Reshaping Canine Coexistence Narratives in India

A public engagement collaboration by Socratus, Samayu and ROH-Indies

ROH-Indies has been investigating the varied public, multispecies, and ecological health dimensions of people-dog relations across socio-culturally and geographically diverse India. Our research suggests that the ways in which the people-dog-health interface is conceptualized and debated in public platforms and policy discussions are not fully reflective of the multidimensionality of ground-level interactions. This, in turn, has a bearing on the suitability of existing and proposed strategies at the dog-health interface, as well as implications for interspecies health outcomes, both rabies and beyond.

Public and policy debates and interventions around street dogs rely on oversimplified and polarized accounts of people-street dog interactions. They focus on infrequent but extreme incidents, draw on Eurocentric understandings of the place of dogs, and overlook the extensive substrate of multidimensional everyday interactions of indifference, conflict, care, as well as the socio-cultural-ecological place of street dogs in India. This has led to policy measures that have negative impacts on public health.

In this context, ROH-Indies is collaborating with Socratus and Samayu with the aim of reshaping the character of public debate and policy, targeting two main sets of actors: the media; key elite actors in urban and rural development, public health, animal welfare, and wildlife conservation. Through a program of media engagement activities, and deliberative forums with policy actors, on street dogs and health in India, our goal will be to cultivate a shift away from polarized positions and reactionary solutions, enabling public and policy debates rooted in better understandings of people-dog socio-ecologies, and more considered engagement with health measures that are tailored to the socio-cultural and socio-ecological contexts.

Our first stakeholder convening on the theme of ‘Human-Dog Conflict: Navigating a field of polarized narratives’ is scheduled for the 22nd February 2024 and will bring together experts from the fields of behavioral ecology, community engagement, canine behavior, public health, and urban ecology.

This activity is supported by Dogs Trust Worldwide