KOCHI: When the Animal Birth Control programme for Dogs (ABCD) was undertaken by the Kochi Corporation in 2015, there were around 10,000 dogs within 74 wards of the Corporation limit.
As per ABC rules implemented by the Central government in 2001, the municipal corporation or local authority has the power to sterilise and immunise street dogs to contain its population. Fast forward four years, Corporation’s Brahmapuram special veterinary hospital has sterilised 5,559 dogs so far.
Does that mean the number of street dogs in the city has come down? Health supervisor Thomas Joshy says: “As per ABC rules, sterilised dogs cannot be relocated from their area. After sterilisation, they are released in the same territory to avoid fights with other dogs or residents of the particular area. Also, there is a lack of an efficient survey system. Therefore, one cannot accurately say if there is a decrease in population. However, as more dogs are being sterilised, their population will decrease at a slow pace in the coming years.”
Areas such as Kaloor and the premises of Lisie Hospital are plagued by stray dogs. While reports of dog bites are common, they have also been known to attack livestock in interior regions, say sources.
General Hospital, Ernakulam, registers seven to ten cases of dog bites per day. However, due to the reduced availability of the IDRV (Intradermal rabies vaccination) in hospitals in the suburbs, officials can’t confirm those who seek vaccination are from the city alone. Also, the bites cannot be attributed to stray dogs solely in the city. It has also been noted that pets are more likely to be the culprits than street dogs.
Moidheen Shah, manager of Shamsu Tourist Home near the Lisie Hospital, is a regular witness to around six dogs sleeping in front of his establishment. “These strays are harmless. They attack only if instigated. In all my five years here, never has there been a report of a stray dog bite,” he says.
The increase in street dogs began with the growth ofthe dining culture and lack of effective waste management systems, according to Dr G Gopikrishnan, veterinary surgeon and charge officer of the ABC programme.
“Processed and unprocessed food is unscientifically disposed of and hoarded in several places. These are highly rich with nutrients. When a street dog consumes such nutritious food regularly, its reproductive ability is almost 100 per cent and it can give birth to a litter of eight pups. In the current scenario, all eight will survive as ample food is available. If waste is properly managed, there won’t be sufficient or nutritious food. Therefore, the litter could be a maximum of four pups and there is a possibility that none could survive. Also, if a few dogs are killed, their part of the rationed food will be devoured by the other dogs leading to chances of reproduction again,” says Dr Gopikrishnan.
With the introduction of ABCD, chances of reproduction of dogs have been controlled to a large extent. “In the initial years, we would receive about 1,200 dogs. But the project does not offer short-term success. It can be measured only after 10 years. Over the years, the number of dogs that we receive will decrease. There are animal identification forms replete with data on the sterilised dog so that the same is not brought for surgery again. Whenever there are reports of dog bites, we are informed and within 24 hours, animal catchers bring the dog to the centre. After surgery, the dog is quarantined for three days and released back to the same spot. There have been no reports of rabies-inflicted dogs,” says veterinary surgeon Dr Gopikrishnan.