Although cases of stray dog attacks and rabies deaths have raised concerns across the country, the protocols prescribed by the Center under the Draft Animal Birth Control Rules, 2022 for neutering and Vaccination of feral dogs and cats poses a major challenge to local agencies.
The bill authorizes local authorities to conduct the Animal Birth Control (ABC) program through their own veterinarians or animal welfare organizations recognized by the Animal Welfare Board of India.
The increase in cases of stray dog attacks and rabies deaths has been a major cause for concern for civic and state authorities in addition to triggering public protests. Incidents of packs of stray dogs attacking bystanders, especially children, have been reported in various states.
The death of a 12-year-old girl in Kottayam in Kerala on Monday, even after taking three doses of rabies vaccine, was the latest in the state. There have also been few other cases of dog bite victims dying despite taking the vaccines, raising doubts about the efficacy of the vaccine. The Kerala government has appointed a panel of experts to look into the matter.
The rules cover pet dogs owned and kept indoors by individuals and street dogs or community-owned Indian dogs or abandoned pedigree dogs that are homeless and live on the streets or on closed campuses. .
While the vaccination, neutering and deworming of pets will be the responsibility of their owners, local authorities will be responsible in the event of street dogs.
The draft rules propose animal helplines for dealing with dog bites and rabid dogs. Upon receipt of complaints, these dogs must be humanely captured and kept for observation. If a dog is found to have a high probability of having rabies, it will be isolated until it dies a natural death.
The rules also call for the establishment of a sufficient number of kennels and veterinary hospitals at the local level as well as the required number of vans with the necessary modifications for the safe handling and transport of dogs and rooms. mobile operations for the sterilization of animals.
In addition, local agencies will be required to set up incinerators for the disposal of organs and carcasses. Surveillance cameras must be installed on all the premises, in particular in the operating room and the shelters where the animals are housed. The video surveillance file must be kept for at least three months, in accordance with the draft regulations.
The associations of inhabitants, associations of co-owners or representatives of local authorities in each district were responsible for making the necessary arrangements to feed the animals of the community.
Designated feeding points, which should be away from children’s play areas, entry and exit points, stairways or in areas likely to be less frequented by children and the elderly, should be arranged. The feeding time should be set after taking into account the movement of children, the elderly and sports activities in each location, it says.
Meanwhile, some ABC specialists pointed to what they said were unrealistic provisions regarding the qualification of veterinarians for ABC programs.
The draft rules specify that vets must have a combined experience of having performed at least 5,000 ABC surgeries to be deployed in a municipal corporation and at least 2,000 surgeries for village panchayats or rural local bodies, which is a unrealistic proposition, said KJ Kishore Kumar, a veterinarian.
There may be barely two or three such vets in each state. Ideally, those who have performed 200 to 500 such surgeries should be considered for the position as they would have acquired the required expertise, Dr. Kumar said.
The draft rules are silent on the financial implications of Project ABC which could be a daunting task for most local bodies. Ensuring a steady and timely flow of funds is important for the success of these programs, said Dr Kumar who started the ABC program in Kochi.
The bill states that terminally ill and fatally injured dogs, which are diagnosed by a team designated by the local Animal Birth Control Committee, must be humanely euthanized by intravenous administration of sodium pentobarbital or any other approved manner without cruelty, by a qualified veterinarian.