The story of Rosie, a 14-year-dog subjected to pre-pubertal sterilisation in 2009 as part of the Early Neutering in Dogs (END) project piloted by the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (KVASU), is a promising one for Kerala when the State is beset with rising dog bite cases and rabies deaths.
Rosie was one among the first batch of six puppies brought in for END surgery by M.K. Narayanan, Dean, College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Wayanad, who was then an assistant professor of surgery at the KVASU Veterinary Hospital in Thrissur.
After a successful hysterectomy, she was adopted by the University Veterinary Hospital at Kokkala, Thrissur, and now protects the hospital premises. As many as 300 puppies were then sterilised and given for adoption as part of the animal birth control programme in dogs. The project was then introduced with the slogan ‘No more dogs in the streets’.
But the project did not make much headway with the government shifting focus to Animal Birth Control (ABC) surgeries in adult dogs. But, this also was not carried out systematically except in a few cities. “We have paid a heavy price for this, leading to an exponential increase in the number of dogs in streets, which has been aggravated by the changing food habits and poor waste disposal practices of urban populations,” says Dr. Narayanan.
“END is a simple project where puppies in the age group of 8-12 weeks are collected and subjected to hysterectomy and vasectomy. The gonads are retained thus the natural growth of puppies is not impeded except the ability to reproduce,” he says.
“Unlike adult dogs, catching, and handling of puppies require no special training and the procedure is simple and easy to perform and the surgical wound heals quickly. The puppies are then vaccinated and given for adoption. This way, street puppies get a chance to find new shelters. This is one of the solutions to address the stray dog menace before it flares up,” says Dr. Narayanan.
The State must handle the stray dog menace like the way it handled the pandemic, using the facilities of the Local Self-Government department, according to experts.
“As many as 21 people have died so far this year due to rabies, including 10 confirmed deaths due to dog bites, compared to 27 deaths in 2022. Similarly, 2.11 lakh dog bite cases have been reported so far this year with approximately 500 bites per day. Pet vaccination, including vaccinating dogs in the streets, and responsible ownership are the main solutions to prevent deaths due to rabies,” says Harikumar, Assistant Director, Directorate of Health Service.