Image: Stray dogs in central Srinagar, India.
Dar Yasin  /  AP
Kashmiris walk past stray dogs in central Srinagar, on Thursday. Authorities in Indian Kashmir have begun poisoning stray dogs in an anti-rabies program that aims to kill more than 100,000 dogs in the region's main city.
updated 3/6/2008 10:54:12 AM ET 2008-03-06T15:54:12

Authorities in Indian Kashmir have begun poisoning stray dogs in an anti-rabies drive that aims to kill some 100,000 dogs in the region’s main city, officials said Thursday.

Animal rights activists vowed to go to court to stop the slaughter planned by Srinagar city, saying it is an illegal and cruel solution to a problem that could be better addressed with other methods.

With the world’s highest rabies fatality rate, India has grappled with ways to control the millions of stray dogs that live on its streets.

In Srinagar, city officials vowed to press ahead with the plan already under way to poison strays with strychnine.

“These dogs have become a big nuisance and they are threatening humans,” said Dr. Riyaz Ahmad, the Srinagar city health officer who is organizing the killing.

It was not clear Thursday how many dogs have already been killed.

Activists fight poisoning drive
Animal activists said they would try to stop the poisoning drive, said Javaid Iqbal Shah, the deputy head of the Srinagar Society to Prevent Cruelty to Animals.

Shah said using strychnine was particularly cruel, causing terrible suffering to the dogs, crippling their nervous systems and choking them.

“I have seen children cry when they pass by these dying dogs,” he said.

Shah said he had proposed the city sterilize strays instead but acknowledged that his organization had only managed to neuter 400 dogs in the last two years.

India accounts for more than 60 percent of the world’s estimated 35,000 annual rabies deaths, according to the World Health Organization, and stray dogs are often blamed.

In some areas, dogs form feral packs that have attacked people. However, other strays are “community pets,” semi-tame animals who are cared for and fed by local residents.

Other cities have struggled unsuccessfully to curb the stray-dog problem, with a variety of solutions.

India’s high-tech hub of Bangalore called off a drive to slaughter strays amid allegations that untrained workers were stoning, strangling and beating the dogs to death.

In New Delhi, one city councilor suggested shipping the country’s strays to Korea, where dog meat is considered a delicacy.

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