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“Why does Kerala have such a peculiar dog bite menace,” the Supreme Court wondered on Thursday as a committee appointed by it warned that the “excessive” stray canine population will continue to pose “very serious threat” to public safety unless brought down to “manageable level”. “I have been to several states. In Orissa the dog bite incidents are rare. In Assam it is rare. Why is this dog bite problem so concentrated in Kerala? Why does Kerala have such a peculiar dog bite menace. We need to know,” Justice Dipak Misra said.
The bench, also comprising Justice Amitava Roy, observed that if the problem was indeed grave compensation should be paid to the victims.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, who is assisting the court as Amicus Curiae in the matter, said the problem was also “severe” in Gujarat.
Senior advocate V Giri, appearing for Kerala said, compensation cannot be granted to every dog bite victim as there would be a huge rush for it.
Advocate V K Biju, who appeared for a petitioner Jose Sebastian, whose wife died due to stray dog attack, said as per a recent report in Delhi there is a dog bite incident every six minutes. He said stray dog attacks on women and children were rampant in Kerala.
The bench asked the Amicus Curiae to deliberate on issues of dog bite control, responsibilities of local bodies and compensation to be paid to the victims on the next date of hearing on November 17.
It also asked the counsel for Kerala and other parties to submit what are the commonalities and differences in Central and state laws.
Advocate Anjali Sharma appearing for Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) said court has sought reply from the state governments on the module for ‘Implementation Framework for street dog population management, rabies eradication and reducing man-dog conflict’ but not all states have filed their responses.
She said all solutions relating to man-dog conflict, sterilization and vaccination with humane approach are provided in the module.
Meanwhile, the apex court-appointed committee headed by former judge of Kerala High Court Justice S S Jagan submitted its second report to the court which raised concern about public safety due to the menance.
“The existing excessive population of stray dogs would continue to pose a very serious threat to the safety of pedestrians, domestic animals and two and three wheeler riders unless their numbers are reduced to a manageable level,” it said.
The committee said, “As such, for the present problem, implementation of Animal Birth Control (ABC) procedures will not be an immediate solution and an immediate solution is called for in order to contain this menace, if people are to be protected from the street dogs immediately.”
It said several deaths and injuries occurred due to accidents as a result of dogs chasing two and three wheelers.
“Many morning walkers feel threatened by stray dogs which have forced them to discontinue their walk itself. The presence of stray dogs in packs is a common sight on almost all roads and streets of the state…the committee feels that the situation is really grave and urgent steps are to be taken to safeguard the public from attacks of stray dogs,” it said.
The committee, in its earlier report had said more thanone lakh people in Kerala have been bitten by dogs in 2015-16 and warned that frequent stray dog attacks on children there has created a “dangerous” situation.
The apex court had on October 4 restrained public display of street dogs being beaten to death in Kerala by some politicians and common people.
Earlier on September 14, the Supreme Court had said compassion should be shown to stray dogs and these animals be not allowed to become a menace to the society, while stressing on the need for balance to be created for dealing with such situations.
Some NGOs and individual petitioners have moved the apex court against the decisions of some high courts, including the Bombay High Court and the Kerala High Court, to allow municipal authorities to deal with the stray dog menace as per the state rules which provide for culling.
The apex court had earlier declined to pass an interim order to stay culling of stray dogs by Thiruvananthapuram Municipal Corporation on a PIL by advocate Anupam Tripathi, saying the killing of dangerous dogs and those animals that are infected with rabies should be guided by the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001.