Kashmir’s much hyped dog birth control (ABC) program aimed to stabilise the increasing population of stray canines in capital Srinagar, has gone haywire just 10 months after its commencement.
With residents opposed to construction of any dog health centre in populated areas and lack of manpower and infrastructure in Srinagar municipal corporation (SMC), the dog sterilisation program has come to halt.
SMC, which in May last year started the program at Suhama centre in city outskirts, has stopped the sterilisation program after animal welfare board of India warned of threat to dogs operated in sub-zero temperatures.
"The AWBI feared that sub-zero temperatures could result in hypothermia or extreme cold shocks to the dogs undergoing surgery," wetenary officer of SMC, Dr Javaid Rather told Hindustan Times.
"Since May last year, not more than 1,000 dogs (of the total 91,000 as per official census of SMC) have been sterilised accounting for only 4-5 operations daily. As there is lack of infrastructure in the centre, we are planning to speed up the program by constructing more centres," he said.
Kashmir divisional commissioner Asghar Samoon reiterated the claims to "curb dog menace by training dog holders and arranging anti-rabies vaccines". He said tenders had been floated for setting up dog kennels at Tengpora and other suitable areas of the city.
But sources in SMC informed that complaints by locals had flooded the administration opposing the construction of any sterilisation centre in a populated area like Tengpora.
"We are having a lot of resistance from locals. They have openly expressed their resentment but on the other hand we are being pressurised by AWBI," said an official privy to the issue.
The dogs have posed a great health risk to the citizens as over 50 dog-bite cases are reported every day across the valley.
The official revealed that the plan was going to get stuck citing the example of proposed abattoir at Batmaloo in Srinagar.
"Although the plan was to construct a sophisticated and environment friendly slaughter house, people opposed it tooth and nail. In this case people are justified as a small mistake can result in havoc on the human population,” stated the official.
Owing to a ban on culling of dogs, there has been a 100% surge in the number of dog bite cases in the past four years. In 2012, nearly 20,000 people, majority of them school going children, were bitten by stray canines across the valley.
The state government has been weary to cull the dog population fearing backlash from animal rights activists despite the presence of a dog for every 13 residents of the summer capital Srinagar. As against this the national average dog-man ratio is 1:36, in spite of a culture of keeping pet dogs.
Locals have been fuming. “This is the height of absurdity. AWBI wants central heating arrangements for dogs while for human patients in government hospitals; there are not even enough medicines, beds and bathrooms. Our kids are dying as there is only one 200 bed hospital for toddlers’ numbering 11 lakh in the valley alone,” said a doctor at GB Pant hospital in Srinagar.
An expert committee of government formed after high court directions to look for dog population control measures other than ABC failed to come out with something substantial except asking kids "to behave in front of street dogs".