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Experts suspect SMC’s sterilization prog may not be of much help to control high stray canine population

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“While 50 dog sterilisations are done daily, 400-500 a day are needed for change to be visible”

Srinagar: Given that the stray dog population in Kashmir has gone out of control, their State-sponsored sterilization programme although a step in the right direction is “perfunctory” and cannot provide reprieve to the general public from their alarmingly growing predatory attacks, say public health experts and civil society members.

The stray dog population in the municipal limits of the capital city according to the 2011 census was 90,000. Their reproduction rate according to veterinarians is very high and a bitch procreates around 15 puppies a year.

“Thirty to 40 sterilisations at the Tengpora animal birth control facility and a dozen or so vasectomies at Suhama Veterinary College is a good step. But it is too insignificant to control the overgrown stray dog numbers. It cannot decrease the ever-increasing burden of stray dog bites in J&K,” said Dr M Salim Khan, HoD Community Medicine, Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar.

Dr Khan suggested that a tangible relief can be provided to the general public only if 400 to 500 dog sterilisations are conducted on a daily basis.

Mushtaq Ahmad, a social activist while endorsing the medical expert’s view said that rabies is covertly emerging as a new public health threat in Kashmir due to an ever-increasing stray dog population. The concerned agencies do not have a robust mechanism to keep their population within the desired limits. He suggests that culling is the only natural alternative to save human lives.

The activist said that spectacles created by copying some Western ideas of dog control mechanisms and these token acts are then blown out of proportion. These spectacles have not addressed the grave issues of the dog population explosion and the ensuing predation of ordinary citizens.

The “token” stray dog birth control facility at Tengpora city outskirts has been outsourced by the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) to Santulan Jeev Kalyan Human Welfare Society of Rajasthan.

The center sterilizes 30 to 40 dogs a day and charges Rs 1130 per dog, said Dr Tawheed Ahmed, the SMC vet. The process is stopped during the winters as the law does not allow the vasectomy of dogs during the cold. He said the Corporation is already in collaboration with Veterinary College, Shuhama, Ganderbal, where the sperm supply of five to 10 dogs is cut on a daily basis.

The vet however admitted that the reproduction rate of stray dogs is very high. The problem is of a serious magnitude but the government is seized of the matter, he said.

He said although there is no recent census of dogs in the region, the cases of dog bites are alarmingly ascending.

SMC, he said, has registered 3000 pet dogs and vaccinating the dogs and their respective owner families has been made compulsory.

According to the concerned department of GMC Srinagar, around 10,000 persons are bitten by dogs every year in the municipal jurisdictions of Jammu and Srinagar cities alone. The data about the dog bites and the rabies infections in the towns and the villages across the former state are unknown as the J&K Health Department has chosen to keep the data as “a classified document”.

Asked if the district municipal committees have any dog sterilisation facilities, the vet said that the SMC only has a birth control facility for stray dogs.

The rural population has been left to the mercy of God, and the District Development Councils as well as the Panchayat bodies have chosen to gloss over the stray dog aggression, said Mushtaq, the social activist.

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