KOCHI: Burgeoning incidents of stray dog attacks and recent reports of rabies deaths have reignited concerns on the stray dog management programme in Kerala. As many as 14 rabies deaths have been reported in the state this year, exposing the apathy of the government and local bodies.
Notably, despite being vaccinated a 19-year-old college student recently succumbed to rabies in Palakkad. Even as the shock was yet to subside, reports emerged on a stray dog biting 11 people in Malappuram, and another one mauling a 10-year-old boy in Thiruvananthapuram.
Terrifying figures cropped up from Ernakulam, too. According to official data, over 4,000 dog bite cases were reported in the district within the first four months of the year. Ever since the Kerala High Court came out with a directive against entrusting Kudumbashree for stray dog management, the ABC (animal birth control) programme has come to a grinding halt in most local bodies across the state.As per the court order, only agencies and NGOs registered with the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) should be engaged for stray dog management.
Meanwhile, despite growing complaints, the government hasn’t taken any effective step to eliminate rabies. Animal rights activists blame the unscientific approach of the authorities. “Officials should set aside their egos and engage registered NGOs and animal welfare organisations to carry out ABC programmes,” says M N Jayachandran, former member of the Kerala State Animal Welfare Board.
“Rising dog attack and rabies cases expose the ineffectiveness of the programmes undertaken. It’s been several years since the authorities took sincere efforts to vaccinate community dogs.”
Jayachandran alleges that the animal husbandry department is unwilling to cooperate with NGOs. “There are registered animal welfare organisations in every district. The government should immediately rope them in. It should also take steps to give anti-rabies vaccines for community dogs.”
In India, an average of 25,000 people die of rabies every year. In 2021, on the occasion of World Rabies Day (September 28), the Central health ministry launched an ambitious campaign — ‘National Action Plan for Dog Mediated Rabies Elimination from India by 2030’ — which recommended anti-rabies vaccination for stray dogs for three consecutive years.
“It’s high time the Kerala government came up with a comprehensive action plan; clearly the local body level intervention is ineffective,” says an animal husbandry department official. “We need a state-level policy, involving multiple agencies.”
Several NGOs and Kudumbashree, have approached the Animal Welfare Board of India for accreditation to undertake ABC drives. “Recently, we have written to the AWBI for giving accreditation to an NGO. The board is yet to respond,” the official notes.