Three days after a 65-year-old woman was mauled, killed and partly eaten by 50 stray dogs in Thiruvananthapuram, another shocker comes from Palakkad where 8 people were bit and injured by stray dogs. On Monday, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan called for a meeting zeroing down on sterilisation as a measure.
According to the state Health department, in 2013, 88,172 people were bitten and 11 died of dog bites. The numbers of dog bites increased to 1,19,000 in 2014 and 10 died of dog bites. In 2015, over 10,000 were bitten and the number of deaths stayed at 10. Up until August 2016, over 51,000 were bitten and 4 had died of bites.
Though there are many in Kerala leading the clarion call for dealing with stray dogs, an IAS officer from the state has been in the forefront taking on his own government.
Former Thiruvananthapuram District Collector Biju Prabhakar registered his staunch protest against sterilization of stray dogs and calls it a move to help the ‘anti-rabies vaccine lobby’. He is of the opinion that stray dogs should be culled and sterilization is merely a ploy to help pharmaceuticals.
Pointing out the Rs. 20 crore that was set aside for these vaccines, he said, “Why is there a selective love for dogs? The government has failed in tackling the dog menace because of this. This is the work of the anti-rabies vaccine lobby because if we did cull dogs, we would not have to worry about spending so much money on the vaccine.”
Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals says the mutilation or killing of any animal (including stray dogs) in a cruel manner would be punishable. “But Section 11 cannot be applied in this case. It cannot supersede the fundamental right of freedom. If dogs pose a genuine threat to the life of a citizen, the section cannot apply,” he says.
Biju rubbished the Jaipur model where skilled and trained dog-catchers collect street dogs in a systematic area-wise manner from around the city. The animals are then transported to the HIS-India hospital where they are kennelled individually, checked by a veterinary surgeon and registered in records.
They are then surgically sterilised under general anaesthesia – with great attention to surgical standards and sterility. The dogs are kennelled till they recover and then released to the exact place where they were caught. “We spend Rs.1,500 on the sterilization of each dog, and Rs.250 has been provided as an additional incentive to veterinarians to sterilize dogs. When we have impoverished people, people dying of starvation, shouldn’t the money go to them? Where do our priorities lie?” Biju counters.
“If you feel compassion should be extended towards dogs, compassion should be extended towards all animals? Why aren’t activists fighting for the rights of hens, fowls and goats? Sterilisation will cost money, time, easily 10-15 years. These activists just want to be in the news.”