A dog's life for man's best friend
STERILISING STRAYS IS THE WAY TO DEAL WITH THE ‘MENACE’ ON STREETS
The handful of animal welfare NGOs working with civic bodies are always in a state of resource and manpower crunch, and trifurcation of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi hasn’t helped.
A majority of these voluntary organisations came under the South Delhi Municipal Corporation — and splitting the MCD has slowed down the process of sterilisation and vaccination of street dogs in other areas.
“Recently, Frendicoes set up its branch in east Delhi, which did not have any NGO working for the strays after the trifurcation. North also has no NGO. As the NGOs facilitate the catching and sterilising of dogs, the lack of them is a challenge,” says MCD public relations officer Yogendra Mann.
According to Mann, about 2.5 lakh dogs were sterilised and immunised in the city since 2003 till July this year. “The sterilisation and immunisation drive usually takes place once every three months. In 2004, an NGO did a survey where the total dog population was around 2.5 to three lakh,” says Mann.
“There is a court order that we can’t kill dogs. We can vaccinate and sterilise them and then put them back in their territory.” He says if their territory is changed, the strays attack due to fear.
To control the population of street dogs, the Society for Stray Canine Birth Control was formed in 2003, comprising NGOs, animal experts and veterinarians. Under this, NGOs are given Rs 445 for each stray they immunise, sterilise and release back to the animal’s original territory.
The Animal Birth Control (Dog) Rules, notified in December 2001 under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 prohibit the killing of strays except in special cases — when they become rabid or terminally ill. Even in such cases, procedures have to be followed.
Besides, the law provides that strays can only be removed from their habitats for neutering and immunisation against rabies. Then they must be returned to areas from where they were picked up.
Anupama Sen, who heads Sonadi Charitable Hospital for Animals in Najafgarh, says ABC (animal birth control) rules must be followed without any compromise. “I make sure that I don’t compromise on the medicines given to dogs for treatment. I might compromise a little bit on the food I give them, such as instead of rice I would give a cheaper option on some days,” she says.
“But I have never compromised on their medicines. Financial crunch is always a problem. I have a debt of Rs 10 lakh. There is not much money coming in, though criticism that we are using charity money for other things comes in plenty,” she says.
The hospital on an average gets over 200 dogs for sterilisation and other treatment per day. Over 70 dogs abandoned by their owners have made the hospital their home. There are also sick and injured cats, as well as peacocks at the hospital.
NGO experts and MCD officials believe that the solution to what is termed as ‘dog menace’ is sterilisation. “Dogs usually mellow down after sterilisation even if they are on heat. But the mother will still be protective and may become aggressive around strangers, so people need to be careful,” says Mann.
Sonadi, which has been working in the field for over a decade, covers a decent area of the city. Situated in Najafgarh, its volunteers and dogcatchers make rounds of Dwarka, Uttam Nagar, Nimri and villages around Najafgarh. Sen, a resident of Chittaranjan Park, is also active in south Delhi.
“Our organisation and other NGOs working in tandem with the MCD don’t charge anything unless someone wants to donate money, which doesn’t happen too often. Apart from sterilising dogs, we also treat them of maggot infection, itching and cancer,” says a volunteer with Sonadi.
Notice to animal NGO
The MCD is working with eight NGOs. Circle of Animal Lovers at Saket was blacklisted from the MCD’s list of NGOs and was served a show cause notice by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and the MCD after complaints and inspection reports against its functioning. But Circle of Animal Lovers is still operating.
Experts feel that in areas with open overflowing, garbage dumps or places where food is available readily, the number of stray dogs is high. In 2009, the High Court passed an order on feeding spots. The judge said that dogs must be fed “to keep them confined to a particular place, so as to subject them to sterilization/vaccination/ re-vaccination, as (the effects of) vaccination does not last more than a year.”
The judge said that in the first instance, the sites where strays are to be fed should be identified by the AWBI. Delhi Police were directed to ensure that no harm is caused to volunteers who feed dogs.
“Feeding boards are being installed in some areas by the co-opted members of the AWBI working in tandem with resident welfare associations and police. Not all areas in Delhi have installed them yet, and it’s only happening on priority in areas that went to court on this subject,” says Mehta.
MCD workers find it difficult to trace sterilised and non-sterilised dogs, and NGOs complain of lack of vans to pick up the animals.
Experts say although awareness about ABC is spreading, there is still a long way to go before the mindset of people changes towards stray animals. “If not with kindness then just treat all animals with respect, and they will respect you back,” says Mehta.
“Every dog has its own personality. When they react aggressively, according to humans, it may just be a self-defence reaction or a response to a past experience,” says Mehta, citing an example of a bitch in her area that used to run and bark at speeding cars. “Her pups were crushed under the wheels of a car.
Even post-sterilisation she used to bark at cars. But when cars slowed down on seeing her and gave her that respect, she didn’t bark. We often joked and named her ‘traffic police’.”
As far as the ‘common reasoning’ of non-vegetarian dogs being more aggressive goes, Mehta says that there is a distinction between dogs fed on raw meat (like slaughterhouse waste) and dogs fed on cooked meat and bones.
“Dogs fed on raw meat may be a bit more aggressive because of their food habit. But such generalisation about dog behaviour or aggression being linked to their diet cannot be made, as dogs having descended from wolves are indeed scavenging animals. That’s the way they are,” adds Mehta.
Experts say that dog lovers can make things easy for NGOs and civic agencies by coming together and taking the responsibility of getting dogs in their colonies sterilised and vaccinated annually. “Then they should dispatch a letter to the RWA or paste posters listing the benefits of such an activity, the laws and rights of street dogs, and do’s and don’ts of behaving with dogs,” she says.
Experts rubbished the story about city dogs being taken to other places during Commonwealth Games 2010. “Yes, NGOs and civic agencies did catch dogs and kept them in animal homes till the games were over. But we made sure that the dogs returned to their territories,” says a Sonadi dogcatcher.
“There could have been some cases when the animals were placed at a shelter in Gurgaon. A few of them may have died there or run away from the shelter. Otherwise all of them were brought back.”