On-the-loose city stray dog bites people, creates panic
Merely a week after a wild elephant seen roaming on the streets of Guwahati created furore among city dwellers, a purportedly mad stray dog has now stolen the limelight and created panic in parts of the city.
The canine which had been roaming in the Pan Bazar, Lakhtokia and Fancy Bazar areas in Guwahati bit over 50 people on Monday.
It first attacked some people in the busy areas of Lakhtokia and then proceeded to Pan Bazar and Fancy Bazar areas where it again attacked some more people.
Most of the injured persons had to be rushed for immediate treatment to Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital in Pan Bazar while some had been taken to other nearby hospitals.
The menace created by the dog in the ever busy areas of the city put fear and raised serious concern among the local residents and they urged the state forest department to take prompt action to prevent such dangerous incidents by stray dogs.
According to the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rule 2001, it is the duty of a municipal body to capture animals that create problems for common people in an urban area and take it to an isolated ward for inspection.
In this case, the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC), upon receiving the information, directed the animal welfare organisation, Just Be Friendly (JBF), to capture the dog and sterilise it. However, JBF was unsuccessful in finding the dog.
"It is suspected that the dog died within 24 hours of becoming furious. A team from JBF searched the entire locality but were unable to find any stray dog that matched the description and seemed furious," informed Dr Pradip Medhi, the Veterinary Officer of GMC.
He further informed that JBF officials carried out a sterilisation and vaccination drive in the area to avoid such instances in the future. They found over 30 stray dogs in Pan Bazar and Lakhtokia areas and took them to the veterinary hospital to carry out the drive.
Lack of govt funds leading to rise in stray dog population
In recent years, Guwahati city has witnessed a tremendous rise in the stray dog population. This rise in population has led to an increase in instances of dog bites and rabies too. While the only way to curb the increasing numbers is regularly carrying out Animal Birth Control (ABC) and Anti-Rabies Vaccination (ARV) programmes, the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) has been largely unsuccessful in curbing the problem due to lack of fund and equipments.
Although counting of dogs and finding their exact number is difficult, a GMC official informed G Plus that there are about 1 lakh dogs currently living on the streets of the city. However, officials at a city based animal welfare organization, Just Be Friendly (JBF), claimed that going by the ratio of 1:40, Guwahati would have close to 30,000 dogs on the roads.
JBF in association with GMC, the nodal agency for tackling such activities, did start a sterilisation and vaccination drive in the capital city. JBF has been working on neutering the dogs since 2009. However, the organisation signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in September 2014 to operate on 4,500 stray dogs. The figure was achieved by March 2015.
In the financial year 2015-16, another MoU was signed wherein the GMC agreed to pay Rs 500 per dog to JBF to carry out the surgeries. However, there’s an outstanding amount of Rs 6.63 lakhs that the JBF is yet to receive from GMC for the operations carried out.
Speaking to G Plus about the non payment of dues, Veterinary Officer of GMC Dr Pradip Medhi said, “The state government has sanctioned an amount of Rs 50 lakhs for ABC and ARV programmes to be carried out in collaboration with JBF, but only Rs 25 lakhs has been raised (in March 2019) for the purpose so far. This is the main reason behind the delay in speedy implementation of the project.”
Garbage menace: Encouraging stray dog population
Open garbage is the single most important reason behind the huge population of stray dogs in the city. Stray dogs are scavengers, so they rely on garbage on the street as a source of food. In places where garbage is kept in bins and cleaned regularly, stray dogs cannot survive on the streets.
“The unsystematic garbage disposal in Guwahati is a huge problem that is leading to very high breeding rates in dogs. Dealing with dogs on a daily basis, we see that there are more healthy dogs than unhealthy ones here. This is solely because they get adequate food to eat, courtesy of open garbage,” Dr Kabir said.
He further added that apart from tackling the garbage menace, regular ABC and ARV programs are necessary to slow down the increasing numbers. Under JBF’s Rabies Control Programme, the main initiative is Animal Birth Control (ABC) Operation and Anti-Rabies Vaccination (ARV) of stray dogs.
As part of the procedure, JBF picks up the animals from different parts of a city and brings them to their centre, operates them, vaccinates them and gives ‘v’-shaped ear notch to each animal for identification and easy recognition. After post-operative care, the animals are released in the same area from where they were picked up.
Benefits of the operation includes reduced aggression in males, reduced urination and territorial marking, reduced wandering, reduced infighting between themselves, prevention of pyometra in female dogs, decreased incidence of mammary tumours and it also reduces human-animal conflict and bite cases.
The increase in dog population of the city has also led to the growth of the illegal dog meat trade. A lot of dog trades have been busted by the Assam police in recent times, but animal lovers in the city claim that they continue to notice dogs from their area being taken away for neutralisation by people claiming to be members of certain NGOs and never returned.