By Dr. Kuhu Roy
There is too big a NEXUS and MISINFORMATION when we talk about ‘rabies’ and unfortunately, the stray dogs are at the centre of it time and again. On world rabies day, on the 28th of September 2022, here are only some of the instances out of the laundry list of experiences we have had;
- Rheo, a sterilized and vaccinated against rabies stray dog (done infront of our eyes at a private clinic hence the surety) was sleeping in shade in the scorching summer of Baroda. He was bludgeoned to death when he bit in self defence in response to being hit on the head in May 2013. Rheo apparently kept biting people even when he had died. An FIR later, there were threats and physical assault on us and Khushi, Rheo’s partner, was abducted when we refused to take the case back. We still await justice. As against the rumours that we took the case back, NO, we never did.
- Orange Kaalu, a perfectly healthy stray dog was taken in December 2016 by a notorious organization for sterilization during their stray dog killing and dislocation spree in Baroda under the garb of animal birth control, so when he returned safe, it was totally his lucky stars. But, in less than a year, he died of rabies. Was the vaccine not given? Or if it was, was it ineffective?
- An acquaintance bought a turtle (illegal in India) last year to keep her young child entertained. Entertainment came at the cost of bully and abuse for the turtle, to the extent that the turtle bit the young child. The kid was taken to the doctor and advised to take shots to prevent rabies and the vet also held a similar opinion. Turtles can cause rabies was enlightening information. The kid received five shots and since data on nature of the animal that bit, why he/she bit is not maintained (‘why’ is never probed because we as humans are unlikely to accept our fault of having engaged in acts of provocation), those numbers – each shot taken to be one new bite as against to be counted as booster, went onto be counted for bites by strays.
- Many irresponsible pet owners do not bother to vaccinate their pets against rabies. Bites from pets are sadly attributed to strays because pets vs stray bites data is not segregated by most Municipal Corporations.
But, this is the data that goes onto make biased research reports. If we really want to address the issue of rabies from strays, we have to look beyond ‘vaccination of strays’ and focus on spay & neuter as much. It is our rabid mindset towards stray dogs that needs a dire change. The stray dog centred cynophobia has to be replaced by COMPASSION, KINDNESS, HUMANE EDUCATION, SENSITIZATION and demand for a TRANSPARENT SYSTEM that otherwise cashes on the muteness of strays.
Read more on non-rationalized phobia about stray dogs here.
PS The handsome boy in the picture is our Dhakka Laalu.