By Anushree Fadnavis and Sakshi Dayal
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Hundreds of stray dogs that roam the streets of the Indian capital Delhi are being rounded up by authorities and moved to shelters in the run-up to the G20 summit this weekend, according to animal activists and Reuters witnesses.
Authorities have already cleared many slums in the city and put up cutouts of langurs to scare away monkeys from public spaces ahead of the meeting.
The G20 summit, the biggest ever gathering of world leaders in the Indian capital, will be attended by U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida among others.
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) did not directly link the removal of stray dogs to the summit, stating that the canines are being picked up "only on an urgent need basis".
Ambulances being used for the roundup of strays that were seen by Reuters, however, displayed "On Duty G-20" boards.
The national capital territory of Delhi has over 60,000 stray dogs, according to government data, which are fed and doted upon by many of its 20 million residents, but instances of them attacking people are not uncommon.
The MCD, in August, had issued an order for removal of stray dogs "from the vicinity of prominent locations in view of the G-20 summit", but withdrew the directions two days later following a backlash.
Animal activists say the civic body then started capturing stray dogs "in an inhumane manner" last week, without using methods like "net catching or hand catching" mandated by guidelines.
Almost 1,000 dogs have been rounded up so far from areas like the airport and the G20 venue, they said.
Reuters' witnesses saw MCD teams capturing dogs using rods with a loop at one end. The animals were then dragged to ambulances.
"What India is doing is ironic given the theme of the G20 - one earth, one family, one future. It is hypocritical to talk of a shared future when we do not make room for our co-beings," said Ambika Shukla, trustee of People for Animals, a non-governmental organisation.
Sanjay Mohapatra, founder of the House of Stray Animals NGO, termed the action "needless".
"If delegates see people feeding stray dogs, it will actually create a good impression of the country," he said.
The MCD, in a statement, said the captured dogs were being tracked and would be released back from where they were taken, but did not give a timeframe.
"All the dogs are safe and comfortable with necessary medical help available to them," it said.
Friendicoes, one of the groups working with the MCD to round up the canines, said it has picked up 234 dogs using nets and moved them to its three shelters in the city.
Reuters images showed the animals inside cages, with a white-board hanging at the entrance detailing the 'token number' assigned to each of them, and detailing their gender and fur colour.
"We have stopped the work now since we have reached full capacity. The dogs will be released at the same locations from where they were picked up after the summit," said co-founder Geeta Seshamani.
(Reporting by Anushree Fadnavis and Sakshi Dayal; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)