THE STREET/ STRAY DOGS: Debunking myths, for their long-overdue, much-deserved better lives.

THE STREET/ STRAY DOGS: Debunking myths, for their long-overdue, much-deserved better lives.

Street dogs. Stray dogs. Mutts. Some regard them as ‘nuisance’ too! “Dirty, infectious, filthy, rabid roadside creatures that are just waiting for an opportunity to pounce and bite and maul innocent humans!” “They deserve to be culled!”

These are a few of the things, the majority of people in India and other ‘developing’ countries think and say about Man’s best friend, Dogs. The reason being nothing but myths stereotypes, superstitions, ignorance and lack of awareness. People are fed the idea by their parents and grandparents and great grandparents who have never had a single interaction with a dog in their lives, that dogs are born to bite, their presence is inauspicious, dogs must be deserted, their population must be controlled by inhumane culling and they can very well be cruelly tortured because well they’re dogs! Children grow up seeing their family mistreating them and follow their examples and the process goes on and on for generations. These things are so deeply rooted in them that they never learn to think for themselves, and even if they do feel a different way, societal pressure outweighs their little guilt if any!

Yes, the stray dogs are unsightly. They have germs about them too. But aren’t the reasons behind their state worthy of probing further?

They can be as good as the ‘pedigree dogs‘ that are bought for heavy amounts. Yes, they can have great plump, shapely bodies, with softer than cotton and shinier than silk coats. But that would require someone taking a good amount of care of them. They aren’t lucky like their counterparts. They have no one to feed them nutritious meals, take them for regular vaccinations to keep diseases at bay, or make instant vet appointments in case there arises a slight hint of illness. Nobody cares to bathe them, or brush their coats to keep them healthy, dust, dirt and knot free. Their nutrition consists of bits of stale and rotten, discarded food from dustbins and dump yards, that too only if they’re lucky enough to find some. They scavenge the whole day to find bits of spoiled and infected scraps and survive on the dirty water from puddles and drains. Many a times they go without food and water for days too! Such is their plight. If they catch an infection, or get wounded, they have no other option but to suffer and depend on sheer luck to get better by themselves, if the case is not that severe. If it is, they lie in agony and suffer until they die. And nobody cares or knows until their decomposing bodies emit foul smells which make people staying nearby complain to the authorities, who send people from municipalities to come and pick up their carcasses, and toss them afar as garbage! This is the life of strays..

A before & after rescue picture of the same dog, highlighting the sharp difference a bit of love can make. Also answering why exactly do the strays look the way they do.

Of course there are other ‘icings’ on the cake of their misery. They’re tortured in innumerable ways and constantly live in fear. Retarded people who are basically sore losers, channelize their personal frustrations on these already suffering creatures, because they just want to inflict harm to relieve themselves and they cannot do this to people as that involves a harsher reaction, plus men are protected by law and they don’t want to land up in trouble. But animals are ‘an easy target’, specially dogs, because they’re the most easily available ones as compared to other strays (cats, cows, goats, pigs, you name it).

Beating them brutally, setting little puppies on fire, hitting them with firecrackers, tossing them from heights, dragging them tied to ropes on bikes, raping, locking them in places to starve and so much more is an everyday news. All because some humans feel that they’re worthless animals who aren’t useful to them, and thus they deserve to suffer at the hands of the almighty humans, probably to prove their dominance, or to inflate their perverted egos, or may be just because they’re bored and seek some adventure! I cannot probe any deeper into their sick psychology.

What further strengthens their perversion is the attitude of the government. Maybe because these animals don’t cast votes and pay taxes, their lives just don’t matter. Out of the millions of cases of cruelty, very few end up even getting reported. Even if they do, the administration is always busy with ‘more important cases’. In case the case is lodged, and the complainant is resilient to all the hassles that follow for months and years, the justice is not just extremely delayed but also insufficient to say the least! And this is exactly why people get the audacity to commit these heinous crimes in broad daylight, because they know how easy it is to get away with.

Before we get into ways we can help make their lives better, let’s do a bit of

MYTH BUSTING:

People take religion seriously but forget that solely vising places of worship is not what their Gods expect from them. There are volumes of inscriptions, where their ideal way of living has been preached. Every religion has it’s God or Prophet directing the followers with the Do’s and Dont’s of everyday life, that are to be found in the verses of their religious/holy books. Let us now have a look at what the below religious doctrines opine about dogs and their treatments at our hands.

Religious significance of dogs in India and across the world (sourced from Wikipedia)-

  • Hinduism: Shvan, a Sanskrit word meaning a dog, finds repeated references in Vedic and later Hindu mythologies. The dog is also the ‘vahana’ or mount of the Hindu Gods ‘Bhairava’ (a tantric deity) and ‘Khandoba’ (the most popular family deity of Maharashtra). ‘Yudhishthira’ (of Mahabharata) had approached heaven with his dog, therefore among many Hindus there exists a common belief, that caring for or adopting dogs can also pave the way to heaven. Another deity ‘Dattatreya’ (lord of yoga) is surrounded by four dogs and a cow, which is a symbolism of the four Vedas and mother earth that nourish all living beings. For a more detailed account on the role of dogs in Hinduism, visit the link: https://m.dogspot.in/the-importance-of-dogs-in-hindu-mythology/
Lord ‘Khandoba’, ‘Bhairava’ and ‘Dattatreya’ along with dogs, from left to right.
  • In Nepal: There exists a designated festival that falls annually in autumn and is known as ‘Kukur Tihar’, (literally translating to ‘dog festival’) dedicated solely to dogs. On this day, all dogs, whether pets or strays are honored, celebrated and worshiped for their unparalleled loyalty and unconditional love for man. They’re pampered with ‘teekas’ (religious red marks on their foreheads) and garlands of flowers and a variety of delicious food servings. Depending on the celebrant, the dog’s treats include homemade confectionery, milk, eggs, meat, or high-quality dog food.
Various dogs being worshipped on ‘Kukur Tihar’.
  • Christianity: The Catholic Church recognizes ‘Saint Roch’ (also called Saint Rocco), who lived in the early 14th century in France, as the Patron saint of dogs’. It is said that he caught the plague while doing charitable work and went into the forest, expecting to die. There he was befriended by a dog who licked his sores and brought him food, and he was able to recover. The feast day of Saint Roch, August 16, is celebrated in Bolivia as the “birthday of all dogs.”
Saint Roch, The Patron Saint Of Dogs.
  • In Egypt: The Ancient Egyptians are often more associated with cats, yet here too, dogs are found to have a sacred role and figure as an important symbol in religious iconography. Dogs were also associated with ‘Anubis’, the God of the underworld.
  • Greek mythology: Dogs were closely associated with ‘Hecate’ in the Classical world. Dogs were sacred to ‘Artemis’ and ‘Ares’. ‘Cerberus’ was the three-faced guard dog of the Underworld. ‘Laelaps’ was a dog in Greek mythology. When ‘Zeus’ was a baby, a dog known only as the “golden hound” was charged with protecting the future king of Gods.
  • Judaism: Jewish law requires Jews to feed dogs that they own before themselves and make arrangements for feeding them before obtaining them.
  • In Mesopotamia: More than 30 dog burials, numerous dog sculptures and drawings were discovered when the area around the ‘Ninisinna’ temple was excavated. In the ‘Gula’ cult, the dog was used in oaths and was sometimes referred to as a divinity.
  • In Philistines: A large dog cemetery was discovered at the archaeological diggings of Philistines in the city of Ashkelon, dating from when the city was part of the Persian Empire. It is thus believed that the dogs must have had a sacred role.
  • Zoroastrianism: In Zoroastrianism, the dog is regarded as an especially beneficent, clean and righteous creature, which must be fed and taken care of. The dog is praised for the useful work it performs in the household, but it is also seen as having special spiritual virtues. A dog’s gaze is considered to be purifying to drive offdaevas’ (demons). It is also believed to have a special connection with the afterlife: the Chinwad Bridge to Heaven is said to be guarded by dogs in Zoroastrian scripture, and dogs are traditionally fed in commemoration of the dead. “Ihtiram-i sag”, “respect for the dog”, is a common injunction or order among Iranian Zoroastrian villagers. Detailed prescriptions for the appropriate treatment of dogs are found in the ‘Vendidad’ (a subdivision of the Zoroastrian holy scripture ‘Avesta’), especially in chapters 13, 14 and 15, where harsh punishments are imposed for harm inflicted upon a dog and the faithful are required to assist dogs, both domestic and stray, in various ways; often, help or harm to a dog is equated with help and harm to a human. The killing of a dog (“a shepherd’s dog, or a house-dog, or a ‘Vohunazga’ [i.e. stray] dog, or a trained dog”) is considered to lead to damnation in the afterlife. A homeowner is required to take care of a pregnant dog that lies near his home, at least until the puppies are born (and in some cases until the puppies are old enough to take care of themselves, namely six months). If the homeowner does not help the dog and the puppies come to harm as a result, “he shall pay for it the penalty for wilful murder”, because “Atar (Fire), the son of ‘Ahura Mazda’, watches as well (over a pregnant dog) as he does over a woman”. It is also a major sin if a man harms a dog by giving it bones that are too hard and get stuck in it’s throat, or food that is too hot, so that it burns it’s throat. Giving bad food to a dog is as bad as serving bad food to a human. The believers are required to take care of a dog with a damaged sense, and try to heal it “in the same manner as they would do for one of the faithful”.

That must have been quite a list! Hopefully by now the skeptics, if not wholly, at least partially, have been convinced about the divinity of the dog’s soul.

Coming to SUPERSTITIONS:

NO, Dogs are NOT inauspicious!

Dogs being a part of almost all religious scriptures, and vehicles and companions of various Gods as evident above are enough proof to discard the myth created and reinforced by ignorant people who claim that dogs are unlucky! Whereas they are actually and factually not only holy but the best gift to mankind. Various scriptures such as the Zoroastrian also mandate it to treat dogs as you would treat humans and in case of cruelty which is a major sin, there are harsh punishments imposed in this life and damnation in the after.

NO, All Dogs Are Dogs, Even The Black Ones Are NOT Any Different!

Black coated dogs are not unlucky. Are black skinned humans considered any unluckier than the white or brown ones? We have devised the concept of ‘racism’ to defend ourselves, why doesn’t that apply to all creatures? Cultures believe that the black dogs are embodiment or protectors of evil. In reality black dogs like white or brown ones are just embodiment of unconditional love who will protect you with their lives if you even happen to feed them scraps. In India too black dogs are frowned upon by many, for reasons best known to them only. Whereas according to Hinduism keeping a black dog at home is believed to please the God ‘Shani’. The first thing an Indian astrologer would ask you to do, if you are going through a tough time (‘Shanidasha’) due to the misalignment of planets (‘Rahu’ and ‘Ketu’), is to get yourself a black dog and take good care of him!

Lord Shani along with ‘black dogs’.

NO, Dogs’ Crying Is NOT Evil Omen!

It is not even them crying. It is ‘howling’. Dogs howl throughout the day, at night too. It has nothing to do with ghosts loitering nearby! It’s just that nights are comparatively less noisy than days. During daytime there are people talking and shouting and driving and honking. Appliances and machines are run in houses and factories. TVs and phones are constantly adding to the noise. All these factors lead to us not being able to hear dogs distinctively. But during the nights there is a whole lot of silence that attracts our attention to these animals, who are just acting themselves. They howl when they sense danger approaching them or any of their pack members. They do that to alert themselves of possible harm. Also to get their members united if someone goes astray. If one of the members find a source of food that can feed more than a dog, they signal the rest to come and join. Just part of their basic survival instinct. It is only about communication, just the way we do, the only difference is that they bark in different pitches and tones for different messages, because they aren’t blessed like us with internet or phones! And that’s pretty much everything about it.

Now addressing IGNORANCE AND LACK OF AWARENESS:

NO, Dogs Do NOT Await The Slightest Opportunity To Bite Innocent Humans!

Dogs bite only when they absolutely have to. Only when that is their last resort. They bite if they feel threatened, to protect themselves or anything very dear to them, such as their babies, food, territory or anything important. If a dog is sitting at the corner of a street and a stranger just calmly walks past them minding his own business, they won’t just get up and bite them for fun! Humans torture dogs for fun. Dogs don’t do that ever. It simply does not even occur to them. Dogs are not savage, they always act according to their principles. Their brains are wired like that, they simply cannot do anything unjustifiable, even if they should because they aren’t built that way. A random dog will never simply walk up to you and bite you. They will only do so if you go near them and do something that causes them discomfort, only then will he first try to tell you to back off leaving him alone through some or the other kind of ‘body language’ because they can’t speak. They will growl, exposing their teeth and wait for you to take that hint. If you still continue pestering them and they have no other option but to fight you, only then will they get into using their teeth on your flesh. Canines have a code and they follow it just like all other animals except humans. It will always be in that sequence consisting of alerting you first and only in case you carry on with the provocations, will you actually end up getting bloody!

NO, All Dog Bites Do NOT Cause Rabies!

Cases of patients with Rabies fall under the ‘very rare’ category in India which statistically is fewer than 100 thousand cases per year. The dogs you see on the street are not rabid. Rabid dogs don’t live long enough to become a statistic. Rabies kills the dog within a week or at max a fortnight. Less than 5% of the dogs are carrying the disease without being affected.

For source and more details visit: http://www2.keelpno.gr/blog/?p=4092&lang=en

More than 90% of all rabid animals reported to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) each year occur in wildlife. The animals that have rabies the most are raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats. All pets, can cause rabies. In the United States, bat bites are the most common source of rabies infections in humans, and less than 5% of the cases are from dogs. Also rabies is reported in cats more than in any domestic species. Although fatal if left untreated, a vaccine can prevent rabies both before or soon after an animal bite.

The top Rabies reservoirs- a skunk, raccoon, (on top, left to right) fox & bat (below LTR)

LET’S NOT KEEP CALM MUM ANYMORE !

Alright, having dealt with the dogmas, let’s now get into practical ways we can bring about changes that can pave a way to the betterment of their age-old wretched existence. Unfortunately our government does not recognize the need to make efforts to give them even the basic requisites of life. Our laws are faulty and severely inadequate. The punishments rewarded to animal abusers, if any, are basically a joke. The penalty involves a meager fine and that is all. Though a few laws (for the protection of animal rights) exist on paper, seldom are they implemented fiercely that could bring forward some change in the form of fear. But it is not just the government’s fault. The citizens are at fault equally. The constitution of India was enacted in the year 1950, which is 69 long years ago and animal abuse was not an everyday incident then, hence whatever laws exist today was as per the requirements then. But today, the scenario is totally different. And there needs to be a lot of amendments in this section. But because animal abuse is not taken seriously, very few cases end up getting reported. Hence the urgency is not documented and we cannot expect the government to know otherwise. If something is not working fine for us, it is us who have to create the sense of urgency before the government so they feel pressurized to make the necessary amendments based on an upsurged public demand. For instance section 377 of the Indian Constitution has just been amended few months back. It was a 157 years old law that criminalized “sexual activities against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal”. The current amendment has struck down the part containing ‘man and woman’ from the quote, thus legalizing homosexuality. However the part containing ‘animals’ remains untouched. Bestiality (which is the term for humans having intercourse with animals) is still a crime. Now why I mentioned this is because I wanted to emphasize on the power of public pressure that lead to the government making these changes, which is a huge deal! This is the power vested with the citizens of a democracy like India. If we feel something is not as per the current requirements of ever-changing time, it is us who need to unite and bring about the change. So coming back to the point, animal rights laws are severely deficient in India, but we can still mark the change. We need to sense the fact that dogs deserve better. Animal abuse has to be taken seriously beginning from the grass-root level which is us.

We have happened to witness them being abused in our everyday lives in various ways, some subtle, some scary. There are people who don’t give a damn, also there are people who feel sorry for them, but because they don’t know what to do about it, they choose to keep mum and walk past with resentment. There are laws that exist in India, but what’s lacking is the awareness among the masses. So the next time you witness a dog being mistreated or abused, please don’t stay mum, make a huge deal of it! Scream and gather masses, draw the attention of the passers by so the offender feels startled and threatened, giving the poor abused dog an opportunity to flee. If he is injured and is not able to make it, help him out, either take him to a Vet nearby or contact the local NGO that works for animals. Lodge an FIR at the local police station. An added plus would be if you can shoot a video or take pictures of the offender and save them for proof. Do any and everything you can think of. The idea is to convey the message that there are people who care for the rights of these innocent animals, even if they aren’t ‘useful’ to us in any tangible kinda way. Because we are humans with the thing called ‘humanity’ inside us, not just the appearance! It will not only teach the offender a lesson but at the same time it will uplift the spirits of the people who care but could not muster up the courage to react in such a case. They’ll be trained on how exactly are they supposed to deal with, the next time they face a similar situation. Also will it act as a deterrent to all those who have had such history of abusing animals. Just think about it, a little change in your stance alone leads to so many things happening simultaneously,

  • the dog gets saved,
  • the offender is taught a new lesson he’ll never forget,
  • the passers-by; who are compassionate to animals learn how exactly are they supposed to handle a similar situation in future,
  • and the ones who have ever mistreated animals would know what lies in store for them in case they repeat it a next time!

Each of these things lie in your hands, so don’t ever underestimate your influence or capabilities being just a common man. The change lies in you. Remember the quote by Mahatma Gandhi? “Be the change you want to see in the world”. The change here awaits none other than YOU!

LITTLE THINGS WE CAN DO TO MAKE THEIR LIVES SO MUCH BETTER !

Stray dogs are almost always starved. They have to compete with an already big population of strays living in a small area, for morsels from garbage dumps. So the biggest problem is this acute scarcity of food. During the scorching summers, even water accessibility adds to it. What we can do to help is just collect the leftovers of our house for them, that we would not eat and dispose off the following day. They are stale for us, but for the dogs, they’re a dream. We can simply collect them, wrap them loosely and place them outside our houses. Dogs loitering nearby would follow the food’s scent, locate and eat it. If it’s done regularly for as little as a week, they’ll pick up the hint and visit regularly hoping for their luxury parcel! It hardly takes any hard work, but the joy and satisfaction received is indescribable.

If you feel a little extra generous, you can always add to the quantity and quality of food. A few extra chapatis or bread or biscuits will support more of them without breaking your bank. Additionally you can also keep water for them outside. Just fill up any old tub, pot, bucket or utensil with water preferably big enough so you don’t have to worry about refilling it frequently and stack it near the food. You can also pamper them further with special treats on your special days such as birthdays & anniversaries. It will only add to your happiness alongside theirs..

Want to do more? Adopt! Can’t? I get that’s easier said than done. Don’t lose heart, you can still do so much more. You can encourage your neighbors to be a bit more compassionate and do the little things like ‘the-extra-food-offering’ you began with and with time if you have a few people as enthusiastic as you, you can even raise funds from your locality, and use the money to get your neighborhood dogs treated in case of illness or accidents or to even get them neutered for population control!

These little acts of compassion will not only change their lives but will also enhance yours beyond words. The happiness & contentment derived from your acts of selflessness & kindness acknowledged with loyalty & unconditional love from your new four-legged friends is something that cannot be explained but only experienced…

However for the sake of transparency to my readers, I must also add that, life is not always a bed of roses. For there will be times when you might happen to be pricked by a few thorns in the form of anti-social people, who won’t recognize or value your efforts towards the poor dogs. You may face and have to deal with these kinds of resistance, but fret not, if you could come this far you’ll make it farther. So there will be pricks who would be concerned about literally any weird concern they can think and make of and would try their best to create unnecessary hurdles to decelerate your pace. For instance, some random neighbor might dislike or be scared of dogs and be annoyed at you for having to merely pass by the peaceful dogs nestling near your house awaiting lunchtime! Or some retarded kid might find pelting them with stones very amusing or funny! The truth is these anti-social elements are everywhere, you just need to learn to deal with them, the appropriate way. For that please know yours as well as your furry best friends’ rights summarized below. This is a very brief summary that I have shared, from the original copy of the circular from the Animal Welfare Board of India, regarding the rights of the pets and stray dogs, their owners and caregivers, duly signed by the Chairperson.

  • There is no law forbidding the feeding of stray dogs by citizens. Courts have upheld the act of feeding them as these citizens are performing a duty cast upon them by the Constitution of India – of showing compassion to all living creatures. Also does this act reduce animal – human conflict which is an added plus.
  • Attempts to interfere with or harassment to a person who chooses to look after or feed stray dogs, can be tantamount to the very grave offense of criminal intimidation.
  • Beating, driving away, dumping elsewhere or killing stray dogs is an offense punishable by law.
  • Animal cruelty is an offense under section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and sections 428 & 429 of the Indian Penal Code – punishable with imprisonment and fine.

Check out the entire circular here- The_dogs_circular_AWBI

Before we part ways let’s go through an amazing real-life-story that truly epitomizes the quote, “Those who teach the most about humanity aren’t always humans.” Here we have a pup that was orphaned or lost, having no one to look after him. A monkey noticed his distress and decided to adopt him. The monkey, feeds (in fact let’s him eat first), carries and protects him. This is a true incident that happened in a village called ‘Rode’ in Punjab, India.

Another very similar incident took place in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, India.

They say we have ‘evolved’ from the apes. Evolution is development and advancement not just physically but morally as well. But here we have these monkeys mothering animals belonging to a different species, whereas humans are just walking past and clicking pictures.
Who exactly is the animal here?
Who is the one practicing humanity?
Have we really evolved in the true sense?

I would feel really appreciated if you ‘Like’ or ‘Comment’ on the article. Your ‘Subscribing’ for future updates would feel equally great. But if there’s one thing I could ask from you, it would be to ‘Share’ it. The sole purpose behind this article was to combat myths to persuade people to treat these innocent souls better. Of course there are a lot of people who care for them already. But for the rest, I need you to help me reach out and appeal to their reason in order to pave a way for the little changes that can lead to their better lives. If you agree with my content and believe that they really deserve better, please pool in to the cause and share it on. Thanks in advance.
Stay Dog Blessed!

Godly Dogs

Hey! I am Srijana, the owner & author of this Web Log. I am from India. Academically, I did my Master's in English Literature and Human Resource Management. Passionately, I love 'dogs' first, then 'writing'. Professionally, I aspire to be a blogger, because that way I can pursue both my interests, which is 'writing' about 'dogs'. Leisurely, I love pampering my dogs at home along with doing whatever little things I can afford to, for the strays outside. When I'm not surrounded by my furry friends, I am on the internet, voraciously exploring things about canine kind, that even these years of (pup raising) experience have kept me unenlightened of. Spiritually, this is my dream job as it helps me raise awareness for the pup fearing/disliking (people) & enhance the lives of pup-parents (by sharing valuable content addressing their concerns) and of course keep myself connected to the very purpose of my life.

2 thoughts on “THE STREET/ STRAY DOGS: Debunking myths, for their long-overdue, much-deserved better lives.

  1. Hi
    I find this article very interesting and thanks for all the research. I do love dogs but was not aware of all these facts .

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