There have been mixed reactions — and heated debates — after the University of Hyderabad (UoH), in an “advisory”, asked students and staff members to “avoid” feeding stray dogs on campus.
The directive comes after a complaint to the administration that some students and staff members were feeding stray dogs on campus, “compounding the problem”.
While several students told South First that the advisory was only about feeding dogs inside buildings or specific places, others felt the move amounted to cruelty against animals.
The notification, signed by Registrar Devesh Nigam, referred to the death of a four-year-old boy named Pradeep in Amberpet, who was mauled to death by stray dogs on 19 February.
Pradeep was the son of security guard M Gangadhar, from the Nizamabad district.
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Advisory for safety of students
As per the (UoH) notification, the students and staff have been requested to avoid feeding stray dogs in the “hostels, messes, corridors, residences, etc”.
“Help the administration in ensuring the safety and well-being of all stakeholders on the campus,” the notice read.
Calling campus residential areas a multicultural space with students from different backgrounds, research scholar in the Department of Translation Studies Sahana Pradeep told South First that the advisory was in view of recent dog attacks.
“There are students who suffer from health issues such as skin and respiratory allergies for whom sharing residential space with furry animals is not advisable. Dogs being inside hostel corridors and their severe barking has aggravated mental health issues in many students,” she explained
Sahana also mentioned reasons of hygiene. “Dogs in the hostels poop and puke in the common washrooms. Inmates, especially those who menstruate, face sanitation issues due to that.”
As per the UoH notification, the university is also coordinating with the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) on the matter.
“I feel it is important and dogs should not be harboured and fed in hostel corridors and inside the messes,” she said.
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‘All dogs can’t be labelled potential attackers’
A UoH professor, on the condition of anonymity, told South First that the whole dog community cannot be looked upon as potential attackers.
“If one dog or a group of dogs has committed a mistake you can not label all of them in the same category. How can the university ask people not to feed the dogs. Its our Constitutional and legal right under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,” the professor said.
The professor added that the dogs cannot be treated as villains. “Dogs cannot speak or stand up for themselves. We humans can say anything. But not feeding or shooing them away is no the ultimate solution.”
Noting that the GHMC was not solely responsible for curbing dog menace, the professor added that citizens also need to help authorities by helping with animal birth control.
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‘Increasing complaints of dog disruptions’
(UoH) Students Union’s newly-elected president Prajwal Gaikwad acknowledged that instances of stray dog disruptions have risen on the campus, but said that “if the administration takes action against students who feed dogs, it would be strongly resisted”.
“In the women’s hostel, many complaints have been raised of dogs chasing students. This has created a lot of trauma for them,” Gaikwad told South First.
Raising concern about possible stray dog attacks, the UoH also pointed out that Telangana had reported nearly 80,000 dog bite incidents in 2022.
However, Gaikwad added that the hostel dogs always shared a habitat with the students.
“We are comfortable with them (dogs). Nobody will follow the directive,” he said, adding that the need of the hour was sterilisation of the strays.
“After the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been an exponential rise in the population of dogs. Sterilisation needs to be done to bring down their population. Communication will help women students who are not comfortable or friendly with stray dogs,” he explained.
‘Stressed by these advisories’
Debunking the claims of stray dog attacks, a PhD student, who feeds dogs every day at the UoH, called it a one-sided view. She claimed that most of the professors are also against the varsity’s advisory.
“Some students are making it a huge thing and even lie about incidents of biting. Even if a dog is barking, some students call it an attack,” the student, who did not want to be identified.
She said a similar advisory was issued earlier, after which students had made a representation to the university authorities against chasing dogs out of the campus. “Because of these advisories and being called out, we are facing lot of stress for months,” she told South First.
The student was of the view that the dogs might be more harmful if not fed. “They might then attack and kill the deer too. These dogs have also help in catching snakes,” she said.
Noting that the some students have been cruel to the dogs, she claimed that at times students have even attacked dogs.
“They attacked with a wiper and pelted stones at them, especially at the men’s hostel. Some years back, students tied the testicles of a dog with a rubber band,” the doctoral student said.
The way forward
“This is a very large campus where dogs can be fed outside the residential spaces,” said research scholar Sahana Pradeep.
In fact, she said, some hostels are already sensitive to how the strays should be handled.
“In some hostels, students who feed dogs endure that they are trained not to enter the hostel corridors. All necessities are given outside the hostel buildings. Similar measures can be taken in other hostels as well,” she added.