Streets abound with stray dogs, but there is just one catcher and very few vets

Satheesh Kumar, the lone dogcatcher of the city Corporation, walks with a limp these days. It was with an even more pronounced limp, caused by an accident, that he and his three assistants caught 38 stray dogs from various parts of the city last Tuesday.

“I had got discharged from the hospital just the day before and was advised a few days rest. But when I got a call about a rabid dog biting several people at Pappanamcode, there was no way I could have stayed home. I have been doing this for the past 30 years,” says the 42-year-old Satheesh.

For catching a dog, he gets Rs.75. The Corporation gives him Rs.15 a day to feed a dog, but only for five days. “The cost of feeding a dog a day comes to at least Rs.50. Sometimes the dog stays here for more than 15 days until it recovers adequately. I end up paying out of my pocket for that too.” He is expected to get the dog sterilised by a veterinarian and leave it at the spot where he picked the animal.

The dog-catching efforts of the Corporation, titled Animal Birth Control (ABC), seem futile. Most dogs were sent back to the same area without sterilisation in the past two months since there were no veterinary doctors. Sterilisation was carried out last in September.

“Without a permanent doctor, sterilisation is not possible. In a discussion of the departments concerned with the Chief Minister this week, we took up the issue. A study has been commissioned in all corporations based on which action will be taken,” says P.S. Bijulal, Corporation veterinarian.

Chairperson of the Corporation’s Health Standing Committee S. Pushpalatha says that steps to appoint two veterinary doctors and to open a new sterilisation centre in Thiruvallam are being finalised. Another plan is to send doctors on deputation from other veterinary hospitals in the district. But deputation has often failed as the doctors are burdened with work at their own centres. Also, they are not offered incentive for the extra effort.

S. Sabu, veterinary doctor at the Government Veterinary Hospital in Pettah, says that every sterilisation centre requires at least two doctors as female dogs cannot be operated upon by one person alone. Extra personnel are needed to monitor the dogs after anaesthesia is administered.

With manpower shortage, the Corporation is now focussing on rabies control. Two more personnel have been appointed to assist the Corporation veterinarian.

“In April, we vaccinated 117 dogs. Then the process had to be stopped since there was no vehicle. Now we have been given a vehicle and two extra people. We started vaccination on Friday and have done it on 18 dogs. We put a blue collar on the vaccinated dogs. In the next stage, once enough vets are appointed, we will sterilise these dogs. It is a huge task as the city has more than 10 lakh stray dogs,” says Mr. Bijulal.