In August last year, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) had appointed four agencies to carry out vaccination and sterilisation of stray dogs for a period of nine months. Each agency was given a monthly target of between 300 and 350 dogs. While these agencies, together, claim to have handled 11,707 stray dogs in this period, their contracts expired in April, and new contracts have not been awarded yet.
PMC maintained that two of the four agencies had been continuing their work on its request. It said the fresh contracts were in the process of being finalised and would most probably be awarded this month.
But it is precisely this lack of seriousness that has led to an explosion in the population of stray dogs in the city. Consider this: Pune has an infrastructure capacity to deal with sterilisations of 80 dogs every day. At this rate, close to 30,000 dogs can be sterilised annually, which can effectively control the dog population within a few years. Instead, official data shows only about 72,000 dogs have been sterilised in the last eight years.
Even these claims are doubtful, considering the fact that several cases of double-counting have been noticed. The workers sterilising the dogs are supposed to leave identification marks on them, typically in the form of a cut around the ear, but this is seldom done. There have been cases where the same dogs have been caught and taken to the dog pound multiple times.
Then there have been cases in which the identification marks were made but the dogs were not sterilised. In fact, only last month, at the General Body meeting, the PMC administration had been pulled up by elected representatives on this issue. Some BJP corporators said they had been told about dogs with identification marks around their ears that were giving birth to puppies. They raised questions over the entire sterilisation process.
PMC said, from this year onwards, the agencies entrusted with the work of sterilising the dogs would need to produce proof of the job done. “The agencies involved in sterilisation and vaccination of dogs will be double checked. The agency that carries out sterilisation would have to show the removed parts to the civic veterinary officer. The entire sterilisation process would also be video-recorded. The agencies catching and vaccinating the dogs would also have to mandatorily ensure that some sort of identification mark, either a cut around the left ear, or collar belt, is left on the sterilised dog,” said Anjali Sabne, acting head of the PMC’s health department.
As of now, the PMC has four dog catching vans of its own, and the four agencies bring one van each to work. There are two dog pounds, one near Naidu hospital, with a capacity to handle 99 dogs at a time, and the other in Keshavnagar, which can take care of 300 dogs at one time. Dogs kept here for sterilisation are kept for at least five days for post-operative care. Together, these two facilities can, therefore, admit 80 dogs every day. At present, however, not more than 40 dogs are brought to these centres every day.
PMC says it is planning to double the capacities of these facilities. While the Keshavnagar facility is planned to be expanded to handle 600 dogs at a time, a new facility is supposed to come up in Baner with a capacity to house 80 dogs. The civic body also plans to acquire more dog-catching vehicles.
The dog-catching squads generally act on complaints received from local residents. On an average, the PMC receives 40 complaints every day from residents facing stray dog menace. In response to the complaints, civic staff first visit the area to plan the action as per rules. Dog-catching squads follow in the next few days.
According to PMC rules, dog-catching squads are not allowed to pick female dogs, which have new-born puppies, or dogs that are less than six months old. Demands by residents to take away dogs that have already been sterilised or vaccinated are also not supposed to be entertained. Nor are requests to relocate the dogs to some other area.