A Libertarian Approach to Solving the Problem of Street Dogs and Stray Cattle in India

Recently in the city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat a billionaire businessman Mr. Parag Desai died due to a brain haemorrhage which was caused by a fall when he was trying to run away from attacking street dogs who were chasing him. Every day in the state of Gujarat and elsewhere in the country hundreds of people are being bitten by street dogs or being attacked by stray cattle. India has the highest number of rabies deaths in the world. According to the WHO, 

India is endemic for rabies, and accounts for 36% of the world’s rabies deaths. 

The present problem occurs because of government socialism in handling street dogs and cattle, and socialism always fails. It is a classic problem of the absence of private property rights. First, let’s take a look at the problem of street dogs. 

Street dogs are not owned by any private individual. They are the property of the state and so, it is the duty of the local government bodies to spay and neuter these dogs to keep their population under control as well as immunize them so they do not bite and kill anyone from rabies. The rapidly rising population of street dogs and increasing incidents of them biting and killing people tell us that governments at various levels have failed miserably in handling street dogs. India is home to some 35 million dogs, a number which has risen by roughly 17% since 2016. And, according to Indian government data, between 2019 to 2022, India reported over 1.5 crore (15 million) cases of dog bites incidents. 

The solution to this problem is privatizing street dogs. Government should relieve itself of the responsibility of spaying, neutering, and immunizing street dogs. The ownership of the street dogs should be transferred to private animal care institutions or animal lovers, especially dog lovers, and to those who are advocating for the humane treatment of these dogs. Someone like politician Menaka Gandhi should come forward and own these dogs and keep them inside their houses or a protected private area where they cannot harm anyone like the Wagh Bakri scion Mr. Parag Desai or any of the millions of common people who are bitten and killed by these dogs every year. And if their dogs attack and harm or kill someone then these animal lovers should be held accountable for these attacks and must face homicide charges. At the present moment, none of these animal lovers have their skin in the game. They continue to defend the street dogs without assuming any responsibility for the actions of these dogs. 

On a larger scale, the problem of street dogs stems from the presence of public roads, pavements, and streets. This is a problem of public property. When a street dog roaming on these public properties attacks someone, we can’t pinpoint the responsibility of that attack on some private dog owner, which will happen if the dog is owned by some private individual. Holding someone accountable for street dog attacks is necessary to either stop these attacks from taking place or to give justice to those who are victims of these attacks. Because that dog is a stray dog we don’t know whom to blame for his/her attack. We can say the government is responsible but we can’t pinpoint which individual in the government is responsible. Maybe the municipal commissioner, chief minister, or prime minister? We can’t punish these individuals e.g., we can’t send municipal commissioner, chief minister, or the prime minister to jail if they are found guilty! Holding public officials accountable is a huge principle-agent problem of public governance, and taxpayers will be on a hook if we ask public officials (government) to compensate the dog attack victims. We can’t victimize innocent taxpayers for the wrong actions of public officials; that would be doing injustice to the taxpayers. 

The only solution to this problem is to privatize all roads, highways, pavements and streets. As Prof. Walter Block has said, privatize everything. Owners of the private streets and roads won’t allow any such dangerous dogs on their property. Allowing such animals on their property will be bad for their business. No one will use their streets and roads because of the menace of street dogs. The fear of loss and the profit motive will make sure that there are no street dogs, and if there are no street dogs then there are no street dog attacks. 

The same solution is applicable to the problem of stray cattle. Let us see. 

Stray cattle are not stray actually. These cattle are owned by some private individuals, but they let them loose on public property. Again, privatizing all public property will bring an end to this problem. If there are no public roads and streets then there is no question of anyone releasing their cattle on such roads so irresponsibly. No private owner of roads and streets will allow such cattle on their property because, again, it will be bad for their business. No one will use roads and streets where there is a danger of being rammed by a cow or a bullock! Owners of cattle will be forced to keep their cattle in their own enclosures instead of letting them loose. Some private owners of roads and streets might develop some roads and streets exclusively for cattle and charge cattle owners to let their cattle roam freely on such roads and streets. Keeping cattle and humans away from each other will solve the menace of stray cattle. 

As we saw above, the root cause of both street dogs and stray cattle problems in India is the government, their socialism, and the lack of private ownership of public property. Removing the government from the business of handling street dogs and cattle will solve both of these problems. The real question is, how to remove the government from these businesses? Will it be possible to privatize all roads and streets? Will it be possible to privatize everything? Privatizing doesn’t mean PPP (Public Private Partnership) or the government giving contracts to its favourites. As I have discussed elsewhere, privatization is a very different thing. Is that kind of privatization possible in India? It is possible but it requires a culture which promotes private property values, and such culture is absent in India. Historically such culture is a product of predominently high IQ societies, and high IQ is a product of a cold climate which is missing in India.  Hot and humid tropical country like India has an average IQ of 76 which precludes any endogeneus progress. Progress can be brought by exogenous forces only. As long as such forces are missing in India, no progress is possible. 

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