THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala is among the top six states with the maximum number of dog bite cases reported in the country. In the first seven months of this year, close to one lakh people suffered dog bites in Kerala, which is almost double the number last year,. Union Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Parshottam Rupala revealed the numbers while answering a question by CPM’s A M Ariff in the Lok Sabha, on Tuesday.
Dog bites which form a majority of animal bite cases have resulted in a huge demand for anti-rabies vaccines in the state. The health department has announced that dog bite cases have increased by two to three times. The rabies deaths too have increased proportionately, though the deaths are 100% preventable with effective vaccination. There had been 14 deaths so far this year compared to 11 last year. The situation demanded the government to act immediately to reduce the stray dog population and vaccinate the pet dogs.
The health experts, animal welfare organisations and public have complained of the shoddy performance of local bodies in controlling the number of stray dogs. The situation worsened after the Animal Welfare Board of India stopped Kudumbashree units from carrying out the ABC programme for not keeping minimum standards for carrying out sterilisation and immunisation of stray dogs. Health Minister Veena George issued a statement that a high-level meeting was held to tackle the issue and an action plan was chalked out with the support of the local self-government department.
“Dog bites are a serious issue that needs urgent attention. One-time vaccination of dogs will not give lifelong immunity. The solution lies in limiting the number of stray dogs and rehabilitating them. Pet licensing and vaccination should be made mandatory,” said Dr Althaf A, an epidemiologist and associate professor at Government Medical College Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram. He said, faulty food waste management is one of the major reasons for the increase in the number of strays.
The number of stray dogs as well as pets has increased during the lockdown period, said Dr S Nandakumar, disease investigation officer and pathologist at the State Institute for Animal Diseases, Palode. The local bodies should extend full support to expand the ABC programme, he said. Street Dog Watch Association, a Kovalam-based organationation approved by the Animal Welfare Board of India to carry out ABC, has a different experience. The organisation carries out annual survey on the number of strays in the region and has found out that the numbers are decreasing.