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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 March 2008, 08:59 GMT
Kashmir suspends stray dog cull
Stray dogs in Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir
About half of fatal cases of rabies in humans are in India
Municipal authorities in Indian-run Kashmir have halted a programme to poison hundreds of stray dogs in the city of Srinagar.

The move came after animal rights campaigners threatened court action on grounds of cruelty.

Five hundred dogs had already been poisoned, but city officials say they will try a programme to sterilise the animals chemically instead.

The cull was originally proposed to help eradicate the threat of rabies.

'Nuisance'

Authorities had planned to poison the city's population of stray dogs with strychnine, health officials said.

Early reports said Srinagar's dog population was about 100,000, but the mayor told the BBC correspondent in Srinagar the figure was about 2,000.

"These dogs have become a big nuisance and they are threatening humans," said city health officer Dr Riyaz Ahmad, according to Associated Press news agency.

However, he told the BBC's Altaf Hussain that only rabid dogs were going to be killed according to the plan.

Animal rights activists have called the move cruel, pointing out that not every dog carries rabies.

They also argued the move was illegal, and had threatened to take the matter to court.

On Friday, officials said the programme had been cancelled.

"We're not going ahead with this poisoning, not at all," said Syed Haq Nawaz, a municipal official, according to AP.

He said local officials would work with animal welfare groups and federal environment officials to plan a programme of chemical sterilisation.

Rabies is a common and growing problem in many of India's cities.

India accounts for about half of the world's 55,000 deaths from rabies each year.



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