“Their large numbers and a lack of permanent place are posing a problem in the prevention work. So more teams will be required,” admitted the district magistrate. The administration has set up a temporary animal birth control room at Khairabad to sterilise the stray dogs. Since Mr. Adityanath believes that most of the attacks happen when children go out to defecate, he has instructed officials to select the 22 affected villages under the open defecation-free project and announced compensation of ₹2 lakh each to the kin of the dead. A campaign has been launched to educate the locals on how to tackle stray dogs. Over a dozen children have died in stray dog attacks in a block at Sitapur in Uttar Pradesh over the last six months.What is the problem?At least six children were critically injured in attacks allegedly by feral dogs between November last and May this year. Such is the magnitude of the menace that the State has dubbed these animals maneaters. It all started last year after the dogs attacked a poultry farm. The district administration says the dogs attack in packs of 4-6 and they mostly go after children. On May 4, two children died in Mansingh and Budanapur villages. Three days earlier, three children died in Koliya, Gurupaliya and Tikriya villages. From November last to April, deaths were recorded in Saraiya Mulhai, Govinda Sarai, Gurupaliya, Khurehta, Badrikheda, Nevada and Rahimabad villages.Are they really dogs?A probe is on to find out whether the animals attacking the children are in fact dogs because locals and the victims have attributed the attacks to wild dogs, wolves or hyenas. Sitapur District Magistrate Sheetal Verma on Thursday, however, clarified that the findings by the Wildlife Institute of India and the Humane Society of India confirmed that the animals were in fact dogs. Experts of the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), who are studying the menace on the ground, told The Hindu that the animals found living in the area were morphologically found to be dogs. The DNA sequence of the tissue samples would help to confirm it. Even during his visit to Sitapur on May 11, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath concluded that the animals targeting the children were dogs, though not domestic.Why the attacks?The causes are still being investigated. V. K. Gupta, joint-director, IVRI, animal disease research, said that though he had no proof yet, the aggression in the animals could be attributed to a loss of natural food owing to the shutting down of slaughterhouses or shifting of a dumping zone. Mr. Gupta says a similar phenomenon was recorded in Bareilly district last year when dogs turned violent. “Dogs are naturally carnivores. If they get their natural food, they will not like herbivorous food,” he said. The IVRI has also tested samples of a dead dog from the affected area to test if the deaths of the children could be attributed to rabies. The tests turned negative. Two more dead dogs, probably lynched by enraged locals, were brought to the IVRI on Wednesday for post-mortem, and their samples have been sent for rabies test.What is the government doing?As a result of the attacks, locals have started killing dogs in the area, prompting criticism from animal rights groups. The government has deputed various agencies and administrative departments to tackle the menace. But its response has been slow and action started only after the death toll reached 12. To catch stray dogs, new cages, equipment and staff members have been moved to Sitapur, where 12 police teams have also been set up. The police have also deployed drones and camera traps to map the areas, especially during dawn, and conduct regular combing. Teams from Mathura, Bareilly and Lucknow have been sent to catch the dogs. So far, over 40 dogs have been caught and sent to the Kanha Upvan in Lucknow for sterilisation and release in the forest.