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Animal Activists Question ‘Stray Dog Theory’ in Delhi Mauling Incident; NHRC Issues Notices

The activists said that since it is a high security area, it is reasonable to expect that irrefutable evidence can be found to determine what happened to the child instead of blaming it on stray dogs.
Dogs on the street. Credit: jonnyscholes/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

New Delhi: Animal rights activists have contested the claim that stray dogs were responsible for the death of a toddler in the Tughlaq Lane area of the national capital.

The child, who was between 16 months and two years old, according to varying accounts, was reportedly mauled to death by a pack of dogs in the Dhobi Ghat area of the neighbourhood on Saturday (February 24).

Reports in various newspapers have suggested that the child was sitting outside her house when “four to five stray dogs attacked her, dragging her several metres, inflicting fatal injuries”.

However, animal rights activists and a few local residents have questioned the stray dog theory on several accounts in a press note released Tuesday (February 27).

They alleged that Dhobi Ghat, where the child resided with her extended family, is a gated compound that community dogs could not have accessed. The lane has CCTV camera coverage, a lookout tower and a constant police vigil due to its proximity to BJP veteran L.K. Advani’s residence.

The activists also questioned how a child being dragged away by dogs was not immediately noticed in a heavily surveilled area such as this, adding that on the day of the incident, the lane had been cordoned off for a function and was full of catering staff and visitors.

Some media reports citing eyewitness accounts have also come under the scanner as, according to the note, the police found no eyewitnesses to the incident.

“The first police officer to reach the hospital said that he found no eye-witnesses to the incident amongst the family. He has further recorded that upon returning to the site of the incident, he found no eye-witnesses amongst the crowd of residents, onlookers, visitors and others who were present there,” the note said.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) announced on Tuesday (February 27) that it had taken cognisance of the reports and pointed out that the incident was “not an isolated case”, adding that it had previously directed Delhi’s civic authorities to control the city’s stray dog population in accordance with the relevant Union government rules following “earlier tragic incidents”.

It also said it had issued notices to officials in Delhi seeking a detailed report on the incident within six weeks.

Delhi’s government “is expected to inform whether any relief has been given to the deceased’s next of kin”, the NHRC continued to say.

“Similar incidents have been reported from many parts of the country in the recent past and as such this is not a problem for any one state or Union territory. The situation is grim and alarming, requiring immediate and effective action by the authorities without any delay,” it added.

According to the activists, the child’s family housed an unfriendly dog (a type of pit bull) that they used for breeding purposes. Questions have been raised around the pit bull’s involvement in the incident and if the child was left unattended with it.

The activists also raised concerns about unchecked, illegal breeding of dogs in Delhi and the conditions in which these animals are kept that leads to them being hostile.

“We request the authorities to examine all the surrounding CCTV footage before reaching any conclusion about this child’s death. In the absence of any evidence, footage, eye- witnesses or even a post-mortem report, every media story has unequivocally blamed the tragedy on the community dogs. As a result of this hate-mongering, two dogs of the area have already been bludgeoned to death in cold blood,” the note said.

The activists said that since it is a high security area, it is reasonable to expect that irrefutable evidence can be found to determine what happened to the child instead of blaming it on stray dogs.

The note was signed by Anjali Gopalan, managing trustee, All Creatures Great and Small and executive director, The Naz Foundation (India), Geeta Seshamani, vice-president, Friendicoes and co-founder, Wildlife SOS, Ambika Shukla, trustee, People for Animals, senior advocate Percival Billimoria, Shernaz Italia and Freny Kodaiji, trustees, DogMatters as well as Tilak Nanda and Kavita Rai who are residents of the area.

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