Stray-Free Streets

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Local bodies must start action to end stray animal problem

A young man from Mungul in Margao lost his life in an accident involving a stray dog on Friday. The 34-year-old man was riding a scooter with his wife on the pillion when the stray dog came rushing on to the road, as a result of which he lost control over the vehicle and sustained injuries that proved to be fatal. His wife was lucky to survive as she received injuries that were not life threatening. However, her life is devastated with her husband’s death. The tragedy is not an isolated one in the state and perhaps would not be the last. There have been several cases of deaths and injuries to humans in road accidents caused by stray animals. But both the citizens and the authorities have not done anything to stop it. There are several irresponsible elements in society who do not care for the lives, security, comforts and peace of men, women and children and use public spaces to feed and fondle stray dogs. If they have to show their love for animals, they should do it in their homes. Public space is for public use. The authorities at the municipalities and panchayats have the responsibilities and powers to deal with the stray animal problem. They must activate their squads to free the streets of stray animals. Once the stray animals are out, their so-called lovers will be out of the public space too.

Driving or riding on Goa’s roads is risky as one has to avoid accidents caused by the presence of stray animals. There is no road, street or lane in the state which is free from stray animals that can be found squatting or lying on roads or pavements. The animals can jump up and dart in any direction, causing loss of control in driving or riding a motorcycle or a bicycle and making the driver or rider fall and suffer injuries. Their vehicles suffer damages. It can happen in day time. The absence of street lights and fog during winter can hamper visibility leading to accidents. There have been cases in which the owners of animals have come forward to claim compensation in case they die on being hit by vehicles. But there is no compensation given to the drivers or riders of cars, motorcycles or bicycles when they die or suffer injuries owing to strays. 

An added tragedy is that there is no clear data on the number of deaths and injuries caused in road accidents owing to stray animals. While the rights of animals including the strays have to be protected without affecting public use of public spaces, it is equally necessary that no injuries or damages are caused to drivers, riders and pedestrians owing to irrational and citizen-unfriendly love by some for stray animals. There have been cases of police writing to local bodies about the stray animal menace and the need to deal with it to prevent accidents but they have failed to nudge them into action. It has to be noted that only serious accidents are reported to the police. A number of victims do not report accidents in order to avoid the hassles
of litigation.

Some educated but irresponsible animal lovers feed animals on the roads without caring about the dangers they pose to pedestrians, drivers and riders as stray animals, especially dogs, fight for food and chase each other, causing accidents. There are also cases of animal owners who let their animals go stray but take them to the sheds to milk them only to let them loose later so that they can avoid their responsibility to clean the sheds. The authorities have failed to act against the owners of stray cattle. The local self-government bodies have to come out of their long slumber and galvanize their concerned units into action to clear the streets of stray animals. The municipalities and the panchayats must also set up special permanent committees comprising elected members as well as conscious citizens for creating public awareness to discourage demented public exhibition of private animal love on the streets. The committees should have more than an advisory role. They should work in close coordination with the action squads to create stray-free streets.