Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Serious Business of Dog Biting

Mujeeb tackles a very serious issue in Kashmir, especially Srinagar, where dog biting cases are approaching a world record.

(Dr. Mujeeb-ur-Rehman Fazili, 51, was born in Srinagar. He received his Bachelor's degree in veterinary and animal husbandry from the Kerala Agricultural University, his Master's degree in the same field from the Indian Veternary Research Institute in U.P., and his Ph.D. from the Chaudhary Charan Singh Agricultural University, Haryana. He is currently an Associate Professor and Senior Scientist at the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST), Srinagar. Dr. Fazili has numerous scientific papers and publications to his credit. He is a life member of the Indian Society for Veterinary Surgery (ISVS), and the Indian Veterinary Association, among others.)

Will Dogs Stop Biting?

This refers to news story Dog scare forces musalees to walk in groups, with lathis. It has again highlighted the difficulties faced by the public due to this menace.

Sterilization technique: Serious efforts are on throughout the world to develop non-surgical, cheap and easily accomplished techniques for controlling fertility in dogs. Use of chemicals, hormones, immunological strategies and contraceptives are some of them. However, all of these techniques are accompanied by one or more problems. They lead to temporary loss in fertility (therefore need to be repeated frequently), have lower efficacy rate, are suitable for some age groups only and have several side effects and complications in the animals subjected to these protocols. Consequently, the traditional surgical sterilization is still the best available option and therefore applied in more than 90% in highly populated cities and in developing countries. The most important advantages of this technique are its 100% guarantee of permanent sterilization and modification of undesired behaviours in dogs.

Sterilization cost: Surgical sterilization generally named as castration, spaying or neutering requires trained veterinarians, an infrastructure and proper equipment. It involves complete removal of testes and ovaries and is performed under general anaesthesia. Antibiotics and pain killers are administered for 3 to 5 days. These dogs are also routinely injected a dose of Antirabies vaccine and monitored by a qualified veterinarian during the postoperative period. Afterwards they are released in the same areas from where they were rescued before surgery. The cost of this operation per dog estimated by Animal Welfare Board of India a few years ago is Rs.445/. Due to the escalation of the costs over the years, Rs. 500/- per dog may currently be considered reasonable. Thus the expenditure for sterilization of required 70% of the animals (i.e 70,000 dogs of Srinagar city with rough estimate of 1.0 lac dogs) would arrive at a figure of 3.5 crore. Adding the cost of infrastructure and wages for the workforce (approximately 0.5 crore), the total expenditure would be around 4.0 crore. Animal Welfare Board of India appears ready to provide its 50% share therefore the state government is expected to spend a total of Rs 2.0 crore for the project. Considering the large number of stray dogs in Srinagar and half of the financial year already over, if only half of the dogs are sterilized during the current year, the amount to be allocated by the state government would be Rs 1.0 crore. After the number of the dogs is reduced to the required level in a period of 1 to 2 years period, it would be easier and quite cheap to just maintain the required number in future. Surgery although appearing costly initially but is a lifelong solution and hence may be more cost efficient over time. It is surprising to note that on one hand the state government has made it a policy to sterilize stray dogs (as is done everywhere) and on the other hand money required for initiation of this important and urgent mission is not earmarked despite the fact that hundreds and thousands of crores are being spent every year.

Establishment of ponds for stray dogs: The directions of the honourable judges to catch the stray dogs and put them in ponds (to be established on the outskirts of the city) are aimed at giving immediate respite to the public. The efforts to establish such a pond appears to have been initiated by the Srinagar Municipality in Ganderbal district. However, considering some basic facts related to the canine behavior and their disease epidemiology, this exercise would add to the problems rather than reducing them. The canines are territorial animals and therefore live within a specified area and do not allow dogs of other areas to enter their jurisdiction easily. Territorial behavior in domestic dogs reminds us of their wolf-like ancestors. Once confined together in a pond, they will start fighting and injuring each other. The stress of confinement, injuries and their consequences would decrease their natural immunity and may lead to outbreaks of devastating diseases like mange, maggot infestation of the inflicted wounds and Rabies. Such animals cannot be caught repeatedly for treatment and their continued confinement will defeat all efforts to manage their diseases. Consequently serious animal welfare issues are likely to crop up. Additionally the attending staff would also be exposed to the threat of contracting several zoonotic (spread from animals to man) diseases. Location of the ponds in outskirts of the city may also invite more frequent visits of the wild animals into the human population and increase their attacks to the human and domestic animals. On top of it all, the expenditure of maintaining thousands of dogs (by way of providing food, watch and ward, monitoring of disease outbreaks etc) would be many times the cost of sterilization along with postoperative care for 4 to 5 days (the strategy followed in all states of the country). We have not been able to spend for sterilization alone, how can we spare millions for the feeding and maintenance of such a large number of canine populations in addition to sterilization?

The million dollar question: “Will a dog stop biting once sterilized?: Spaying and neutering of the dogs is an often suggested remedy for various behavior problems. “Testosterone acts as a modulator that makes dogs react more intensely. When an intact (uncastrated) dog decides to react to something, he reacts more quickly, with greater intensity and for a longer period of time.” Neutering the male dog removes testes, the source of circulating testosterone. Testosterone has the effect of modulating sexually dimorphic behaviors as well as aggressive or reactive behaviors. Most extensive surveys on the effects of castration on dogs have come up with the findings that roaming is reduced in 90% and aggression in 60% of the cases. Sterilized males usually become less aggressive. Due to the maternal instinct of the bitches to protect their young ones, they become aggressive when approached. Spaying will prevent the cycling of estrogen and progesterone, which may prevent associated behaviors. Spayed bitches will not have to protect the pups hence are less likely expected to attack the passersby.

Therefore, the biting instances by the dog’s consequent to sterilization must reduce considerably. It has been noticed that nonsurgical techniques unlike surgical sterilization, do not reduce the undesired behaviours of the dogs.

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