In an act of shocking brutality, over 100 dogs were culled and their bodies buried near a pond in this village, nearly 20 km from Chennai, over the last three days. The poisoning of the dogs, according to residents, was carried out at the orders of the Panchayat. Nearly 25 carcasses of dogs that were culled on Monday were recovered by the Blue Cross of India and brought to the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in Vepery.
While villagers claim that nearly 200 dogs were killed, Blue Cross puts the number of the animals poisoned at around 100. Dogs from the areas of Sendurpuram, Vinayaganagar and Amman Nagar were killed and brought to nearby D.R.R Nagar, where they were buried near a neglected pond.
“On Saturday and Sunday, three men and a woman came in a tractor loaded with over a hundred bodies of dogs and buried them here. This happened at noon when most people were at work,” said a resident. “They told us it was as per panchayat instructions. Since the tractor bore the panchayat sticker, we did not interfere. They assured us the pit had been dug really deep so there would be no smell.”
The act came to light when the same tractor arrived at the same place, this time with 24 carcasses, on Monday morning and one of the residents informed Blue Cross. “When we rushed there, they had already injected the dogs with cyanide and some dogs were gasping for breath. We couldn't save them though we brought all the bodies to TANUVAS,” said Dawn Williams, General Manager, Blue Cross of India. Mr Williams also exhumed another carcass, buried much earlier, and brought it to TANUVAS for a post-mortem examination.
A complaint was lodged and Poonamallee police registered an FIR against six people, two of whom — Elangovan, supervisor of sweepers in Poonamallee panchayat and Kalainesan, driver of the tractor — have been arrested. The others, mostly people hired to catch the dogs with iron hooks and inject them with cyanide, ran away as soon as residents and Blue Cross workers raised an alarm.
“The panchayat president has been out of the city for the past three days and the workers took the action without consulting him. They did this only because the residents had complained of the dog menace,” said T. Mahesh, advocate for the accused party. Every family here owns dogs and most don't know how to take care of them. They are not sterilised and they bite us, he added.
Residents acknowledge the dog menace exists in the area. The slaughter houses and garbage in the area have increased the number of dogs in the last few months, they said.
“Many of us here are night shift workers in companies and it very difficult, to walk along or cycle past this stretch to get home at nights, because the dogs attack us or chase us. We had complained to the panchayat and the officials said they would take care of it,” said another resident. “But we never wanted them to be killed and dumped like this,” he added.
Some residents said they were told the injections would only drug the dogs and they would be dropped off on the outskirts. "Only when we saw the tractor lowering the bodies into the pit, did we realise they had lied to us. They had not even spared puppies,” said a student.
Police officials in Poonamallee said that investigations were on. “We have sent the cyanide bottles for examination to know how the panchayat workers procured them,” said Shankar, the investigating officer.
Some residents also say the culling here is not a new thing in the area and happens once in every few months. “But this is the first time they killed even dogs that were being taken care of by various families,” said Geetha, a resident.
“We did not visit our native village because our dog was to give birth. But a woman came today and injected my dog when she was sleeping near the gate. Before, we knew what was happening, the dog had died. They put the carcass on the tractor,” said Janaki, a resident.
“There are ways to deal with dogs,” said Mr. Williams said. "We urge residents to never kill dogs because that creates a vacuum and encourages dogs from other localities to come in. These new unfamiliar dogs often turn into nuisance."