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MRTI probe into stray dog control issue

Ten years have passed by since the animal birth control and anti-rabies programme has been adopted in Pune. Two citizen activists use the tool of the law on right to know to find out if the programme is being implemented strictly as per the norms. Whatever information they received from the Pune Municipal Corporation left them in huge doubt.

Pune, March 22, 2005: EXHAUSTIVE guidelines (namely the Animal Birth Control - Anti-Rabies - ABC/ AR programme) to control stray dog population and incidence of rabies, were laid down by the Bombay High Court on a writ petition [WP(C)1596] of 1998), later gazetted as Central Legislation under the Dog Control Rules, 2001 by the Union Ministry of Culture, that was to be followed by both civic bodies and animal welfare organisations. It has been 10 years since the programme has been implemented in Pune.

Under the Maharashtra Right to Information (MRTI) Act, several related requisitions for information were made by both of us to the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) from December 2003 to April 2004, seeking information on the functioning and implementation of the ABC-AR Programme since it concerns a serious public health issue.

We are giving here a synopsis of the responses to these queries under the MRTI Act and other information received on request apart from replies under MRTI.

An average of 7,800 dog bite victims are treated in the Pune Municipal Corporation's Gadikhana Hospital alone, every year, with the annual expenditure on providing anti-rabies vaccine having increased from Rs 1,37,250 in 1994 to Rs 3,99,849 in 2004. Between 1997 and 2002, 205 rabies fatalities were recorded in the Naidu General Hospital. The PMC does not monitor the number of victims treated in private hospitals and clinics. 
Rule 3 Section (3)says: The street dogs shall be sterilised and immunised by participation of animal welfare organisations, private individuals and the local authority.
We demanded under the MRTI copies of MoUs signed between Municipal Corporation and animal welfare organizations for the implementation of the ABC-AR Programme. 
PMC response (MRTI JMC 418 and 1120): MoU is not executed. 

Our query: Year in which PMC started the ABC/AR Programme.
PMC response (MRTI JMC 1389): PMC started to implement the said programme with effect from April 1995.
Rule 4 says: A monitoring committee shall be constituted by the local authority.
Our query: Year in which Dog Committee for the ABC/AR Programme was formed. PMC response (MRTI JMC 1389): The Committee has been formed in April 2002.
Rule 5 Section (e) says: Get a survey done of the number of street dogs by an independent agency.
Our query: Methods used to count stray dogs and yearly population estimates.
PMC response (MRTI JMC 657 & 1120): Enumeration of stray dogs not done.
Our query: Name of independent agency appointed to count stray dog populations and when it was appointed.
PMC response (MRTI JMC 1389): No agency has been appointed by the PMC.
Rule 5 Section (f)says: Take such steps for monitoring the dog bite cases to ascertain the reasons of dog bite, the area where it took place and whether it was from a stray or a pet dog. 
Our query: Whether or not PMC has information of stray dogs (area, complaint, dog etc) during pick up and release of stray dogs. 
PMC response (MRTI JMC 167): The said record is not available with the PMC.
Our query: Map of municipality showing electoral wards and dog collection zones.
PMC response (MRTI JMC 1120): Health department has not furnished the map as directed by Bombay High Court.
Rule 7 on capturing/sterilisation/immunisation/release, says: (1) Capturing of dogs shall be based on: 
(a) specific complaints and (b) General.
Our query: Copies of the records maintained on pick up and release of stray dogs in relation to general and complaint categories.
PMC response (MRTI JMC 1108): This information is related to the Blue Cross and SPCA.
Rule 7 Section (5) says: While the dogs are being captured in any locality the representative of the local authority or of the animal welfare organization accompanying the dog squad will make announcements on a public address system that dogs are being captured from the area for the purpose of sterilisation and immunisation and will be released in the same area after sterilisation and immunisation.
Section (6) says: The (immunized) dogs shall be released at the same place or locality from where they were captured and the date, time and place of their release shall be recorded. The representative of Animal Welfare Organisations (AWOs) shall accompany the dog squad at the time of release also.
Our query: Names of representatives of Blue Cross Society and SPCA that accompany the municipal dog van during pick up and release of stray dogs. 
PMC response (MRTI JMC/167): Pune Municipal Corporation has three vans for Dog Squad. Shri Ovhal and Shri Chavan are accompanying the vans during pick-up and release of stray dogs. [Note that both people mentioned are employees of the PMC, not AWOs]. 
Our query: Annual (month-wise) records maintained by representatives of AWOs during pick-up and release of stray dogs in relation to number of dogs caught and released per area. 
PMC response (MRTI JMC1108): This information is related to the Blue Cross and SPCA.
Our query: Records of rabies cases in dogs as recorded by the PMC appointed doctor since inception of the programme.
PMC response (MRTI JMC/167): The said record is not available with the PMC.
Our query: Number of re-immunizations against rabies conducted month-wise and area-wise.
PMC response (MRTI JMC 1108 & 1120): Operated dogs are marked and they are not vaccinated again.
From the above responses it is clear that even basic guidelines have not been followed by the PMC, when over the last decade series of statistics have been repeatedly bandied about, claiming the success of the ABC-AR Programme. Records to show that sterilised dogs have been returned to the area they were picked up from and that any re-immunisation against rabies has been carried do not exist.

It may not be out of place to mention here that: 
The Bombay High Court is suo moto reviewing its own earlier order passed in 1998 in favour of the ABC-AR Program. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has submitted to the Court that even the number of dogs registered has actually gone up since the ABC Program started;

The Karnataka Lok Ayukta in 2003 strongly criticised the ABC-AR Programme in Bangalore, stating that it was a waste of public funds; 

The Kerala High Court in December 2003 ordered the resumption in the killing of stray dogs citing the failure of the ABC Programme;

The Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court is reviewing the order regarding the implementation of the ABC Programme in Goa, because it was noted that all facets of law were not taken into account when the ABC-AR Programme was allowed.
Under the Maharashtra Right to Information Act the PMC has submitted that it already spends a minimum of Rs 15 lakh annually on the Programme and according to the minutes of the Dog Committee meeting, counting of stray dog population has still not begun.

In the reply under RTI with regard to rabies control, the PMC has vaguely stated that ''dogs are released and not vaccinated again.'' After innumerable rabies related deaths and bites, ten years post the begining of the programme and over a crore rupees later, while openly admitting that it has been unable to effectively implement the ABC Programme with animal welfare organizations, the PMC plans to pour in more public funds into this exercise.

Qaneez Sukhrani, 8, Daffodils, 79 Viman Nagar, Pune-14 Meghna Uniyal 
11A/203/2A, Rajiv Nagar (S), Viman Nagar, Pune-14

Right to information: Pune has never stopped dog-killing 
I was really shocked to read here the blatant misrepresentation of our Pune stray dog scenario by two "citizen activists." Readers unaware of the true picture would be misled into believing that the Pune municipality does not kill a single dog, and that they are only sterilized here. In actual fact, large numbers of stray dogs have been regularly poisoned in Pune for years and as this seems to differ from the other cities  dealing with sterilizations, Pune should not be brought into debates about this issue. The barbaric and illegal practice of poisoning dogs has continued unchecked through all the years the sterilization programme has been implemented.
Smt Almitra Patel's recommendations put up on Karmayog also confirm this. She quotes a certain Dr Deodhar as saying that "in Pune, the present practice of discriminate destruction of dogs...should continue." However, it would be more correctly described as indiscriminate destruction.
I suppose such citizen activists feel that strewing poison around contributes to a clean and safe environment?
Three questions which should be added to the EXHAUSTIVE laundry list of things to ask under RTI:
(1) How many stray dogs are poisoned every year?
(2) How many of those dogs were sterilized strays, or pets?
(3) How much of public money has been spent on killing stray dogs in Pune ?
If there are still stray dog problems in Pune, in my opinion they should be blamed on dog-killing and not on sterilizations. In fact sterilizing dogs is certainly a waste of money and resources if so many dogs are going to get killed afterwards. 
I wish there was some way Karmayog could screen messages for veracity before putting them before an unsuspecting public. Unless people bother to write and clarify misconceptions, readers will get a very distorted picture of many issues.
Dina Mehta

  Response reg RTI Pune: Pune has never stopped dog-killing 

 Our Right to Information queries with regard to ABC implementation were answered by the Pune Municipal Corporation and their responses printed in The Indian Express under their RTI initiative. Questions as to the ‘veracity’ of the information should perhaps be directed to the AWO’s and AWBI, who have for the last 10 years projected Pune as an example of ABC “success”. They have repeatedly thrown around made up figures of dog populations and rabies vaccinations, thereby deceiving the public, the govt. and donor organizations. Now when it has been proved an utter failure, it is reprehensible to cast aspersions on the citizens themselves and a little too late for Pune should be left out of the debate.  

However, dogs being killed does not in any way explain the following:  

  1. Why the AWBI has been unaware of the Pune situation for 10 years?
  2. What annual inspections has the AWBI conducted with regard to ABC implementation in Pune?
  3. Why has no dog ever been re-vaccinated against rabies?
  4. What happens to funds for rabies vaccination programs?
  5. Why do Pune AWO’s have no idea what happened to 17,000 dogs?
  6. Why have no dog population estimates ever been conducted?
  7. Why are dogs hot branded (triangular mark) and released before they have even healed (see attached pictures)?
  8. What are the ‘animal lovers’ of Pune doing about this inhumane treatment of sterilized dogs? Or is cruelty an issue only when it is perpetrated by someone else?

It’s strange that people who are apparently so concerned about dogs have never bothered to find out themselves as to how many dogs the PMC has killed. Not entirely surprising though, considering that critical public health issues are referred to as a “laundry list”.

 Meghna Uniyal



It is one of the beautiful compensations of this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. --Charles Dudley Warner