Editorial – March 21, 2024

Editorial – March 21, 2024

Editorial – March 21, 2024

Title: Ferocious friends: On certain breeds of dogs and public safety

The relationship between dogs and their place in society opens up vexing dilemmas in India. On one hand there is the problem of street dogs. Citizens all over the country may complain about their residential colonies being under attack by roving canines but this has not yet spurred any significant political response to enforce existing municipal laws to contain their numbers.

On the other hand, it seems that even pet dogs too have managed to raise an entirely different class of concerns meriting the attention of a central government ministry and two High Courts. Among the questions being deliberated upon is whether certain breeds of dogs are inherently more “ferocious” than others. An expert committee constituted by the Department of Animal Welfare and Husbandry, Ministry of Agriculture, has recommended that certain breeds of “ferocious dogs” be prohibited from being kept as pets.

Such a committee was constituted after citizen groups complained of attacks on people — sometimes fatal — by these dogs, which prompted a petition in the Delhi High Court requesting it to ban certain breeds.

These include mixed and crossbreeds such as Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Fila Brasileiro, Dogo Argentino, American Bulldog, Boerboel, Kangal, Central Asian Shepherd Dog, among others. These rules are expected to be implemented by local authorities. Dogs that have already been kept as pets must be sterilised to ensure that further breeding does not happen.

The Karnataka High Court recently stayed the government order after some petitioners objected that the government department move was unilateral and did not encompass a wide enough spectrum of expert bodies. The Kennel Club of India, a body that deals with registering purebreeds, could stand to be at a disadvantage by this decision.

Years of observation and insight into the temperament of dogs have shown that ferocity and aggressiveness are a result of both environmental and behavioural factors. Thus, the age, sex, size, familiarity with other dogs, the way it is trained, and the circumstances that provoke aggression all contribute to ferocity. That said, several countries have banned certain breeds or have imposed stringent conditions to own or maintain certain dog breeds. None of these countries anyway permits street dogs in the way India does and so the regulations are premised on higher standards of public safety than in India.

Thus, the existence or absence of certain breeds of dogs is less likely to make a difference to public safety than making dog owners more liable for harm caused. While individual choice in choosing and raising pets matters, it is by no means an unbridled right.

Meaning of the important words

WordsMeaning
dilemmasis a situation in which a person is faced with two equally undesirable options or choices.
spurredis a verb that means to encourage or stimulate something, typically an action or development.
deliberatedwhich means to carefully consider or weigh options or arguments before making a decision
ferociousis an adjective used to describe something that is extremely fierce, violent, or aggressive in nature.
sterilisedrefers to the process of making something free from living microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
petitionersrefers to individuals or groups of people who formally submit petitions to an authority, such as a government, court, or organization, in order to request a specific action or redress a grievance.
encompassis a verb that means to include or contain within a larger scope or area.
stringentis an adjective used to describe measures, rules, standards, or requirements that are strict, precise, and rigorously enforced.
unbridledis an adjective that describes something that is unrestrained, unchecked, or uncontrolled.

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