Dog and cow catchers of the Chennai Corporation, involved in the rescue of stray animals and cattle, have asked to be provided with training, and are also demanding that their jobs be made permanent. Up until now they say, there is no formal training process in place, leaving them unequipped to cope with hazards.
“When I joined a shelter in Madhavaram over a decade ago, I was asked if I wanted to clean a room with 20 dogs, or a room with one dog. I opted for the latter, thinking it would be easy. It turns out that the single dog was affected by rabies. After one year with the shelter, I began capturing dogs for the Greater Chennai Corporation. I learnt that the earlier ‘training’ was an attempt to reduce our fear of dogs,” said a dog catcher of GCC’s zone 3 in Madhavaram.
Dog catchers of zone 5 in Royapuram and zone 11 in Alandur echoed similar views. While the equipment used has now been upgraded: from ropes to basket nets and safety gear is now provided, the risks the catchers face have not been nullified. “I have been a dog catcher for over 10 years, but I still have not been made permanent in my job. I have not been given benefits such as membership of the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF),” said a worker in zone 11.
At present, the GCC has 75 dog catchers and 16 dog-catching vehicles operated under the Animal Birth Control Rules, 2023. After surgery for neutering and rabies vaccinations, the stray dogs are released at their capture sites.
Meanwhile, another set of people, employed as cow catchers, also say that their jobs, which too, are risky, must also be made permanent. They also pointed to the need for formal training. There are 25 cow catchers in the city working for the GCC, under the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM).
“I first worked in the cow depot in Perambur under zone 6 to understand cattle behaviour, and then moved to the job of capturing cows before the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. I have been hurt often while attempting to capture cows. We are paid ₹200 per cow, with a target of two cows per day. If we fail to meet this target, ₹110 per day is deducted from our salary of ₹13,000. I have a daughter to educate and rent expenses to meet, which is tough in this situation,” said a cow catcher of zone 6 in Thiru-Vi-Ka Nagar. He added that supervising officials of the GCC who accompany them during cattle capturing are only bystanders, and do not take any initiative to help during a crisis.
Responding to the demands of the cow and dog catchers, GCC Commissioner J. Radhakrishnan said, “This is a valid request. As a qualified veterinarian, I understand that animal behaviour can be very unpredictable. Most of these workers are under NULM. A programme involving animal trainers from districts across the State can be organised at the Chennai Corporation. The Corporation will also check on the emergency medical needs of the workers as soon as possible.”