Authorities reportedly prefer to use the services of untrained temporary workers rather than professional dog-catchers, just to avoid having to pay more.
Professional dog-catcher MG Satheesh -a resident of Attingal in Thiruvananthapuram- sounds bemused at the sudden spurt of media interest in him, in the backdrop of the alarming rise in the stray menace that has dogged Kerala in recent times.
Speaking to The News Minute, Satheesh points out that there are almost 75 trained dog-catchers in Kerala, yet none apart from him continue in this thankless profession, only because authorities are unwilling to hire them at a fair price.
â€śEarlier, I worked for the Thiruvananthapuram Municipal Corporation for about four and a half years, but when faced with a circumstance wherein I had to make a choice regarding whether or not to bribe a doctor on the panel, I quit. Imagine, in a job where you were earlier paid a pittance, having to factor in a bribe as well! I am yet to get my dues from the Corporation, but it is simply not worth hanging around for,â€ť Satheesh sounds more sad than angry.
According to Satheesh, authorities even today are unwilling to pay the minimum wage of Rs 250 per dog, and instead prefer to make do with untrained help in capturing a measly number of strays daily for sterilization purposes.
â€śWhat is the use of capturing around 5-6 dogs per day, and that too in a haphazard manner, when a minimum of 12 dogs give birth to roughly around 60-70 puppies on a daily basis. Dogs are fast breeders. A trained professional dog-catcher can easily capture around 50-odd strays in a day. I myself have done so from the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Area in a span of just four hours, working from 7am to 11 am,â€ť he says.
The permanent solution to the said problem lies not in arbitrary culling of such strays, but in building shelters in each district, where they can be first housed. Sterilization and mercy killing -if needed- come later, Satheesh feels.
â€śSimply barging into some ward and capturing just six strays in a day will not help at all. What you need to do is first build dog-shelters in each district. Start from one end, covering each ward, where all the stray dogs of the area are captured and brought to the shelter. The sterilization process takes three days, as the dog cannot be immediately released back to its habitat, as there is a chance of infection setting in. A professional dog-catcherâ€™s duty is not restricted to simply capturing strays, but to be with these captive dogs till such time they are sterilized and returned to the same place from where they were originally captured. And this takes around three days for each dog,â€ť he explains.
It is essential that the strays are released back into the same vicinity from where they were taken. Otherwise, they will not be accepted by the pack that reigns in another area, even if it is in an adjoining one, thereby ultimately leading to their deaths by starvation, he avers.
When the dogs are kept under observation in these shelters -Satheesh shares- that is the time when the violent and very sick strays can be identified among the lot, and only these need be subject to mercy killing.
â€śI have been in this field for over 14 years. The rest of my colleagues have had no choice but to get into other odd professions just to make ends meet. Nowadays, I work on call for private parties too who inform me about abandoned, trapped or injured dogs, or when a carcass has to be removed from a public place. I am available 24x7. I do my best to respond to every such call, as these strays deserve to be treated with dignity.â€ť
Satheesh also blames the ever-increasing piles of garbage for such a drastic rise in strays and reiterates that unless the authorities work in tandem to keep the state clean at the ward, block, panchayat and corporation levels, implementing the Animal Birth Control Programme in isolation will yield no lasting results.
(MG Satheesh can be contacted at +919656618001 by the public for any assistance in dealing with strays in Thiruvananthapuram.)