There have been many reports of stray dogs attacking humans, but why does the most human-friendly animal turn ferocious?

Basically it is because they are left hungry and thirsty on the streets; there are no caretakers or very few people who care for them, animal experts told IANS.

Speaking with reference to an incident reported on February 28 in which a month-old baby boy was mauled to death by stray dogs in a district hospital in Sirohi district of Rajasthan, the experts said that the incident needs to be studied in depth.

Why are there no water vessels being kept on the streets? Why is there no food available for them? Why are they not being vaccinated and why do drivers continue to drive at top speed even when they see these dogs roaming on the roads?

The cruelty being shown by humans towards these mute animals makes them ferocious.

Arjun Gothwal, manager of a dog rescue centre called Help in Suffering, said, "We generally get 60-70 complaints daily of dog menace from different societies in Jaipur, we bring them to our centre, feed them, treat them and vaccinate them."

"We have analysed that most of the times, when they come to our centre, they are hungry and thirsty and hence become ferocious unable to bear the hunger pangs. So humans need to care for these animals."

In the Sirohi incident the infant was picked up when he was reportedly sleeping next to his mother. His body was found outside the hospital ward. CCTV footage showed that two dogs went inside the TB ward of the hospital and one of them returned with the infant.

Animal rights experts said the only long-term solution to the issue is sterilisation and vaccination of stray dogs.

Gothwal said that the incidents of dog attacks are very sad and tragic. Dogs are friendly, social animals who would not normally attack a human. We have hundreds of dogs at our centre and they are all very friendly and have never attacked us, he added.

However, at times, people shout at stray dogs, kick or beat them with sticks, throw stones at them and abuse them in other ways that make them feel severely threatened.

Radhika Suryavanshi, campaigns manager, PETA India said, "An effective sterilisation program can help prevent this as stray dogs are surgically neutered and then located in their own area. They can also be vaccinated against rabies. Since territories are not left vacant, new dogs cannot enter."

Suryavanshi added: "Over time, as the dogs die natural deaths, their numbers dwindle. The dog population becomes stable, non-breeding, non-aggressive and rabies-free, and it gradually decreases over a period of time. It is the duty of municipalities under the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001 to run an effective dog sterilisation program and has been a requirement for 22 years -- and if all municipalities had been taken this lawful duty seriously, there would hardly be any dogs on the road today," she said.