15-year-old Omun Sood was cycling near Oakover in Shimla one morning in December when a month-old stray puppy started following him. “He brought it home and decided to raise it. Just then, we learnt that the Municipal Corporation was offering free vaccination for adopted stray dogs, so we got it registered,” said Geeta Sood, Omun’s mother.
In November, the Shimla MC decided to try a new strategy to reduce the rising number of stray dogs in the city. It launched a “Street Dog Adoption and Management Programme”, offering incentives such as garbage collection fee exemption to those who would adopt a dog from the street. It also introduced a provision to penalise those who failed to adequately feed and care for these adopted dogs.
“The response so far has been encouraging. Till date, 155 dogs have been adopted in the city – 83 by individuals and 72 by communities such as Beopar Mandals/ NGOs/ Resident Welfare Associations etc. It’s mostly animal lovers who have come forward to adopt the dogs,” said Dr Neeraj Mohan, Veterinary Public Health Officer, whose office implements the programme.
According to MC estimates, there are around 2,000-2,500 stray dogs within the municipal limits of Shimla, and approximately 60 cases of dog bites are reported every month.
Dogs breed twice a year with an average litter size of 5-8 each season, said officials. Though the MC runs a sterilisation programme, it has failed to keep pace with the rising dog population, as is the case with many other cities across India.
During a visit to the United States last year, MC Commissioner Pankaj Rai came across the activities of Michigan Humane Society, which offers dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals for adoption as pets in the city of Detroit, while also offering veterinary and other animal welfare services.
Rai brought the idea home, and the MC now offers free sterilisation and anti-rabies vaccination of adopted dogs, besides exempting their owners from the domestic garbage collection fee (Shimla has a door-to-door collection mechanism). The scheme also has a provision for offering a free parking slot to owners of adopted dogs in their respective wards though it’s yet to be implemented.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines