You never hear cries of outrage when rats are exterminated. Rats are vermin, spread disease, and generally have that nasty look that people loathe. But despite the same rules applying to stray dogs—vermin, disease, loathsome—there is no end to the cries of outrage when there is a demand for the killing of these vile creatures. In recent years, these cries of outrage have come from our courts, from celebrities, and from those who rule us directly or indirectly, which only proves how out of touch these people are from the realities the public faces daily.
Stray dogs have destroyed the social fabric of most middle-class neighborhoods of Karachi. Packs of these wild beasts roam around and have become such a menace that humans are scared to set foot outside their homes. The authorities do nothing to control them, which allows them to multiply with impunity.
There was a time when you could see kids cycling around or playing in the streets in the evenings. Their presence would also bring their elders out. The gentle socialization among neighbors would help release the stress amassed during the day. Now all you see are dogs, barking viciously at pedestrians, chasing bikers, and generally creating an air of dread and distress. That famous line by Faiz Sahab—sangg o khisht muqayyad hain aur sagg azaad (rocks enchained while dogs roam free)—has become a literal reality on our streets.
Kids don’t come out anymore since their playgrounds have disappeared under jungles of concrete and their streets are now the playgrounds of dogs. For adults, too, there is no respite. The incessant barking coupled with no electricity keeps adults awake in the far reaches of the night. All the avenues of stress release are thus blocked, adding to the neurosis of the middle class.
A few enterprising young ladies had started using motorbikes to become independent of the tyranny of public transport. They had braved catcalls from dog-like humans, had given those nasty creatures the shut-up call that they deserved, and had become role models for younger girls. But you see, dogs—literal dogs—display no gender discrimination when it comes to attacking motorbikes. Whether man or woman, their attacks are equally vicious when a motorcyclist enters their zone. And when a mob of dogs attacks a bike, it can be a most terrifying experience for the rider. But this is something that policymakers, who do not live in neighborhoods teeming with wildlife, cannot begin to understand. The dogs these policymakers interact with are pedigreed and get to ride in their luxury automobiles with police cavalcades.
Those young ladies have now abandoned their motorbikes because it was already a battle for them to overcome the menace of human-dogs. Dog-dogs proved to be a battle too much. They have had to revert to the days of dependence on the males of their family to walk them to bus-stops or drop them at their places of work or education. The fight for gender equality wasn’t fought in fancy seminar halls. It was fought, and lost, on the streets of a middle-class neighborhood. Imagine the outrage of those young ladies when one celebrity posts a picture of a dead street dog while crying her eyes out. Or a political scion threatens to dismantle government bureaucracy if the authorities order the culling of these mangy menaces. Or a court orders that dogs should be neutered and not killed.
How do you go about neutering every dog on the streets of Karachi?
Can no one see the impracticality of such orders?
Can no one realize how out of touch these policies are with reality?
Are these policymakers so heartless that no one is moved when a kid dies the worst possible death when mauled by a horde of rabid dogs?
The fear that a dog attack brings is not something our children should have to endure. Even if you survive, the psychological scars can cripple you for years. Dog attacks are an addition to the multiple other ways of inflicting PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) on our people.
Every few days you see news reports of kids and adults being attacked by dogs, dying the wretched death that rabies induces. Yet the authorities do nothing. In Sind at least, voters should demand anti-rabies vaccine in addition to roti, kapra, makaan in the next election. And since prevention is better than cure, isn’t it better to kill rabid dogs rather than dream a utopian dream when every hospital in the province will have the vaccine in ample amounts?
Before dog-lovers utter cries of outrage, try to understand that this piece is only against stray dogs that carry diseases and induce fear. By all means, love your dogs with proper pedigrees, proper vaccinations, proper training, and strong leashes. To people like that celebrity person who was bawling on Instagram about the city killing some street dogs outside her home, by all means, adopt all the stray dogs you want, but keep them inside your home, and do not campaign for them to roam free on the streets. You don’t see hordes of wild animals on the streets in the West (a society that you envy and idolize), and those nations do much more for animal welfare than we do. Stray dogs are rounded up and put up for adoption. But if no one adopts them after some time, they are put down humanely. Their resources are limited, too, so they make hard decisions in the interest of their human citizens.
The human rights of our citizens to use streets without the fear of wild animal attacks are far greater than the animal rights of street dogs that are vermin—venomous creatures like snakes, and worse than snakes because snakes do not hunt in packs. The middle class, which keeps the social and economic engine of a community running, is being immobilized by their presence. Their destruction, humane or otherwise, is the need of the day. Limited resources for humane extermination should not be used as an excuse to delay this vital task. Imagine the grief of a mother whose child was lost to this menace, and then do the task inhumanely if need be because saving humans is the only concern here.