Dogs and the cityWe must be more creative and empathetic in our approach towards canine menace.
The modus operandi of managing stray dogs, presented by Kathmandu Metropolitan City Ward 30 Chairperson Dal Bahadur Karki, raised many an eyebrow earlier this week. Karki's advocacy of mass killing of the canines does not only expose his cruelty bordering on criminality, but it also lays bare the poverty of thought that some of our public representatives suffer from. Thankfully, not all public representatives think like Karki, and his own colleagues were quick to call him out for the sheer brutality in his thought to which he subjected his audience. KMC Mayor Balendra Shah has sensibly decided to continue with the Manumitra project, which aims to manage stray dogs by sterilising them. Although the Manumitra project has failed to work as expected, there is no other way than rectifying the mistakes and making the project fulfil its mandate.
There is no doubt that stray dogs cause a nuisance on Nepal's roads and in neighbourhoods. There is no dearth of city residents who complain of being chased by the dogs. Stray dogs, in fact, are a global nuisance, so much so that the World Health Organisation has initiated a "United Against Rabies" campaign to ensure zero human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030. There is a high prevalence of rabies-related deaths in Asia and Africa, with 95 percent of human deaths occurring in these regions. The WHO estimates that 29 million people worldwide receive a post-bite vaccination, with the annual economic burden of dog-mediated rabies reaching $8.6 billion.
There are debates that the stray animal problem is caused due to human activities. The very idea of how we consider pet animals should change, as many dog owners abandon their dogs on the streets when the canines get old or when they are diseased. We also need to think creatively about how we want other stray animals, including cows, oxen and monkeys. Thousands of years of cohabitation has evolved the nature of dogs as well, as they have become increasingly friendly with humans. As dogs have learnt to adapt to the ways of the human, humans too must find innovative ways to make them a part of their community.
The respective municipalities could, for example, take the responsibility of managing street dogs. By establishing dog shelters, the stray dogs won't remain stray for long; and they can further be put up for adoption. This way, the streets remain nuisance-free, and the otherwise abandoned dogs will find loving homes too. The problem of animals roaming around on the streets is not just limited to dogs. Cows and other animals can as easily be seen in public spaces, obstructing traffic and even leading to accidents in several cases. What this problem warrants is a holistic approach that prioritises cohabitating with animals that are an essential part of the ecology. Multiple governments have for long neglected the issues of dogs and other animals inhabiting our streets. But with a strong local government, this should cease to be an unmanageable problem, for the only thing missing is a creative and empathetic approach towards the problem.