Take steps to reduce deaths caused by animal bites, central body orders states

As India records most animal attack deaths in five years in 2017-18, animal welfare body tells states to take steps to safeguard human lives

mumbai Updated: May 21, 2018 12:05 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Animals,Animal Bites
A sign warning villagers against bears in Dongar Sheuli, Buldhana.(HT FILE/)

The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), a statutory body under the Union environment ministry, has issued an advisory to all state governments across the country to control the rising issue of animal bites.

An RTI response by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare revealed that India recorded maximum cases of animal bites and stings, mostly from dogs, snakes, wild animals and cattle in the last five years. The data also identified that maximum cases between 2013 and 2018 have been reported from rural areas, due to lack of lighting, medical facilities, garbage management, traditional techniques to deal with such cases and awareness to deal with situations when such cases take place, according to ministry officials.

AWBI officials said the matter had become a cause of concern and now the data stood for it.

READ: 9,191 people died of animal bites across India in 2017-18, mostly from rural areas

“We issued advisory to all state governments to initiate necessary action for rescue, rehabilitation of stray animals, and to ensure no cases of animal attacks cause nuisance, fear, and harm to the public at large. Along with consultation with state forest departments, the local bodies need to ensure bite cases are controlled, be it in rural or urban areas,” said SP Gupta, chairman, AWBI.

“While animals should not be killed, humans also need to be protected. Our guidelines aim at developing a balance between the two.”

Gupta added that the main responsibility lies with local administration (Municipal Corporation, district administration or village panchayats).

“We issued guidelines (see box) to all the states, and they need to be strictly followed. We have conducted meetings with the chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. Next, we are meeting the Maharashtra CM and over the coming months, all states will be covered,” said Gupta.

“If the local administration fails to follow our guidelines, citizens can reach out to us or the state government and file complaints against nodal officers presiding over such cases.”

Experts said they were sceptical about the health ministry data but it was at least indicative of a rise in deaths due to animal stings across India. They also said that most deaths in India were due to snake bites. According to Haffkine Institute For Training, Research and Testing in Parel, Mumbai, there are 570 snake-bite cases per day in India, and over 2,80,000 people are bitten in the country annually, with about 50,000 fatal cases. There are 216 species of snakes in India, of which 52 are venomous. The four major snakes include – kraits, cobras, saw-scaled and carpet viper.

“I suspect that the highest ratio of deaths are due to snake bites, accounting to about 90%. Deaths due to dog bites (as a result of rabies) would be hardly a fraction in comparison to snake bite incidents and deaths,” said Rahul Seghal, director, Asia and Africa, Humane Society International, an international organisation that works for animal protection.

Seghal said that enough is not being done to save the lives of people who are bitten.

Guidelines to be followed by states to reduce animal bites, stings

•Local bodies and village panchayats have to monitor for bite cases and inform public healthcare establishments immediately both at rural and urban centres

•Local bodies need to tag animals within their jurisdiction and develop a database of domestic animals including cattle, dogs etc.

•A nodal officer has to be appointed to look after these tasks and address grievances or complaints by citizens. Name and contact details of the nodal officer needs to be shared widely in every region

•Animal birth control schemes and sterilisation of animals should properly be implemented to ensure no cases of animal attacks cause nuisance, fear or harm the public at large

•Police assistance needs to be taken up by local bodies during any case of animal attacks

•Special helpline numbers need to be displayed through advertisements where citizens can immediately call for help after an animal attack

•Rules and regulations of licensing animals, particularly pet dogs and cats, need to be strictly implemented. If no such rules exist then new ones need to be framed for every area

•Forest department has to work in tandem with local authorities to ensure a buffer zone between villages or urban centres from residential areas

•Failure to implement guidelines will invite action against the concerned local bodies, especially against the head of the body

(Source: Animal Welfare Board of India, statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change)

First Published: May 21, 2018 00:15 IST