Barking dogs often bite!
As per reports India accounts for 20,000 of the 45,000 deaths due to rabies every year. Worldwide, India has the highest rate of human rabies in the world primarily due to stray dogs. With over 95 per cent of the time rabies virus being transmitted through dog bites, the focus must be on the animal too. Meanwhile, reports also say that high number of deaths is due to the low proportion of vaccinated dogs. The Guwahati Medical College and Hospital itself sees an average of 6,000 animal bite cases annually and an average of 6 cases every day. Dogs being the most vulnerable conveyor through which the contagious and fatal viral disease spreads the most it is time that the government comes up with initiatives to dispel the disease.
Need of the hour
Large scale sterilization and vaccination of the stray dogs is the most urgent and efficient process that can help in controlling their population and demobilize the chances of the dogs being rabid. In Guwahati itself there is an estimate of 25,000 to 30,000 number of stray dogs. “Rabies control is done in two components; human and animal and vaccinating and sterilization of dogs is the most effective way to control the virus from spreading. Once sterilization dogs become much less aggressive and also get much healthier. Also, if all dogs are vaccinated, there is no question of a dog becoming rabid. Vaccination and sterilisation go hand-in-hand. There are several cities where this model is successful,” said Dr. Sashanka Sekhar Dutta, chief functionary at JBF (Just Be Friendly).
Chennai city showed the way to the rest of the country in 1995 when the city’s corporation is came up with the idea of removing all dogs from the streets of Chennai and isolating them in government-run pounds – a place from where there is no return. The retrograde idea first raised its head in the time and by 2013 saw a massive drop in the number of human deaths due to rabies.
“It is not just the stray ones, even pet dogs have accounted for a good number of dog bite cases. However, the prime focus has to be the stray ones, whose number is increasing in a very disturbing manner. Dogs are territorial animals if an area is freed from stray dogs it is within no time that few other dogs will enter the area. The process will go on until a massive drive is carried out in the city,” Dutta mentioned.
An initiative was taken up in Guwahati in 2009 after The Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001 which stated that every city’s local authority along with Animal Welfare Board of India shall initiate plans and manage dog control programs in the cities. “Guwahati was the second city after Delhi to implement the rule. In 2009 JBF in association with the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC), the nodal agency for tackling such activities, started a sterilisation and vaccination drive in the capital city. As a pilot project 80 dogs were vaccinated and sterilized but was not continued on a regular basis,” Dutta said adding.
The project was re-instated in September 2014 till May 2015 and during the process 4,500 dogs were sterilized. However, like the initiatives taken like previous years the process was not stagnant and gradually came to an end without producing the deserved fruitful result, reason being fund deficiency. In order to make the city free of rabid dogs it will require an estimate amount of 20 lakhs and within one year a mammoth number of stray dogs can be vaccinated regardless that the GMC (Guwahati Municipal Commission) provides uninterrupted co-operation to the concerned body carrying out the project,” Dutta added.
Intervention of the Court
The Supreme Court of India on 19th March issued a judgement that stated the Animal Welfare Board is to co-operate and co-ordinate with the association
The friendly neighbour
JBF (Just Be Friendly) focuses on rabies and dog population management under the banner of “Humane Dog and Rabies Management Program”. It has entered into agreements with local governments of Guwahati and Jorhat for the same and has been carrying out a war on a second front through vaccination programs and regular ABC and vaccination. JBF’s first initiative was taken up in 2007 and it was in 2009 when the animal welfare trust joined hands with GMC but no fruitful result could be achieved. However, JBF has been independently working on their dog population management plan with the help of few like-minded people. Till date JBF has constituted over 15,000 successful vaccination and sterilization surgeries of stray dogs. The treated dogs are then returned to their native places after being marked with a sign on their ear which helps in identifying the sterilized dog.
January - 519 Cases
February - 439 Cases
March - 546 Cases
April - 415 Cases
May - 481 Cases
June - 466 Cases
July till 19th day - 369 Cases
Total number cases so far - 3265 Cases
In Jaipur ABC+AR (Animal Birth Control + Anti Rabies) started in 1997, from 2001 onwards there are 0 rabies incidents (100% achievement in 4 yrs)
In Jodhpur, Rajasthan, ABC+AR studies have confirmed that the 80% threshold of vaccination coverage in the stray dog population is achievable.
In Chennai ABC+AR started in 1996, from 2005 onwards there are 0 rabies incidents (100% achievement in by 2014)
Sikkim is the only State in India where there is an animal welfare division named Sikkim Anti-Rabies and Animal Health (SARAH) Programme.