Corporation’s bid to check stray dog menace

With multiple agencies espousing different schemes to implement the Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme of street dogs in the city, a practical action plan to keep residents of the capital city safe from aggressive packs of stray dogs appears some way off.

Considering how ill-equipped the city Corporation is in terms of manpower and facilities, it had invited an Expression of Interest (EoI) from organisations or individuals interested in carrying out the ABC programme on a large scale across the city, earlier this month. With Friday afternoon being the deadline, two agencies had responded – the Humane Society International and the People for Animals (PFA).

These animal welfare groups have trained veterinary surgeons affiliated to them who can be deployed to carry out the sterilisation scheme swiftly and safely on street dogs. While a final round of discussions is still pending, a health official with the Corporation said it was likely that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) would be signed with both groups.

The city could be split into two zones between these organisations. The Corporation planned to bear 50 per cent of the project cost, with the other half to be borne by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI). This was primarily for medicines and surgical equipment.

Meanwhile, Urban Affairs Minister Manjalamkuzhy Ali, during a recent Assembly session, proposed the deputation of 10 veterinary surgeons exclusively for spaying the street dogs in the city immediately. This was welcomed by Corporation officials. But, as Health Standing Committee Chairperson S. Pushpalatha said, there was no space to carry out the procedure on several dogs at a time.

Corporation veterinarian P.S. Bijulal said he would approach Mr. Ali again on the issue of space. “Ideally, we need a large hall that can accommodate ten surgeons and their assistants. Currently, the Pettah Veterinary Hospital and the one at Thiruvallam have just enough space to carry out one surgery at a time so unless space is allotted, there is no point in finalising on the deputation of vets,” he said.

Since veterinarians working at the various government dispensaries were already heavily burdened, he believed that graduates from veterinary colleges could be roped in for this programme, after an intensive training course in sterilisation. Moreover, the dogs would need at least three days to recover. Additional space for kennels was also a requirement.

Mobile clinic

Ms. Pushpalatha said they were considering availing of the services of a mobile clinic stationed at the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (KVASU) at Pookode, Wayanad. This, she said, would travel to different wards and campuses such as the Government Medical College where dogs could be caught and keyhole surgery could be performed.

However, some have expressed their doubts regarding the feasibility of this scheme; this includes the Kerala Government Veterinary Officers’ Association.

Association general secretary G. Sreekumar told The Hindu that acute staff shortage was one of the reasons the organisation had been on strike over the past few weeks. “When you have barely enough personnel to teach the surgical course in college, how will they be able to spend weeks in the capital sterilising dogs?” he asked.

He felt that Sai Gramam, a non-profit voluntary organisation near here, had come up with a far more practical programme.

Special course

Sai Gramam director K.N. Anandakumar said he had had discussions with the Chairman of AWBI, Indian Veterinary Association-Kerala (IVA), and organisers of the World Veterinary Service International Training Centre in Ooty during a seminar recently. The organisation sent four volunteers to Ooty for an Animal Handler course to address the dearth of trained personnel. It also approached the Mayor regarding renovation of the Pettah hospital at a cost of Rs.1 lakh and the accommodation of more kennels for post-operative care. He said that once the animal handlers returned by mid-February, they would begin the sterilisation process. It was under the aegis of IVA that 132 vets from across the State were sent for the sterilisation training course in Ooty over the last year.

Mr. Sreekumar said it was possible for a schedule to be fixed incorporating the services of these vets for the programme proposed by Sai Gramam.