The Kerala High Court on Wednesday, 14 September, noted that while the state administration was obligated to protect citizens from attacks by ferocious dogs by identifying and containing such dogs, citizens should refrain from taking the law into their own hands by inflicting unnecessary harm on them.
Additional Advocate General Asok M Cherian submitted that the state had already taken some decisions and would furnish a detailed report of the steps taken before 16 September.
The court said:
"The State Government shall also mention the steps taken by it pursuant to our earlier orders while narrating the steps currently proposed to be taken to tackle the menace of dog bites."
This comes on the heels of an increase in deaths due to rabies amid rising cases of stray dog bites in the state.
On Monday, the Kerala government approached the Supreme Court and sought permission to kill rabid and violent dogs to contain dog bite incidents.
On the same day, close to 12 dogs were found dead across the state's Kottayam district after at least 40 people were bitten by stray dogs.
What Did the High Court Say?
During the hearing on Wednesday, an amicus curiae (friend of the court) told the high court of various instances of unauthorised killings of community dogs in the state.
The court then directed the state government to issue suitable instructions to the public through the state police chief, clarifying that while the state administration is taking necessary steps to contain dog bite incidents, "the citizenry shall also refrain from taking law into their own hands by inflicting unnecessary harm on community dogs."
The court had previously issued directions to monitor the implementation of the Animal Birth Control procedure throughout the state with a "view to keep a check on the proliferation of community dogs," and to ensure that "they were duly vaccinated against infectious diseases."
In an August 2021 order, the court directed the municipalities to identify areas within its geographical limits where community dogs could be rehabilitated and sheltered.
Later, in October 2021, the court directed the State Animal Welfare Board to:
"Assess the infrastructural facilities available within the territorial limits of all local authorities in the State for carrying out ABC measures and to suggest measures for the augmentation of such facilities under each of those local authorities."
The court had also directed the State Animal Welfare Board to publish a list of veterinary hospitals that have night emergency services available on its website.
Kerala Sees Rise in Deaths Due to Rabies
Kerala has seen a rise in the number of deaths due to rabies amid increasing cases of stray dog bites.
On 5 September, a 12-year-old girl in Kerala's Pathanamthitta district died of complications from rabies after battling the disease for close to a month.
The girl, Abhirami, had received three shots of anti-rabies vaccination and was due for her fourth shot on 10 September, reported The Indian Express.
The girl's death has raised questions about the quality and efficacy of the rabies vaccine she was administered.
State Approaches Supreme Court
On Monday, the Kerala government approached the Supreme Court and sought permission to kill rabid and violent dogs, Hindustan Times reported.
"Situation is really serious. We have decided to approach the apex court and devise several plans to contain mounting dog bite cases," local self-government minister MB Rajesh said after he met concerned departments and agencies concerned.
He said since the Supreme Court was hearing a plea on increasing dog bite cases in Kerala, the government would approach it for permission to do away with violent and rabies-infected ones.
The minister added that the state was set to conduct a month-long drive from 20 September with the help of local bodies, voluntary organisations, and women's self-help groups.
On 9 September, the SC heard a PIL by two activists from Kerala and reserved its judgment for the third week of September.
(With inputs from Hindustan Times and The Times of India.)
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)