Image used for representational purposes
© ExpressImage used for representational purposes
The stray dog menace was a matter of wide discussion when a 65-year-old died after being attacked by a pack while out on an evening walk last December in Kuttippuram. But even after the state government and the respective local self-governing bodies announced ambitious projects to tackle the menace, government records reveal that the number of stray dog attacks has hardly come down.

Data sourced by RTI activist Raju Vazhakkala from the health department shows that 8,09,629 incidents of stray dog attacks were reported in the state from January 2016 to July 2021. As many as 42 persons lost their lives after they were attacked by strays. This year alone, 68,765 stray dog attacks have been reported. Stray dog attacks comprise nearly 50% of all animal attack cases -- which totals 16,95,664 - reported since January 2016.

The highest number of stray-dog bite incidents and related deaths were reported in the capital district, Thiruvananthapuram. As many as 1,46,523 stray dog bite cases and five deaths were reported there over the past five years. In Ernakulam, 76,300 such attacks and four deaths took place. Raju, a Kochiite, said that he was attacked twice by strays. There is no action plan with the authorities, including local bodies, to tackle the issue, he said.

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"All projects launched by the respective local bodies have failed to see any result. The number of stray dogs continues to rise in each locality. Had the sterilisation and the Animal Birth Control (ABC) projects been implemented properly, the stray-dog population and threat to human lives could have been controlled," he said.

Raju cited waste dumping as the primary reason behind the growing number of stray dogs. "If you visit morning markets in Kochi, the regular scene is of dogs feeding on raw waste at meat and chicken shops. They also survive on waste dumped at isolated places. Mostly, morning walkers are the ones who get attacked by strays in Kochi. Given the lockdown situation over the past two years, no step has been taken by the local bodies, due to which the number of strays has increased considerably," he said.

A police officer said stray dogs crossing the road suddenly has caused numerous traffic accidents in Kochi. "Last week, a lady in Tripunithura was injured severely after she fell from a scooter while trying to avoid a collision with a stray dog. Also, cars and bikes suffer damage after hitting the animals crossing the road," he said.

Meanwhile, T K Sajeev, secretary of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Ernakulam, pointed out that there are glitches in the data regarding stray dog bites."When a person suffers an injury, even a minor one caused by a dog, a vaccine is provided from both government and private hospitals. As the data regarding stray dog bites is collected from hospitals, there is no classification of whether the vaccinated person was bitten by a stray dog or another dog in the records maintained at hospitals. So there can be discrepancies in the data," he said.

According to him, sterilisation of stray dogs is on hold after the Kerala High Court stayed a state government decision to use Kudumbashree volunteers for the castration of stray dogs in eight districts.

"Sterilisation activities should be conducted by the animal husbandry department which has the expertise in handling animals. Though Kudumbashree volunteers were trained, they neither have all the facilities nor the expertise required," Sajeev said.