Scale of suffering
Street animal suffering in India is a significant issue. An estimated 62 million street dogs, 9.1 million street cats, more than 5 million street cows, pigs, and tens of thousands of monkeys suffer on a daily basis. In addition to malnutrition, lack of medical attention, and exposure to harsh weather conditions, they are also at a risk of being hit by vehicles, attacked by other animals, and susceptible to cruelty by humans. The Indian government and various organisations are working to address this but the challenge persists due to the large population and limited resources for their care.
Suffering by species
Dogs: Street dogs suffer from lack of veterinary care which leads to untreated illnesses and injuries due to exposure to harsh weather conditions, risk of being run over by vehicles, cruelty at the hands of humans. They multiply prolifically and puppies are very vulnerable on the streets. Dogs are perceived as a nuisance by the public and face mistreatment, often to the extent of killing by various cruel means including poisoning. . Many organisations are working to alleviate their suffering through programs such as spaying and neutering, vaccination drives, and provision of veterinary care.
Cats: Street cats face similar issues as street dogs. In addition to those, they may also face challenges related to their reproductive health, like uncontrolled breeding leading to overpopulation and subsequent suffering.
Cows, Ox, Buffaloes: These animals are a common sight in India. A large number of them are discarded from the dairy industry and abandoned on the streets on account of either being male calves or in case of being female being too spent to produce any milk. Even cows that have caregivers are allowed to roam the streets and forage, as their caregivers cannot afford to feed them to the extent that they need Very often, in urban areas, they have no natural sources of food, and are left to forage on garbage. A majority of them end up ingesting large amounts of plastic (due to food matter often being wrapped in plastic) and suffer horribly as a result.
Pigs: Pigs in India are a less common sight compared to dogs and cows, but their numbers are still significant. These pigs are usually reared for consumption through backyard breeding. However, due to lack of resources, people leave them to out on the streets to forage through garbage until they are picked up for slaughter. Street pigs are prone to similar issues of malnutrition and veterinary care. Their issues receive very less attention and resources compared to other street animals.
Monkeys: Monkeys are classified as wildlife, although they are now part of the urban landscape and struggle like other street animals. They may face difficulties related to social behaviour and conflict with humans. Monkeys play a very important ecological role in dispersing seeds as their diet consists mainly of fruits. Habitual feeding by humans affects their foraging patterns and as a consequence also the health of the forests. Additionally, when monkeys are regularly fed by humans, they start seeing humans as a source of food. When they are denied food from any human, they could get aggressive and attack. In addition to being harmful for humans, it is the animal that will be condemned at the end of the day for harming a human.
Fortunately, India has laws in place for the well-being of street animals. The Indian Penal Code recognises animal cruelty as an offence. It is illegal to relocate any community animal as per Section 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. As per Section 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code, all acts of cruelty towards animals are punishable. The most recent advance saw the Delhi High Court supporting the right to food for street animals and the right of citizens to feed them by ensuring that they execute this with utmost care and caution, having a designated feeding area which is scarcely frequented by the general public so as to avoid human-animal conflict.
As non-human animals are part of a human dominated world where they lack agency, it is up to humans to ensure their wellbeing. Not only will this aid to a better standard of living of the species whose spaces we share, but also ensure that humans are not harmed by these species who are at a disadvantage of communicating their needs and act in defence.Stronger laws that enforce animal welfare standards, laws against animal cruelty especially at local levels of the Government, and the need to increase the penalty for animal cruelty could help deter harmful actions towards street animals. Spreading awareness amongst the masses reduces stigmas around street animals and helps them imbibe compassion and a sense of community towards other species. This would include awareness on responsible feeding to ensure that the time and venue of feeding the animals is such that the animals do not attack humans due to territoriality. Vaccination drives aid the animals a healthy life, while also preventing the spread of zoonotic diseases to humans. It has also been observed that the public views sterilised and vaccinated street animals more favourably which improves human-animal interaction. Animal Birth Control (ABC) programmes are critical to manage free-roaming street animals and other disease concerns. It is also important to release the street animals back to their territories after convalescence to ensure that the wellbeing of the non-human animals and that most socialised street animals are on the streets. Rescue and rehabilitation facilities help alleviate the suffering of street animals and makes people respect and appreciate the value of their life.
Should street dogs be killed or taken away?
The Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001, mandates that street dogs cannot be killed, dislocated, driven away, or maimed. They can be vaccinated to prevent disease outbreaks and sterilised to ensure population control. The law mandates that once the sterilisation is done, the dogs must be returned to their original habitat owing to their territorial nature.
What is the best way to stop street animals from becoming aggressive?
The aggression and hostility that dogs may be subjected at the hands of some humans, mainly due to perceptions, prejudices, and fear associated with dogs, could render the dogs suspicious and hostile towards all humans. Making sure that they are treated with kindness and ensuring that there is awareness among humans into the behaviour and traits of dogs is a way to ensure that both humans and dogs build trust towards the opposite species and prevent any form of aggression towards each other.
How can we ensure the vaccination/sterilisation of street animals in our locality?
The Municipality or animal welfare organisations that are supposed to be handling your area for these drives can be contacted.
Should I feed monkeys?
No. Monkeys play a very important ecological role in dispersing seeds as their diet consists mainly of fruits. Habitual feeding by humans affects their foraging patterns and as a consequence also the health of the forests. Additionally, when monkeys are regularly fed by humans, they start seeing humans as a source of food. When they are denied food from any human, they could get aggressive and attack. In addition to being harmful for humans, it is the animal that will be condemned at the end of the day for harming a human.
With its strategic associations with various NGOs doing good work at ground zero, India Animal Fund is changing the speed and scale of their work. We engage with these NGOs to identify the most efficient means of execution, build economies of scale; all backed by a strong sense of integrity, transparency and measurability. Read on and find the project that resonates with you.
Join the cause
Each day we are partnering with NGOs who are amplifying our efforts. We cannot be more thrilled about this.
Please contact us here.