Mumbai After almost two decades of an unregulated birth control programme for stray dogs, which has led to deaths and illnesses among the animals, sterilisation centres in Maharashtra will have to follow national guidelines to ensure animals are treated kindly.During the second meeting of the state’s animal birth control monitoring committee (ABCMC) on January 24, minutes of which were released on Monday, it was decided that sterilisation centres will be audited in March by a committee that has representatives from government departments. In Maharashtra, municipal bodies contract the work of sterilisation to non-government organisations (NGOs) for a fee. The ABCMC, now, has fixed a rate of ₹1,600 to sterilise a dog, compared to earlier rates that ranged between ₹400 and ₹1,300. The decision comes three years after the Supreme Court, while hearing a petition against the killing of stray dogs, directed all states to sterilise and vaccinate stray dogs under the supervision of Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI).There are allegations that some NGOs harm the animals. “NGOs were responsible for merely removing reproductive organs of dogs, which is completely unscientific,” said Dr PD Bhad, deputy commissioner of animal husbandry, Maharashtra. A government resolution in August 2016 had said the ABCMC needs to empanel agencies for implementing the Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme. Under this programme, stray dogs are picked up, neutered, vaccinated against rabies and released in the areas from where they had been captured. “However, this activity has not been done till now,” read the minutes of the January meeting. The new rules will include a change in the process of contracting the ABC programme. “The district administration will monitor the work of these independent groups and give marks to select safe practices during sterilisation,” said Bhad.“As sterilisation centres are run by businesses that save on anaesthetic and suture material, animals ending up with infections. It was decided in our meeting that these operators need to be removed from the market and trained organisations need to be brought in,” said Ambika Hiranandani, member, Maharashtra Animal Welfare Board.Member of Parliament Poonam Mahajan, who heads the board, said animal health and human health are linked. “We will guide the corporations to follow best practices which will both reduce the population of stray dogs and see that the surgeries are carried out properly,” she said.