Even as the lurking fear of bites by stray dogs and monkeys echoed in Himachal Pradesh Assembly recently with a BJP MLA asking the government to declare stray dogs as ‘vermin’ like monkeys, a state run hospital in Shimla tells a different story.

According to records with the State Intra Dermal Anti-Rabies Clinic and Research Centre at the Deen Dyal Upadhyaya (DDU) hospital in Shimla, more patients came for treatment of bite by pets than stray or wild animals in 2016.

The clinic, which receives patients from different districts, registered 1,068 patients with bites of pet animals, mainly dogs, against 766 by stray dogs, 743 by monkeys, 44 by Langoors, 97 by cats and 58 by rats. Some of these cats and rats were also pets.

The hospital registered patients with 4 bites by rabbits, one by pig and one by cock kept at home. Four patients injured by leopard, one by boar and interestingly, one by a human bite, also reported at the clinic.

The total animal bite patients at the clinic last year were 3,112. While 82 of them were bitten by suspected rabid animals, mostly stray and wild, the status of pet dogs was not known.

“The stray dogs are dangerous. But pet animals, especially dogs and cats, are equally dangerous. People have close interaction with pet dogs at home and they are ignorant about precautions to be taken,” said doctors.

They said bites by pet dogs are usually bad, mostly on the upper parts of the body, like on face and chest.

As per experts, 98 per cent incidence of Rabies is attributed to dogs. Half of it is caused by pet dogs, owing to unawareness. Surprisingly, in HP, even few month old pups have caused deaths in interior villages.

Majority people are either not aware or are casual about regular Anti-Rabies vaccination schedule of pet dogs and pups at home, the experts said.

In HP, while the population of stray dogs declined from 2.85 lakh to 1.75 lakh from 2008 to 2012 as per official census, the numbers of pet dogs are not known, yet. The total number of dog bite cases in HP are 24,000 in a year, as per a study by Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC).

“The civic bodies across the state have been asked to complete the registration of pet dogs in two months time, so that stray dogs and pet dogs can be distinguished,” said the Urban Development minister, Sudhir Sharma in a reply in the state assembly.

He said for pet dogs, the owners are responsible. “For stray dogs, the government has no option but to stick to Anti-Rabies vaccination and sterilisation on war-footing to control their population in the long run,” he said, sharing that the government cannot allow the culling of stray dogs as per the Supreme Court directions.