Animal Birth Control (ABC)
Kerala street dog population is closely associated with municipal sanitation practices or neglect thereof. Because these homeless dogs often survive by scavenging rubbish, exposed garbage means more healthy dogs and more puppies. Ironically, this actually makes the dogs a boon to public sanitation. By scavenging garbage, they reduce perishable waste that could otherwise be a source of contamination for people. And their presence around garbage keeps away other potentially dangerous scavengers, such as rats and mice. Unfortunately, fear and ignorance have led citizens and officials to see street dogs as nothing but a nuisance and to seek eradication using inhumane methods such as poisoning and beating. But for every dog killed, another typically comes in to take over that dog's territory. It is worth to note that the stray dog population in Kerala as per 2012 census is 2.99 lakhs. It is estimated that the number of stray dogs is approximately 6 lakhs as of now. The only scientific method to humanely reduce street dog populations is mass spayed and neuters, commonly known as animal birth control (ABC). Through ABC programs, all the dogs within a community or region are sterilized and then released back to their territories. This results the Dog breeding stops and their population declines.
As per section 438 of Kerala Municipality and Kerala Panchayaths acts, Secretaries of respective Municipality and Gram Panchayath were endowed with the power to destroy/kill stray dogs. However by the year 2001, ABC (dog) 2001 rules were enacted in the country, through which the authorities of Secretaries to employ methods to exterminate dogs were removed.
However, these rules were rarely enacted and led to unauthorized killing of the dogs, leading to many litigation on inhumane killing of the dog, and inflict of injury by the street dogs in humans. This litigation prompted the constitution of Justice C.E. Jagan Committee which studied issues and impacts of the dog stray menace in Kerala. The committee had numerous sitting with both the animal lovers and people impacted by the stray dog. Based on the study, this commission recommended that ABC rules for stray control has to be followed strictly by the state.
Even after the recommendation, many of the local self governments were not able to implement the ABC programmes in the most effective manner. There were no interest in identification of suitable dog catchers and empanelment of veterinary service providers. However the situation took a drastic turn with the mauling and killing one old fisher women by stray dogs at Pulluvila in Karimkulum in Trivandrum districts. This lead to widespread public outrage leading to improved efforts by the government in addressing this issue. With the successful track record of implementing many social responsible enterprises, Kudumbashree was selected as the agency which could help the government in tiding over these critical situations.
An ABC project can help to control both, street dog populations as well as human / animal rabies when conducted efficiently. ABC programmes aim to catch street dogs, surgically sterilize and vaccinate the dogs against rabies and release them back to the exact location from where they came. The sterilization of mainly female dogs should be sufficient to control the population. Vaccination of the dogs against rabies will help limit the transmission of this fatal, zoonotic disease.
Historically, dog catching has been relegated as job of lower order, often undertaken by specific groups of people. Placing this activity as economic activity for women was one of the greatest challenges in the implementation. However Kudumbashree was resolute in talking this as an challenge and wanted to put this as challenge in the status of women and work. In order to turn around this situation, Kudumbashree worked along with Local Government department to change the fees structure for activity of the ABC.
Accordingly a new GO RT1450/LSGD dt 05.05.2017 was released leading higher fees for catching and undertaking the ABC process for the dogs. This GO was one of the enabling factors leading to changing the perception of ABC as an economic activity to be undertaken as group enterprises by the women by associating with veterinary doctor.