Macabre death of Hyderabad child moves authorities to act on strays

A series of incidents of dog bites have been reported from different parts of the state over the last one week, putting spotlight on the problem.

Hyderabad: The horrific visuals of a pack of stray dogs mauling a four-year-old boy to death in Hyderabad will continue to haunt the citizens for a long time to come.

The helpless child being surrounded by strays, pouncing on him and biting him all over the body leading to his death, has highlighted how serious the menace is in the city.

The shocking incident evoked public outrage, triggered a debate on how to check the dog menace and the usual man versus dog argument.

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The municipal authorities came out with a new set of guidelines to control the stray population, not just in Hyderabad, but in other urban areas of the state as well.

A series of incidents of dog bites have been reported from different parts of the state over the last one week, putting spotlight on the problem.

The death of Pradeep on February 19 was the second such incident in Hyderabad in less than a year.

In April 2022, stray dogs had mauled to death a two-year-old boy in the Bada Bazar area of Golconda. Anas Ahmed, who was playing outside his house, was attacked by a pack of dogs which dragged him to an adjoining military area. The toddler had sustained grievous injuries and died before he could be taken to the hospital.

Disturbing CCTV visuals of the hapless child being attacked and dragged by dogs into the bushes had surfaced on social media.

The incident had triggered public outrage in the area. The dog catching teams were pressed into service in the immediate aftermath of the incident, but the problem was forgotten within a few days of the incident.

It took the death of another innocent for the municipal authorities to wake up. This time, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) announced some measures to check the menace after criticism from various quarters.

Taking cognisance of the media reports on the latest incident, the Telangana High Court initiated a suo moto PIL.

A division bench headed by Chief Justice Ujjal Bhuyan blamed the negligence by the GHMC for the boy’s death and asked it what steps are being taken to curtail incidents of stray dog attacks.

The court asked GHMC to explain what steps it would take to ensure that such an incident is not repeated.

Telangana had recorded 80,281 cases of dog bites in 2022, a huge leap from 24,000 in 2021. However, the municipal officials say the comparison would be incorrect as 2021 was a pandemic year when there was lesser animal-human conflict.

According to officials, 1.6 lakh dog bite cases were registered in 2019 and compared to pre-Covid years, the cases have come down by 50 per cent. Telangana stands eighth in the country in terms of dog bite cases.

After the latest incident, the GHMC officials revealed that the Telangana capital has 5.50 lakh stray dogs. According to the officials, this figure was 8.50 lakh in 2011 but their population reduced with the successful Animal Birth Control-cum-Anti Rabies (ABC-AR) programme.

Officials said that 65 per cent of stray dogs have been sterilised under the ABC programme. Following the gruesome killing of the four-year-old, the municipal officials have ordered 100 per cent sterilisation.

The child’s killing also sparked demands from citizens to relocate stray dogs from their areas. However, the GHMC officials are caught in a dilemma as they can’t relocate stray dogs even after the ABC-AR procedure.

The guidelines of the Animal Welfare Board of India and the Supreme Court say that stray dogs can neither be shifted to deserted areas nor abandoned on city outskirts. As per the guidelines of the Animal Welfare Board of India, street dogs should be left within 100m radius from the pickup places.

The GHMC has decided to increase the number of sterilisations to 400 per day from the existing 150.

“We are taking all necessary measures to address the problem,” said Greater Hyderabad Mayor Gadwal Vijayalakshmi.

She has also announced an all-party committee to find a solution for the stray dog menace in the city. The panel will have two corporators from each political party.

Experts say dumping of garbage on the streets and in open places and hotels, function halls, chicken and mutton shops throwing waste on roads are the biggest reasons for the increasing population of stray dogs.

The municipal authorities have been directed to restrict the hotels, restaurants, function halls, chicken and mutton outlets within the GHMC limits from dumping waste on the streets.

The officials have been told to take action against establishments that dispose of garbage on streets as this attracts stray dogs.

Arvind Kumar, Secretary, Municipal Administration, instructed the GHMC officials that the ABC (Animal Birth Control) sterilisation operations should be carried out immediately.

The officials were advised to take control measures with the help of Slum Development Federations, Town Development Federations and Resident Colony Welfare Associations within the limits of the city and neighbouring municipalities. Control measures in other municipalities in the state will be taken up with the help of self-help groups.

He advised officials to prepare a separate mobile app for registration of pets in the city and surrounding municipalities. Identity cards will be issued to the owners concerned as per registration.

This assumed significance in the wake of a recent incident in Hyderabad in which a 23-year-old food delivery boy jumping off the third floor of a building out of fear when a pet dog charged at him.

After battling for life for four days, Mohammed Rizwan (23) breathed his last. Rizwan, who was working for food delivery app Swiggy, had gone to an apartment building in Banjara Hills to deliver a parcel on January 11.

When he knocked on the door of the flat, a German Shepherd came charging towards him. Rizwan, while trying to save himself, jumped from the third floor and sustained grievous injuries.

The victim’s family had said that no action was taken against the pet dog’s owner.

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