The number of residents falling prey to the stray dog menace has jumped despite the increase in number of dogs sterilised and vaccinated in last three years.
While, the number of neutered dogs has increased from 25,700 in 2012-13 to over 39,200 in 2015-16 till March, the dog bite cases has also jumped from 41,345 in 2013 to 50,861 in 2015. One person also died of rabies in Ahmedabad last year.
In the absence of updated data on dog population in the city, the authorities are relying on the 2011 dog census conducted by the Humane Society International (HSI) that concluded the street dog population in Ahmedabad was 2.15 lakh. There has been no attempt by the municipal body to update this figure in the last five years.
Based on this data, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s Cattle Nuisance Control Department (CNCD) is aiming to sterilise 40,000 dogs this year. To meet the target set in the Animal Birth Control (ABC) Programme, the AMC’s standing committee on Thursday extended for two years the contract of all four NGOs involved in dog sterilisation in the city.
Admitting the rise in dog bite cases, the health department authorities say appropriate measures by the CNCD are being taken to prevent such incidents. “There has been an increase in the number (of canine attacks), but we have limitations in controlling the street dog population,” says AMC’s medical officer Dr Bhavin Solanki. Authorities cite lack of support from the locals, lack of awareness levels and limited resources as key reasons for not achieving the target.
“With limited resources it is difficult to achieve the target of sterilising 40,000 dogs. But, if adequate resources are available and stringent action plan is drawn with some hard decisions, we can even sterilise the entire population of two lakh stray dogs in two years. If same day release of dogs is allowed, the sterilisation capacity will increase three-fold,” says deputy municipal commissioner S M Khatri, who heads the CNCD.
Keren Nazareth of the HSI says, “Most municipal corporations and municipalities in the state have not even allocated budget for the ABC programme.”
“Apart from cleanliness and waste disposal mechanism, which is directly linked to street dog density, another issue is sentiment of the residents attached with dogs. They would feed them and oppose the CNCD staff carrying out ABC Programme. It is not limited to uneducated population alone. For instance, recently a CNCD team went to the Gujarat High Court for dog sterilisation, but they were not allowed to operate despite assurances by the team,” said a CNCD staff member.
The AMC has its sterilization centres at Gyaspur, Gomtipur and Behrampura. These areas are divided among the four agencies — Animal Help Foundation (Gyaspur), People for Animal (Gomtipur), Animal Rights Fund and Sanskar Education Trust both at Behrampura.
Street dog sterilisation
Going by the zone-wise sterilisation figures, most such operations were recorded from the south and parts of the central zone. The CNCD data revealed that 12,973 dogs were sterilised and vaccinated in these two zones, followed by new west zone with 11,351, the west and parts of the new zone with 10,220, and the least in the west and the central zone 4,789 sterilisations.
Against a population of over 70 lakh, AMC’s Health Department has a total of 13 anti-rabies vaccination centres. Among these, four are at the government hospitals (VS, LG, Shardaben and Sola Civil) and three are at the referral hospitals in Behrampurs, Sabarmati and Gomtipur. There are two each at maternity homes in Vatva and Naroda, urban health centres in Nikol and Ghatlodiya and community health centres in Sarkhej and Chandkheda.
Following outrage over an incident of dog bite on the campus of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Public School at Makarpura, the Vadodara Municipal Corporation in 2014 conducted a survey in association with Humane Society International. The survey revealed that 12 lakh humans in the city were cohabiting with 44,018 stray dogs, which forced the VMC to implement the Sterilization and Vaccination Animal Birth Control (ABC) Programme.
The incident, however, had also sparked off a debate over the role of the civic corporation in curbing the dog menace. The corporation is in a dilemma — feeling the pressure from a section of public stating that human lives were endangered, and also from animal activists seeking empathy for the strays. The VMC health officials say they are bound by the guidelines.
The ABC rules formulated under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 mandates killing of only rabies-afflicted, incurably-ill or mortally-wounded dogs. Regarding “trouble-causing” dogs, the Act says, on receipt of a complaint, the animal welfare board shall take away a dog and sterilise it, before releasing it in its familiar territory.
The Vadodara Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (VSPCA) implements the ABC Programme in the west and the south zones of the city, while Hyderabad-based Vet Society for Animal Welfare and Rural Development (VSAWRD) manages the east and the north zones. The two NGOs are paid Rs 940 per operation. Dr Vijay Panchal of the VMC Health Department, who coordinates the ABC programme, says, “NGOs visit each ward twice a week. After sterilization, dogs are administered the anti-rabies vaccination and RFID microchips are installed to keep track of the dogs.”
The HSI had conducted a survey in December 2014 in 12 administrative wards via mapping and replication processes. The HSI report indicated that Vadodara streets are home to around 44,000 dogs and also gave an area-wise density of dogs and the percentage of lactating female dogs. The recommendations included boosting infrastructure such as kennels and transport vehicles, a team of three vets, and 12 animal welfare officers and a team leader to achieve sterilisation of 5,000 dogs in the first phase, leading to a target of 25000 sterilized dogs within 2.5 years. The HSI also recommended a mass dog vaccination campaign.
Recommendations from the HSI also include an awareness campaign to encourage sterilisation of pet dogs to prevent “unwanted puppies from being abandoned on streets”, as well as an improved waste management system in the city. The report states, “It was observed that in the wards further away from the city centre, there was significant amount of food waste on the streets. This food source sustains a population of street dogs, which may migrate into other areas as dogs seek new territory. VMC must plan an effective waste management for all municipal areas.”
Dr Devesh Patel, VMC Health Officer said, “The programme is in initial stages, but we are keen to increase the number of operations performed every day from around 30 to 60. Our target is to sterilise 70 per cent of the recorded population in three years.” Patel, however, said “No animal attacks unless provoked.”
Currently, the ABC Programme is conducted in a modern facility set up at Chapad village near Vadodara, where the VSPCA shelters over 150 canines. Ritesh Adi, administration head of VSPCA, said, “As soon as an incident occurs, dog catchers bring the canine here. The dogs are fed twice a day and labelled for identification when they return to their localities. Dogs have a natural tendency of self-defence and they usually attack only when teased or harmed.” VSPCA administrator Dr Pratibha Panchal, says, “Generally, humans hit dogs and they bite in return. This is especially true in the case of a lactating female canine that may be guarding new born puppies.”
Around 48,000 dogs have been sterilised by the Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) over the last seven years, but the dog menace still persists. The city with a population of 15 lakh records around 100 cases of dog bites per month.
Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay General Hospital records an average 22 cases of dog bites per day, with RMC officers saying that a sizeable number of victims are city residents. On the other hand, 19 urban health centres run by the RMC also register around four cases of dog bites daily. “In 2015, we recorded more than 1,400 cases of dog bites at our 19 health centres. We are giving shots of anti-rabies vaccines (ARV) to people free of cost. On an average, every health centre keeps 120 shots of ARV and there is no shortage of the vaccine so far,” says Dr Vijay Pandya, chief health officer of the RMC.
Civic officers say the canine population has gone down over the years due to the sterilisation drive. “There were around 45,000 dogs in the city in 2008. Now, the population is around 35,000. So far, we have sterilised around 48,000 dogs, and 2,500 are left. But, the result of the sterilisation drive will be evident from the coming years,” says Bhavesh Jakasaniya, veterinary officer of the RMC.
Jakasaniya says there are more dogs in areas like Ganjiwada, Thorala, Rail Nagar and Mavadi bridge. These areas have slum pockets which attract dogs as they easily find food strewn on the streets, he says.
“We sterilised 6,000 dogs in 2014 and 4,000 in 2015. Nowadays, we are sterilising 15 dogs per day. Now, only dogs who are cared for by some people remain to be sterilised,” says Jakasaniya. The civic body has awarded contract to Animal Rights Fund, a Bangalore-based NGO, for sterilising dogs at Rs 1,250 each.
In a bid to persuade people keeping dogs, the RMC last year had announced cash award of Rs 250 to a person carrying a dog to its sterilisation centre at Madhapar village on the outskirts of the city. But, officers say only a few came forward to claim the award.
Jakasaniya says the incidents of dog bites goes up in summer as dogs feel “stressed due to heat”. The PDU General Hospital had reported two deaths due to dog bites in 2015.
According to sources in New Civil Hospital, it reports more than 8,000 cases of dog bites every year.
The first three months of 2016 have seen a rise in the number of dog bite incidents in the city. “Around 25 people become victim of dogs in Surat every day. We have figures only from New Civil hospital and SMIMER Hospital.. We don’t have figures from private hospitals,” says Dr Hemant Desai, in-charge of Health Department, the Surat Municipal Corporation.
Hemant Mehta, Zoo and Garden superintendent of the SMC, says, “The dogs became more violent during the mating period which falls twice in a year. We were sterilizing female dogs, but now we have started sterilizing male dogs too. It is difficult for us to find out the population of dogs in the city as no such survey had been done, so far.”
Veterinary surgeon Dr Harit Bhatt said, “Just as a proper procedure is followed in Surat for the disposal of medical waste, there should be proper disposal of waste from non-veg stalls . Owners of the food stalls throw waste or leftover food on the roads which attracts dogs. Now, it has become necessary to collect and dispose waste from the roadside stalls.”