The Environment Ministry’s decision to explore ways on how pet dogs can play a role in protecting society, including cases of terrorism and anti-women crimes, is welcome. However, it would be wiser to hire stray dogs for the purpose because they are freely available. Given their tough life, it would be comparatively easier to train them than pet dogs, who could be vulnerable to mercurial weather conditions in the country. Retired Brigadier Basant Kumar Ponwar, Director of Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College in Kanker (Chhattisgarh), a hotbed of naxal militancy, was successful in training stray dogs for sniffer duties in 2008. Four dogs selected by Ponwar, after seeking permission of the Chhattisgarh government, passed obstacle crossing and IED (improvised explosive device) detection tests within just six months. While a Labrador and two Alsatian dogs needed veterinary attention, the stray dogs never fell sick, according to Ponwar. Making registration mandatory for dog breeders and marketers also makes sense. If there is a genuine threat from street dogs, it is only from the rabid ones. By and large, dogs are friendly and stand guard with zero tolerance toward any suspicious movement of strangers. Animal experts attribute their aggressive behaviour to piled-up waste in the area. Consumption of stale leftover food, non-vegetarian in particular, dumped in roadside waste-bins leads to an inclination to violence among street dogs. As part of the Swachh Bharat initiative, civic bodies in all towns and cities of India had been given handsome grants and also trucks to clear the garbage at regular intervals. It has also been scientifically acknowledged that aggression levels show a drastic dip after sterilisation of both male and female dogs.
There is substantial financial aid coming from both Central and State governments for carrying out sterilisation on a mass scale in all localities. Whether the civic bodies are optimally utilising the grants for the purpose is still in the realm of conjecture. Cities such as Chennai and Bengaluru have dogs with clipped ears, which is a sign that they were sterilised. Dogs with clipped ears are a rare sight in Hyderabad though. Vaccination and sterilisation of stray dogs at regular intervals will go a long way in eliminating the so-called stray dog “menace”. The problem cannot be addressed through killing of dogs. The more they are killed, the more they multiply. Sterilisation curbs both the population and dangerous behaviour among the canines.