Packs of feral dogs have ripped apart the bodies of six children in the last week, and injured at least two dozen more children, in and around the northern Indian town of Sitapur. Villagers have organized to capture and kill the canines in a desperate attempt to protect their families.
Many of the children went out to pick mangoes, only to find themselves preyed upon the ravenous feral dogs. Other children left their homes to use outhouses — many homes in the area lack indoor plumbing — only to come face to face with a pack of ferocious, angry dogs.
Twelve children between the ages of 5 and 12 have been killed in dog attacks in the area since November, senior police officer Anand Kulkarni told the Associated Press AP.
Rajendra Kumar, a farmer near Sitapur, told the AP he was working in the fields when a girl came running toward him. “She was shouting, ‘It killed her!'” Kumar recalled. “Around two dozen of us ran toward the mango grove with large sticks, iron rods and shovels.”
There, the crowd found six dogs ripping into the corpse of a 7-year-old girl named Gita. She had gone with two other children to pick mangoes, which have come into season in northern India.
India has millions of stray dogs that wander the streets in even the most exclusive neighborhoods. The feral dogs often live on leftover food left for them in alleys. These dogs also face relentless cruelty from people, and regularly fight other dogs over territory. Injuries from feral dog attacks have become tragically common, but a string of deaths in one area like this is rare.
Locals have suggested the attacks began after a nearby illegal slaughterhouse was shuttered, making the dogs more hungry and aggressive.
Education officials told the AP some schools have seen a significant drop in attendance due to the attacks. Parents have been told to accompany their children to and from school, to ensure their protection.
The most recent spate of deaths included three kids ripped apart by a pack of strays on May 1, the police officer reported. Two more children were killed on May 4, along with Gita.
Sitapur magistrate Harshdeo Pandey told the AP villagers have been told not to allow their kids to use outhouses on their own. “Public announcements have been made in villages regarding this,” he said. “We also suggest that children should not be allowed to go out to play for a few days, until all these dogs are caught.”
Groups of villagers have gone out shooting and strangling stray dogs, resorting to violence to protect their children. Four teams of dog-catchers have captured 24 feral dogs in recent days, according to district magistrate Sheetal Verma.
“The administration does not care about the plight of the people,” Sitapur resident Pankaj Singh Gaur told the AP.
The village is about 50 miles from Lucknow, the capital of India’s Uttar Pradesh state.
This incident should remind Westerners and Americans just how fortunate they are to enjoy running water and basic safety. Nonprofit organizations like Generosity.org reach out to help people in countries like India. This one has completed 43 water projects in India, reaching 13,502 people. The charity Samaritan’s Purse also provides clean water across the world.
While government often oversteps its bounds, this does seem like the very purpose for local government — Uttar Pradesh state should take efforts to protect people from feral dogs.