R. Madhavan Nair

Offers to arrange for staff training in taking care of animals

"Set up sterilisation facilities"Animal rights laws subservient to Article 21: judge 3,951 cases treated last year in Wayanad hospitals

KOZHIKODE: Animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi has expressed shock at an order of the Wayanad District Legal Services Authority in Kerala to kill stray dogs if the Animal Husbandry Department is not able to keep them in safe custody as required under Animal Welfare Board of India guidelines (AWBI). She has offered to arrange for training of government staff in taking care of stray dogs.

Reacting to a report published in The Hindu on January 6, Ms. Gandhi said in an email: "The court in Wayanad cannot do this. There are Government of India laws and five High Court judgments saying that stray dogs have to be sterilised and vaccinated."

She said the Wayanad administration should quickly set up facilities to start this work. The administration of Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram did so and "it has been trained personally by me and by the Blue Cross of Chennai. We will be happy to train Wayanad [district administration] as well."

Blue Cross gesture

S. Chinny Krishna of the Chennai-based organisation said the Blue Cross had sent its dogcatchers several times to Kerala for training locals in humane catching methods. In January, its chief veterinarian T.P. Sekar and dogcatchers were in Thiruvananthapuram to train Animal Husbandry Department veterinarians in surgical techniques. Balasubramanian, AWBI Secretary, was present at the programme.

In April last, veterinarians and dogcatchers from the agency, Animal Rescue Kerala, based near Thiruvananthapuram, came to Chennai for training.

No resources

In its December 22, 2005 order, the Wayanad District Legal Services Authority directed the killing of all stray dogs if local bodies failed to comply with the Union Government's Animal Birth Control (dog) Rules, framed under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PDA), 1960. The Animal Husbandry Department informed the Authority that local bodies did not have the resources to comply with the PDA rules.

Pounds, vans with ramps for capture and transportation of street dogs, an ambulance-cum-clinical van for sterilisation and immunisation and one driver and two trained catchers for each van are needed to follow the rules. Under the law, it is the responsibility of local bodies to sterilise stray dogs so that their population will not increase and pose a threat to public health.

V. Vijaya Kumar, additional district and sessions judge, who presided over the Adalat, directed the local bodies to sterilise all stray dogs within one month and, if it is not possible, to eliminate them within three months.

The order was passed on a petition filed by a tribal woman living in Pozhuthana panchayat.

The judge said the right to life guaranteed to citizens under Article 21 of the Constitution had to be protected and that laws governing animal rights were subservient to it.

No sterilisation or killing of dogs has taken place in Wayanad and in many other Kerala districts in the last six years. Incidents of dog bite have been increasing. From January 1 to December 20 last, 3,951 cases were treated in government hospitals in Wayanad.