Scarcity of animal handlers is hampering the Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme of the Kochi Corporation, according to the civic authorities even as the incident of a stray dog biting nine persons in Fort Kochi last week has come as a shock to city residents.
It is after a brief lull that a dog bite incident is being reported in the city.
Though the Corporation had trained around 80 persons in handling animals, especially dogs, none seemed to be interested in taking up the assignment. Around 100 persons chosen by Kudumbashree units were trained for catching dogs. However, no one was willing to do the job, which has slowed down the sterilisation and vaccination drive, said T.K. Ashraf, chairman, Health Standing Committee, Kochi Corporation.
The government has fixed wages for dog handlers, which range between ₹16,000 and ₹20,000. The civic body cannot hike wages and will have to follow instructions from the State government, he added.
Recently, the civic body had paid around ₹28.12 lakh as compensation to 19 victims of dog-bites, as ordered by the Siri Jagan Committee appointed by the Supreme Court for fixing compensation for dog-bite victims. The Corporation had to speed up payment of compensation as any delay in clearing bills would have brought additional burden on the civic body.
At present, there are four veterinarians at the ABC facility of the civic body which functions from Brahmapuram. The centre needs more animal handlers to vaccinate street dogs, said Mr. Ashraf.
The Corporation, claimed Mr. Ashraf, had organised vaccination drives in different parts of the city earlier.
However, Antony Kureethara, leader of the Congress in the council, alleged that the civic body had failed to effectively implement the ABC programme. The Corporation cannot run away from its responsibility of implementing the programme on the pretext of shortage of hands for catching dogs. It should have sought the support of the Department of Animal Husbandry or floated bids for recruiting people for the job, said Mr. Kureethara and Congress leader M.G. Aristotle.