NEW DELHI – Authorities in the southern Indian city of Bangalore have killed more than 200 strays in a bid to rid the city of dangerous packs of dogs, officials said Tuesday, a move that has sparked protests and allegations of animal cruelty.
City officials in India's high-tech hub launched a drive to round up strays last week after a young child was mauled to death by a pack of street dogs, the second such deadly incident in three months, Bangalore Municipal Commissioner K. Jairaj told The Associated Press.
Over 1,300 dogs were captured over five days and more than 200, "which were identified by veterinarians as diseased, rabid or aggressive, were euthanized," Jairaj said.
The drive, however, has been suspended until more animal shelters can be built.
Animal activists also have protested the action, saying dogs were being indiscriminately killed and cruelly treated.
Millions of stray dogs live on the streets of India and some, particularly in areas near garbage dumps or butcher shops, form dangerous feral packs that have attacked people. Rabies is also rampant in the country.
Animal activists, who claim to support the plan in principal, say it has gone horribly awry, as overzealous laborers failed to differentiate between dangerous dogs and "community pets," semi-tame animals that are cared for and fed by local residents. These dogs, activists say, help keep wild dogs away from the neighborhood.
"The commissioner has given orders that only sick, ferocious and dangerous dogs should be taken, but on the ground level even innocent dogs were picked up," said Sanober Bharucha of Compassion Unlimited Plus Action, which runs one of the city's largest animal shelters.
The shelter is already full of strays rounded up by authorities and has had to suspend its regular operations, which include sterilizing and vaccinating city dogs, while they deal with the newcomers, she said.
They have also had to turn away hundreds more dogs because they do not have the space. "It is absolutely tragic," she said.
Jairaj said the drive was suspended until three new shelters were built to handle the dogs.
However, Bangalore residents allege that not only were the wrong animals captured, but they were abused.
"I saw one white dog being dragged on the ground by a chord around her neck while one of the catchers beat her with a plank that had nails embedded in it," said Jeremy D'souza, 42, who took part in a protest Monday night along with about 500 other demonstrators.
"When I tried to get them to stop, they said, 'Why do you care how it's being treated? It's going to be killed anyway,"' said D'souza, adding that the dogs caught in his neighborhood had clipped ears — a common sign used by animal groups to show they have been vaccinated and sterilized.
Pictures taken by D'souza and seen by the AP showed one dog being hauled into a cage on a truck upside-down by a wire chord around its hind legs.
Jairaj denied animals were mistreated and said all dog-catching teams were accompanied by veterinarians. However, he said some dogs may have been left in vans overnight once the shelters overflowed.
"All these exaggerated comments about dogs murderously killed are just rubbish. Any one can come and see how we are doing this," he said.
"People should look at this in some perspective. Public safety is first and foremost, that is the issue here," he said.