Residents had complained that dogs, infected with skin diseases, were at times found within their homes, posing health hazards to the occupants

The post of an additional veterinary surgeon at the Pettah Hospital to carry out sterilisation of stray dogs has remained vacant for the past one-and-a-half months, ever since the sole veterinarian who was appointed by the Corporation was transferred. City residents say the apathetic attitude on the part of the authorities concerned has led to flawed implementation of the Animal Birth Control and Anti-Rabies (ABC/AR) programme.

“There is not one ward in the city that is free of stray dog menace,” said Sreekariyam councillor B. Vijayakumar. Residents had complained that dogs, infected with skin diseases, were at times found within their homes, posing health hazards to the occupants. Concerns regarding safety have been voiced at residents’ association meetings as well, said the office-bearers of the Federation of Residents’ Associations (FRAT).

Mr. Vijayakumar, however, added that the dog squad cannot be blamed. “What can a couple of persons do about the situation?” The truth is there is only one man on duty. Satheesh Kumar, of Idukki, says he is sent on duty on rare occasions such as recently when he was told to capture dogs from the Raj Bhavan, Legislative Assembly and Loyola College areas in view of the President’s visit.

“I had to appoint my own assistants and it became so difficult that I could barely provide for myself. I had to send the others away,” said Mr. Satheesh Kumar. Moreover, he said the wages were insufficient — Rs. 75 a dog. “I was offered this amount two years ago when I started working. But things have become so much more expensive now,” he said.

With the people growing less tolerant of legalities that prevent killing and advocate the ABC/AR programme as the ideal means to curb stray dog menace, animal welfare organisations feel increasingly helpless. Leela Latheef of People For Animals (PFA) said: “The Corporation is not doing anything, and there is a limit to what we can do,” she said, adding that the organisation had sterilised over 450 dogs over the past five years.

Animal Rescue Kerala (ARK) at Kovalam and the city Corporation had entered into an agreement where the former accepted the dogs brought in by the squad, sterilised them, allowed a recovery period and then returned them. A worker here said a few problems hampered this initiative, such as long delay in taking the animals back. “This arrangement pertained only to dogs in the Vizhinjam area and we used to sterilise close to over 50 dogs a month.” Health officer of the Corporation D. Sreekumar said this arrangement would be continued. He said the shortage of a veterinarian at Pettah posed a problem. “There is a vet here but he is already burdened with routine work caring for animals brought to the clinic, which is why we had an additional person.