About Me

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Mumbai, India
I'm a landrace dog fancier, birder and amateur arachnologist. Founder of the INDog Project (www.indog.co.in) and the INDog Club. Before that, worked with urban free-ranging dogs of Mumbai from 1993-2007. Also a wildlife conservationist working in the tiger reserves of central India with Satpuda Foundation.

This blog is for aboriginal breed enthusiasts. It is part of the INDog Project www.indog.co.in. Only INDogs (Indian Pariah) and INDog-mix mongrels are featured here. The two are NOT the same, do please read the text on the right to understand the difference. Our aim: to create awareness about the primitive natural breed called the Indian Pariah Dog/INDog. I sometimes feature other landrace breeds too.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

INDogs in the Sundarbans

This is one of the many pet INDogs I saw recently in the villages of the Sundarbans, West Bengal. Many households have pet dogs and cats, who all seem to be in great condition though they are fed only leftovers, and not large quantities either (people here are very poor). Almost all dogs conform to the "long-term pariah morphotype." There are a few unowned dogs hanging around the marketplaces, who are tolerated and treated well by villagers - they are all very friendly and not at all afraid of people. These "market" dogs often have itchy skin and some hair loss, though by no means as bad as our city dogs. It is probably caused by fleas.

I heard something very tragic from one of the villagers though. I asked him what the local people do when their dogs fall ill, hoping to hear of some interesting new herbal remedies. He said simply, "We kill them."

Naturally I was horrified by his answer, but it is not a great idea to be judgemental without knowing all sides of a story. So I asked what illness the dogs got. He described something for which he didn't have a name, but which was clearly rabies. Apparently this is the only disease the dogs get, and in such cases the dog's owner has to kill it (with a stick), or else allow other villagers to do it. Sometimes a doctor would come and kill it with an injection. Apparently a year or two ago there was an epidemic and many dogs were killed.

As I said, it's hard to make judgements here. Obviously a rabid animal cannot be allowed to roam around transmitting the disease, and since vets and facilities for humane euthanasia are in short supply, this is the fate of most rabid dogs in India - including those in city slums.

The only other disease they get is skin disease. Nobody bothers about this and unlike city people, villagers are not paranoid about skin disease spreading to humans. In Mumbai I've noticed a lot of people actually think skin disease is a symptom of rabies (I think they confuse rabies with scabies). These villagers are better informed.

What a shame rabies control is given so little importance in India. It is so easy to prevent this disease with annual vaccination. The government vets in this area could easily carry out anti-rabies vaccination drives once a year - there don't seem to be too many dogs per village and they are all friendly and easy to handle. Since these villages are right next to the tiger reserve area, rabies epidemics are surely a huge threat to wildlife - though of course villages are all on islands and separated from each other by rivers and canals...still, tigers do swim a lot there and frequently cross from one island to another, so one can imagine some calamity just waiting to take place.

In Mumbai NGOs have been vaccinating dogs on the street for many years, and in much larger numbers in recent years. It really wouldn't cost a lot to vaccinate the dogs in some of these villages at least. If I lived in that part of the country, I think I could have organized something. But almost all animal welfare NGOs are too small to extend activities beyond their own towns. If anyone reading this has the interest and capacity to organize a vaccination drive there, please do get in touch - NGOs here could provide guidelines on how to carry it out. Write to me on rajashree.khalap@gmail.com

Incidentally, this photo was taken in a beautiful village called Pakhiraloy, full of flowers and birds. I found it hard to imagine the nightmarish place it must have become when all those dogs were beaten to death.

Rajashree Khalap

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