Dog bites decrease in Srinagar but the fear remains

Though there has been a slight decrease in the incidents of dog-bites in recent years in Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital, cynophobia looms large on the residents as packs of canines roaming menacingly is a common sight in the city

By Athar Parvaiz
Published: Friday 07 June 2019
Stray dogs at a garbage dump in Srinagar. Photo: Athar Parvaiz

Records suggest a decrease in the number of dog bites in Srinagar, but residents continue to be scared. Stray canines have been a problem for the people in  Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital, for years.

Srinagar district accounted for 80 per cent of the 37,694 dog-bite cases reported at the anti-rabies clinic of Srinagar city’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital between 2012-13 and 2018-19. 

“Our latest figures show a 30 per cent decline in the number of dog-bite cases in Srinagar — to 5,120 in 2016-17 from 7,000 in 2012-13,” Javaid Ahmad Rather, veterinary officer of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), told Down To Earth (DTE).  

Of the 6,825 incidents of dog-bites across 10 districts of the Kashmir division in 2017, 5,060 were in Srinagar. So, the number continues to be high in Srinagar among all the districts of the Kashmir Valley. 

Why Srinagar

Being the capital and a business hub, it has a large resident population apart from several tourists and army as well as paramilitary camps. This leads to a lot of food wastage, Rather said. 

The city's hotels, restaurants, residential houses, poultry outlets and abattoirs generate about 450 metric tonnes (MT) of waste daily, according to the SMC, of which about 200 MT is meat waste.

“About 40,000 kilograms of poultry waste alone is generated every day. If this nutritious and energy-rich edible waste is not managed properly, each dog can have access to around a kg of offal. The breeding efficiency and life span of stray dogs can increase and their population can touch alarming levels,” Rather told DTE.

Frequent incidents of dog bites have become a serious medical and public issue for the citizens, especially those very young and the old.

“Children under 10 represent a high-risk group,” according to a research on dog bites in Srinagar. Eight people died from rabies between April 2010 to May 2013 in the city, it added. Newspaper reports and social media posts have made citizens fearful.

“My daughter is keen that someone accompanies her to the bus stop when she leaves for morning tuitions,” said Abdul Majeed, who lives in Srinagar’s HMT area. His neighbour was mauled by dogs two years ago. Many now avoid going out after darkness or early in the morning. Some walk in groups or carry sticks.

The response

The SMC claimed its measures have been successful in reducing the number of dog attacks. “We have worked effectively to control the availability of food waste,” Rather said.

Outdoor waste-bins are now covered, SMC Commissioner Mir Tariq Ali said. Open bins gave the strays easy access to food.

Controlling the dog population is equally important, according to Rather. “Considering the high proliferation rate of stray dogs, with an average life span of about 2-5 years and two breeding seasons a year, a multifold increase in their population can be expected,” he said.  

Some surveys estimate Srinagar’s stray dog population exceeding 90,000; modest estimates put it between 40,000 and 60,000.

“Fast-track sterilisation along with effective garbage management is the only viable and effective way to control their population,” Rather said.

This, he said, is possible only if multiple animal birth control and anti-rabies centres are established across the city and sterilisations are carried out at a massive scale.

“We need to sterilise and vaccinate at least 75 per cent of the population in the first phase to achieve a stable population and control of rabies within the stipulated time frame,” Rather said.

Available infrastructure at Shuhama Alusteng, however, is insufficient as it can sterilise only 10-15 sterilisations a day. Only 2,300 sterilisations and anti-rabies vaccinations could be carried out since 2012.   

The SMC is establishing one more centre at Tengpora to increase the number of surgeries up to 80 per day, Rather said.

Official data about year-wise number of dog bites registered at Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital
Year Number of Dog bites as per registrations at Srinagar’s SHMS Hospital
2012-13 7,000
2013-14 6,041
2014-15 4,917
2015-16 5,100
2016-17 5,120
2017-18 5,216
2018-19 4,300
Total number of dog bites 37,694

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