Officials in Chandigarh, who are clueless about tackling the stray dog menace, can learn a few lessons from Jaipur which is a much bigger city. In the last 10 years, Jaipur has succeeded in substantially bringing down the stray dog population and also dog-bite cases.
Jaipur was one of the first cities to start an animal birth control programme, based on WHO guidelines, back in 1994. An NGO called Help In Suffering, supported by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, the Animal Welfare Board of India and the local authorities, launched a pilot project in Jaipur, which focused on sterilising and vaccinating all bitches.
AWBI officials maintain that HIS has managed to “stabilise” the stray dog population, which has reduced by 28 per cent. Also, the number of rabies cases has become negligible.
The current estimated stray dog population in Jaipur is between 21,600 and 24,460. The total number of animal- bite cases at Jaipur’s largest SMS Hospital had come down from nearly 1,200 per month in January 2003 to 450 per month in 2012, which is the latest figure available and includes all types of animal bites, not just within the city but those coming from outside.
An average of 3,250 dogs are sterilised while 4,000 to 5,000 are vaccinated against rabies every year, according to Dr J F Reece, head of HIS.
“The reason for the success in Jaipur was sterilisation on a large scale. Unless 70 per cent dogs in an area are sterilised, the population will keep growing. In Chandigarh, the NGOs are not equipped for large-scale sterilisation, and the MC is not committed to this cause, even though it is ultimately responsible for stray dogs. In Jaipur, you would hardly find a stray puppy, unlike in Chandigarh,” said Maj Gen (retd) Dr R M Kharb, chairman of AWBI.
Kharb insists that sterilised dogs, both males and females, become less aggressive and, therefore, the number of dog-bite incidents comes down. “Dogs become aggressive especially during the mating season whereas bitches become aggressive while trying to protect their younger ones. Sterilisation takes care of both,” he added.
In fact, during a visit to Chandigarh for an SPCA (Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) workshop in September last year, Kharb had slammed the Chandigarh MC for refusing assistance by the board for sterilising and vaccinating stray dogs, although under the AWBI’s programme, over 1.5 lakh stray dogs are sterilised annually.
Dr Mukesh, a former HIS member, said, “In Jaipur, the key to success was that we divided the city into blocks and targeted one block at a time. We also encouraged adoption of stray dogs. Each vaccinated dog was given an identification mark and proper statistics were maintained throughout the project.”
L C Aswal, who until recently was the Jaipur Municipal Corporation’s CEO, said that the work carried out by Help In Suffering had ensured that most dogs in the city were currently sterilised and vaccinated.
A Chandigarh Municipal Corporation official, however, expressed reservations about the programme in Jaipur. “The problem persists in every city. We’ve heard repeatedly about the programme in Jaipur, it is funded by AWBI which tries to project it as a model city, although the ground reality may be different,” he said, without substantiating.
Dr Soniya Chawan, who is the project manager of NGO Vets Beyond Borders, said, “Like Jaipur, mass sterilisation has been successful in Sikkim too, where we launched our pilot project. This month alone, we have managed to sterilise and vaccinate more than 13,000 stray dogs in the state, because we’re adequately supported by the local government.”
In fact, even in Delhi, the population of stray dogs reportedly declined from over 10 lakh a couple of years ago to less than three lakh in 2013.