Rabies vaccination lacks teeth, stray dog menace bites Kerala

Govt found wanting; Supreme Court to hear PIL on growing stray dog attacks and rabies deaths on Friday
Image used for representational purpose.
Image used for representational purpose.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The worsening stray dog menace and the rise in rabies death have exposed the inefficiency of the state government and local bodies. Despite the growing concern, the state government hasn’t taken any step to administer anti-rabies vaccine to the stray dogs to prevent rabies death.

Animal rights activists allege inefficiency by local bodies in implementing the animal birth control (ABC) programme, and issuing licences and vaccination for pet animals as the prime reasons for the rise in stray dog menace in the state. The Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing on the public interest litigation (PIL) on the rise in stray dog bite and fatal rabies incidents on Friday.

“The state government’s mismanagement and unscientific approach are the reasons for the growing stray dog incidents in Kerala. Kudumbashree was never an eligible agency for doing ABC and the state government entrusted this agency without studying the basic rules of the programme. Animal welfare organisations had been doing vaccination of stray dogs earlier. But the government didn’t want the NGOs to get involved. Now, the crisis has peaked and the government should engage NGOs to undertake vaccination of community dogs,” said M N Jayachandran, animal rights activist and former member of Kerala State Animal Welfare Board.

The ABC programme and vaccination are done for the well-being and welfare of the strays and the authorities shouldn’t treat this as a revenue-making endeavour, he said. According to official sources, the vaccination of community dogs would begin only after the completion of the vaccination of around nine lakh pet animals in the state. “The anti-rabies vaccination of community dogs should begin simultaneously and immediately,” said M N Jayachandran.

Till July this year, around 95,000 people suffered dog bites in the state. The number of such cases is going up steadily and consistently exposing the apathy of the local bodies across the state. On Monday, yet another rabies death was reported in Kottayam taking the number of rabies death to 20 this year. Besides, eight people were attacked by a stray dog at Attingal in Thiruvana-nthapuram.

With the crisis worsening, the animal husbandry department, along with the local self-government department , has come up with an action plan to bring the stray dog population under control. As per a survey carried out by the animal husbandry department in 2019, there are around nine lakh pet animals and 2.8 lakh stray dogs in the state. According to officials, the stray dog and pet population has increased by 20% after the pandemic outbreak.

“We will be providing all assistance to the local bodies to carry out the ABC programme. A meeting was held. A direction has been given to urban and rural local bodies to set up ABC centres and efforts are already on and around 30 ABC centres have become functional across the state already, “ said a senior official of the department. The department had been doing ABC in five districts Kollam, Palakkad, Kozhikode, Wayanad and Kannur and sterilised around 18,550 dogs in 2021.

After the pandemic outbreak, pet adoption has seen an all-time rise in the state and the department has failed to ensure vaccination and pet licensing for domestic animals. “During the pandemic, the adoption of pet animals went up drastically but now people are abandoning the pet animals which is also one of the reasons for the growing stray dog incidents,” said the official.

Though pet licensing has been made mandatory, the local bodies have failed in implementing it. “Orders have been given to local bodies to organise camps to vaccinate pet animals and ensure the entire pet population in their respective jurisdictions are vaccinated,” the official added.

State to study genetic variation in rabies virus
In view of the rise in rabies deaths despite taking vaccine, the state government is planning to do a complete genomic analysis of the rabies virus. Health Minister Veena George, in a statement issued on Monday, said steps have been taken to study genetic variation in rabies virus, though the chances of mutations are rare. She said genomic analysis of the viruses collected from patients in the state will be sent to National Institute of Virology in Pune.

Rabid issue

As per a survey by animal husbandry department in 2019, there were around 9 lakh pet animals and 2.8 lakh stray dogs in the state.

Stray dog and pet population rose by 20% after the pandemic outbreak, say officials

95,000 people suffered dog bites in the state till July this year

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