KOLLAM: In a major relief to 20 lakh dogs in the state and the 1000 odd people visiting the hospital every day for post-bite treatment, the government veterinary surgeons are going to perform laparoscopic sterilisation, considered to be more humane on dogs, to control the rising population and the resulting dog bite scare.
On a pilot basis, it is being implemented at the government veterinary hospital in Kollam. Laparoscopic surgery with endoscopy though a costly procedure, reduces the time spent by the ‘patient’ in hospitals. A dog can leave the hospital care in 2 days compared to the 4 days of confinement under the standard surgery.
The keyhole surgery aimed at castrating and spaying is identical to the traditional surgery. “The minimal invasive surgery requires less anaesthesia, blood loss, antibiotics, lesions and the resulting pain”, says Dr D Shine Kumar, public relations officer, Department of Animal Husbandry, adding that such treatments are inevitable in a civilised society.
The department has come a long way from the pre-2003 times where its system was indicted for killing stray dogs in an ill advised manner for controlling rabies cases. This has prompted animal loving politician Menaka Gandhi to remark that vets in kerala are not respected for their alleged support to dog killing. Now the local bodies have to follow the Supreme Court mandated Animal Birth Control programme to reduce the number of street dogs in a humane manner and to bring down the number of rabies cases.
The vets spay the female canines by cutting the tubes of ovaries and the uterus. They neuter the dogs by removing the ducts connecting both testicles. The district Animal Husbandry office in Kollam has received endoscopy machinery worth ` 20 lakh from a German manufacturer Carl Storz. The doctors are hoping to conduct 30 laparoscopic surgeries a day whereas only 10 dogs can be attended to, in the traditional approach. “We decided to opt for this after seeing the success at the Pune municipal corporation. Based on our proposal, the department has sanctioned ` 30 lakh for this”, said senior veterinary surgeon at the hospital, Dr B Aravind. The government has initiated similar sterilisation programmes in the past, but dogs continue to scare pedestrians, street sweepers and bike riders. Operation Zero Rabies which declared Ponnani and Peringam Vayaskkara rabies free in 1995 and 2000 respectively have not been followed up properly, the recent one being the Early Neutering in Dogs (END) under the College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Mannuthy. The project being implemented at various hospitals aims at sterilising pups. However experience shows that it cannot be the only programme, but can run along other sterilisation processes involving adult dogs, said Dr D Shine Kumar. Finding pups and getting them to the vet’s table braving the wrath of the mother dog, are said to be major challenges before the vets.
According to Dr V Rama Kumar, former secretary to Veterinary Council of India and a co-opted member of the Animal Welfare Board of India in Kerala, operating on pups is also very complicated. In fact, catching dogs continues to remain a major issue for the sterilisation drive, the other challenges being the infrastructure and funds.
According to Animal Husbandry officials, the prime responsibility of controlling the birth of dogs rests with the local bodies. At present a panchayat spends about ` 50,000 for this and it is not enough to address the challenges, said an official who added that if 3-4 panchayats come forward to share the cost, then the resources can be mobilised.
According to Ram Kumar, there should be a specialised team to conduct sterilisation and not the veterinary surgeon who does it along with other functions. At present, the sterilisation drive is restricted to a few week-long camps where the dogs are captured and according to Ram Kumar, often sterilised dogs are caught by dog catchers as their primary concern is to bring maximum dogs during a particular camp.
To avoid this, vets in Kollam are planning notches on the ears of dogs sterilised using laparoscopy for identification.
It is estimated that there are close to 20 lakh dogs in the state consisting 12 lakh mongrels which can pose a dangerous threat to man and the 7 lakh odd domesticated ones.
Experts feel that picking up stray canines for immunisation and sterilisation of dogs are important considering the shortage of anti-rabies vaccine in government hospitals and the reported ` 50-crore yearly spent by the government on post-bite treatment.
A rabid dog can infect 200 people in a 60-kilometre radius, says Aravind. Unless sterilisation is done, a pair of dogs can multiply to more than 300 dogs in three years and the availability of scrap food, ubiquitous mounds of garbage and the high non-vegetarian population of Kerala are factors conducive for the breeding of dogs, said Rama Kumar.