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Kerala gears up for fight against stray dogs

- September 13, 2022

Thiruvananthapuram, September 13 (BPNS)

With stray dog attacks continuing unabated in the state, the entire government machinery has sprung into action. It is learned that similar efforts made during the times of floods and the Covid-19 pandemic are what is expected by the government to address the stray dog menace.

According to local bodies minister MB Rajesh, it was because of the wholehearted support of the people that the government was able to handle the floods and the Covid-19 outbreak. “This time also we are expecting a similar kind of support,” said Rajesh referring to the stray dog menace.

At the same time, a four-member committee came into effect in each district to coordinate the activities meant for curbing the stray dog menace.

The committee which consists of the district panchayath president, district collector, joint director of the veterinary department, and deputy director, panchayath will sit once a week to assess the progress in the said activities.

Each local body has been asked to submit a report daily detailing the stray dog menace in their jurisdiction and their interventions in addressing the same. He said this after chairing a meeting with district panchayath presidents and district collectors on the stray dog issue in the state.

The local bodies were also asked to include details like vaccination progress, setting up animal birth control (ABC) centers, and others.

Meanwhile, the health department has prepared a hotspot map that details areas where stray dogs’ attacks against humans were reported most. It is learned that the vaccination programme will be strengthened in such areas.

The local bodies minister also promised to convene two meetings – one with hotel owners, slaughterhouse owners, and others for proper disposal of wastes and the other to be chaired by MLAs at their respective constituencies – to address the stray dog attacks.

The other day, the state government had announced a slew of measures including culling as stray dog attacks continue. It was decided to approach the Supreme Court to seek its permission in culling rabid and ferocious stray dogs.

“The apex court will hear the stray dog issue in the state on September 28. At that time, the issue in implementing the animal birth control (ABC) programme, that is prohibiting Kudumbashree from carrying out the task due to a High Court directive will be highlighted,” said Rajesh on Monday.

He also added that a one-month-long campaign for vaccinating stray dogs will also get kickstarted in the state on September 20.

According to the minister, there is also a plan to rope in the volunteer army, which was formed to fight Covid-19, in assisting the local bodies including dog catching for vaccinating them.

“Interested ones from Kudumbashree and volunteer army could come forward and they will be provided with the training. It will be a nine-day training programme and the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University has promised necessary assistance. Other than the ABC programme, vaccination among stray dogs including the oral rabies vaccine will be explored. The Veterinary Department has been asked to explore such possibilities,” added Rajesh.

Other measures announced by the government include granting permission to start vaccination centers for stray dogs at rented buildings, immediate procurement of vaccines, finding hotspots that recorded high incidents of dog attacks, setting up shelter homes for stray dogs, ensuring waste management by hotels, restaurants, wayside eateries, wedding halls, and others, convening constituency level meeting by respective MLAs to discuss the issues and solutions.

According to an official of the local self-government department, of the many reasons for the burgeoning population of stray dogs, the most prominent is the ABC programme, which was inoperative for the past two years.

In the state, the implementation of the ABC programme came to a grinding halt some time ago after the Animal Welfare Board of India raised objections to the government’s decision to entrust Kudumbashree to implement the birth control programme. Later a high court directive in December 2021 also suspended the operations of Kudumbashree’s ABC units.

The official further added that much will depend on the apex court’s decision on September 28, when it will again hear the case. Last Friday, the court asked the Justice Sri Jagan Commission to submit a report on the present condition of the state. The said commission was formed by the court itself in 2016 to inquire into the complaints of dog attacks and the distribution of compensation to the victims.

Earlier, following 21 rabies deaths in the state, the government constituted a seven-member expert committee to enquire and submit a report on the cause of deaths due to dog bites. The committee that was provided with a nine-point term of reference was asked to examine possible reasons for rabies deaths, the knowledge, and skill of people involved in the vaccination programme, the efficacy of the vaccine, and others.

A joint action plan by the Health, Local Self Government, and Animal Husbandry Departments were also announced to decrease the bite cases and prevent subsequent rabies deaths.