LocalCircles in October 2022 had revealed that over 60% of citizens are worried about attacks by stray and/or pet dogs in their area. As per the Centre's livestock census, the stray dog population in India has dipped from 1.7 crore in 2012 to about 1.6 crore in 2021, when around 17.01 lakh dog bites cases were reported. The four states with the highest incidents of stray dog bites are Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Gujarat, according to data tabled by the Centre in Parliament during the monsoon session last year. The highest number of stray dogs are in Uttar Pradesh, followed by Odisha, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
In October 2022, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court in a verdict prohibited the feeding of stray dogs. It directed the civic authorities and police to deal sternly with anyone obstructing action against the menace of such dogs, and in appropriate cases, also register offences against them. The High Court stipulated that people interested in feeding strays must first formally adopt them, take them home, register with municipal authorities and then take care of them. Alternatively, they could put them in shelter homes. The Supreme Court has stayed the order of the High Court stating that no coercive steps would be taken in pursuance of the High Court order. It has ordered the municipal authorities to demarcate appropriate locations where the general public could feed the stray dogs. The Supreme Court has also expressed the view that street dogs have a right to live, and a sterilisation program for street dogs should be vigorously pursued. If there is a clear danger on account of violent street dogs, they should be moved to shelter homes. If no other course of action is available, dogs could be culled, but under no circumstance killed.
Given the large number of stray dog biting cases and citizens on its platform suggesting that the homeless dogs should be housed in stray animal shelters, LocalCircles conducted a fresh survey to quantify the experiences and concerns of citizens and also identify specific solutions to address the menace of stray dog bites. The survey received over 53,000 responses from citizens located in 326 districts of India. 67% respondents were men while 33% respondents were women. 44% respondents were from tier 1, 34% from tier 2 and 22% respondents were from tier 3 & 4 districts.
82% of respondents state that attacks by stray and/or pet dogs are common in their area/ district/ city, 30% more than last year
The survey first sought to know how widespread this problem is. It asked citizens, “Are attacks by stray and/ or pet dogs on citizens an issue in your area/district/ city?” Majority or 82% of the 13,590 respondents stated that attacks by stray or pet dogs or both are common in their area/ district/ city. Survey data shows 51% indicated that attacks by stray dogs is common; 3% shared that attacks by pet dogs is common; 28% stated that attacks by both stray dogs and pet dogs are common. Only 17% shared that attacks by both stray and pet dogs are non-existent or rare while 1% of the respondents opted for “can’t say”. On an aggregate basis, 79% citizens said that attacks by stray dogs were common in their area or district.
Compared to last year’s survey results when 61% citizens surveyed complained of attacks by stray and/or pet dogs being common in their area/ district/ city, this year there is 31% increase in such complaints taking the tally to 82%.
30% increase over last year in citizens who believe attacks by stray and/or pet dogs are common in their area/district/city
Only 33% of those surveyed feel that most of the dog owners in their area restrain and train their pets effectively
The survey then sought the opinion of respondents on whether owners of pet dogs were restraining them effectively. It asked respondents, “Do owners of pet dogs in your area effectively restrain or train them so that they don’t cause harm to others?” This query received 13,469 responses with only 33% sharing that most of the dog owners in their area restrain and train their pets effectively. Data breakdown shows 8% of those surveyed feel almost all dog owners train/ restrain their pets; 25% feel most do so and 15% feel that some do so. On the other hand, 27% of respondents complained that most of the dog owners do not train or restrain their pets; 15% indicated that no one does so and 10% indicated they are not sure thus opting for “Can’t Say”.
Compared to last year, citizens who believe dog owners in their area are effectively training and retraining their pets has gone up by only one percent from 32% last year to 33% currently, hence indicating not much improvement.
Percentage of citizens who believe owners of pet dogs in their area/district/city effectively restrain and train them shows no improvement over last year
79% respondents believe the municipal authority or local body in their area is ineffective in managing both stray dogs and registration of pet dogs
In the light of the SC orders, citizens were next asked “Does the municipal authority in your area effectively manage stray dogs (inoculation, transfer to a stray animal facility) as well as registration of pet dogs so risk to citizens is reduced?” Nearly 8 out of 10 respondents to this query indicated that the municipal authority in their area is ineffective in managing both stray dogs and registration of pet dogs. Out of 13,329 respondents to this query, 7% indicated that while mandatory registration of pet dogs is being done by the municipal authorities, stray dog management is ineffective. Of the remaining respondents, 7% indicated that the municipal authorities in their area do effectively manage both stray dogs and pet dogs, 3% indicated that while stray dog problems are being dealt with effectively by the civic authorities there is no mandatory registration for pet dogs and 4% of respondents opted for “can’t say”.
While some local bodies have made registration of pets mandatory, the enforcement of the same is near zero. Noida, for instance, is one city where case of pet dog bites and stray dog bites are regularly reported but corrective action by the authorities is completely missing. According to feedback received from residents of Noida by LocalCircles, complaints of stray dog menace are rarely ever attended to by the Noida Authority.
The percentage of citizens who believe the municipal corporation in their area/ district/ town/ city is effectively managing stray dogs has shown no improvement as only 10% of citizens retain faith in their work, same as in the last survey.
Percentage of citizens who believe their municipal corporation is effectively managing stray dogs in their area/district/city shows no improvement over last year
71% citizens want Stray Animal Management to be made a measurement criterion for Swachh Bharat rankings and provide funding to local bodies
With most of the municipal authorities failing to discharge their duties in managing stray/ pet dogs, the survey next asked respondents “Should the central government under its Swachh Bharat program provide funding for stray animal management and make it a key performance ranking criterion?” This query received 13,695 responses with 71% asserting that central government should adopt this, while 23% felt stray animal management should not be a part of Swachh Bharat rankings and 6% were uncertain on the issue.
What remains a fact is that whether the central or state governments take the leadership role, more funds are required to address the issue of stray animal management in the country. The funding should be directed to be utilized in building facilities in every district for stray animals and establishing stray animal hotlines and pick up infrastructure such that common citizens can call a toll-free number and report the menace, which gets attended to within 24 hours. As taxpayers, people deserve to be safe on their area and district/ streets which isn’t the case currently. Senior citizens in most cities of India can’t go for their morning walks without a stick and children cannot visit the neighborhood parks because of the fear of stray dogs.
In summary, the 2023 survey finds that the menace of stray and pet dog bites has increased as compared to 2022 when 61% citizens had stated that it was common in their area. That number has risen to 82% this year. 79% of the citizens surveyed have said that stray dog bites are common in their area as compared to 61% in 2022. Only 10% citizens in the survey outlined that their municipal corporation or local body was effective in stray dog management while 79% explicitly stated that they are completely ineffective. As a way forward, 71% of the citizens are in agreement that the menace of stray dogs and stray animals must be handled in mission mode and the Swachh Bharat Mission should provide funding for the same and make Stray Animal Management a criteria in ranking of cities and local bodies. The funding should be provided and utilized in building facilities for stray animals in every district as well as establishing stray animal hotlines and pick up infrastructure.
The survey received over 53,000 responses from citizens located in 326 districts of India. 67% respondents were men while 33% respondents were women. 44% respondents were from tier 1, 34% from tier 2 and 22% respondents were from tier 3 & 4 districts. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants were validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.