According to some estimates there were 30 million stray dogs in India in 2015. The Indian Journal of Medical Research says 17.4 million dog-bites are reported every year, leading to between 18,000 to 20,000 deaths due to rabies. The problem—at least in some regions—is so serious that the provincial governments and even the supreme court of India have had to step in.

A complaint in this regard from the southern coastal state of Kerala has reached the apex court. Earlier this month, the court ruled that the state and local governments must be held responsible for stray dog bites and will be liable to compensate victims.

According to the complainant, Kerala alone reports more than 100,000 cases of dog bites every year.

“There have been frequent incidents of stray dogs chasing, attacking and biting school children, aged persons, pedestrians, morning walkers, two-wheeler riders. Increase in stray dog population… has created panic among the people,” Aluva Janaseva, the NGO that filed the complaint, said, according to The Times of India newspaper.

Yet, there are also those advocating a humane approach to the problem, rather than moves such as mass culling—which usually involves strychnine (a highly toxic alkaloid) poisoning or electrocution—to reduce the canine population.

“For the past two decades we have rounded up strays, sterilised them, ensured they are rabies-free and returned them to their original localities. All this at a rate of 500-600 dogs per month,” said Shilpa Mahbubani of Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA), a public charitable trust in Bengaluru working for welfare of animals.

“There are 4-5 other such organisations and individuals working in this field in Bengaluru, because of which there have been no cases of rabies reported in the past three years,” Mahbubani said.

In Hisar town of the northern Indian state of Haryana, over 92,000 dogs were sterilized and/or vaccinated in the past year as part of a first-of-its-kind National Rabies Control Program by the Humane Society International (HSI), another NGO that works for street and farm animals.

With one year remaining in its program, HSI plans to open new sterilization centres in other Haryana towns such as Jind and Bhiwani and sterilize an additional 50,000 dogs and vaccinate another 180,000.

According to a press release from HSI, the supreme court itself had earlier issued orders, directing authorities to tackle dog population through humane animal birth control protocols. These orders came after repeated reports of dog culling and dog abuse across India.

Besides institutions and organisations, very often individuals too take it upon themselves to “take care” of dogs in their locality. Often, this too has evoked the wrath of others.

In Ammu’s case, according to Harish, someone flew down from Delhi to adopt her after reading about her plight in the media. But her caretakers have refused part with her.

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.