By Dr. Kuhu Roy
Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya,
Hon’ble Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India
Department of Health and Family Welfare
Room No. 348, A Wing, Nirman Bhavan,
New Delhi – 110001
Shri Parshottam Rupala,
Hon’ble Union Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Government of India
Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Krishi Bhawan,
New Delhi – 110001
Subject: Plea for digitization of Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme
With the digital revolution under Digital India, digitization has been used to strengthen monitoring and evaluation of several public health programmes so that they deliver the results they are supposed to. However, the Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme is yet to be included under its ambit. The ABC programme which is implemented by Municipal Corporations along with animal welfare organizations (AWOs), is not an animal welfare scheme, but a public health programme, recommended by World Health Organization, aimed at mitigating rabies. The programme, based on scientific evidence, is a humane way to contain stray dog mediated rabies through their sterilization and vaccination against rabies.
Unfortunately, the ABC programme largely goes unmonitored. At most places, the monitoring committees exist only on paper, which leads to several stray dogs being killed or displaced under the pretext of sterilization. Though faulty stray dog sterilisation is a common occurrence pan-India, the issue is sadly met with inaction that emboldens the defaulters and the mission to have zero human deaths due to dog mediated rabies by 2030 gets hampered.
Digitisation of ABC programme will guarantee adherence/compliance to Animal Birth Control Rules and standard operating procedure to ensure-
1. Increase accountability and help to bring those AWOs to justice that default on the ABC Rules through faulty sterilisations (that lead to mortality) or displacement of stray dogs. Killing or removal of stray dogs under the pretext of sterilization has a ripple effect. Other than being a punishable offence (section 11 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, Indian Penal Code 428 and 429, ABC Rules) killing/removal is counterproductive as it increases the population of stray dogs. This kind of unmonitored sterilisation also creates distrust among people who care for stray dogs. They refrain from sending the dogs for sterilisation even to organizations who do exemplary ABC as per protocol, for fear of losing them. This leads to an increase in the population of stray dogs, cruelty against them and discord within the society.
2. Help stop those who have quietly turned the ABC programme into a golden egg laying goose, siphoning off tax payers money to fill their pockets, in the absence of monitoring.
3. Provide first hand data on process and impact indicators that will help strengthen the ABC programme through evidence of good and bad practices, which otherwise is a huge challenge as public participation is not encouraged or the data/evidence provided by animal activists is negated.
4. Humane handling of stray dogs by trained catchers right from catching, transport to ABC centre, stay at the ABC centre, upto release.
5. Only adult dogs without a clipped ear (a clipped ear means the stray dog is already sterilised and vaccinated against rabies); male dogs and female dogs who are not pregnant, nor lactating and adult male dogs are taken for sterilisation
6. Tagging of stray dogs at pick up point itself (provide unique ID to the stray dog at the pick up point and data should be digitally uploaded and made available to track the status of the stray dog) for drop off at the precise location they were picked up from after surgery and recovery.
7. Qualified vets operate on the stray dogs for the sterilization procedure.
8. Proper post-op care (painkiller, antibiotic, checking of sutures)
9. Administration of effective anti-rabies vaccine (refrigeration prior to administration) on the day of the release.
10. Open gates for a feedback system that will help bring the community in direct contact with authorities responsible and answerable for effective implementation of ABC at the grassroot level.
11. Community participation (of those who love stray dogs, dislike stray dogs and who are indifferent to stray dogs) to make this public health programme successful.
12. Regain the confidence of the public/community in the ABC programme that stray dogs taken for sterilization will be returned back to their place safe and sound.
13. Help curb the cruel Desi (Indie) puppy mill system, wherein stray mother dogs are bred by some for a steady supply of pups to be put up for adoption. These pups are marketed based on cuteness/appearance instead of responsibility and lifetime commitment, a common outcome of which is, abandonment on the streets or shelters in hundreds and thousands per year leading to disruption of essential dog-dog and human-dog dynamics and eventual increase in the population of stray dogs.
A robust monitoring system backed by digitization and community involvement at every stage is the need of the hour to cut red tape, stop animal cruelty and help bring transparency and accountability into the scientifically sound ABC programme.
This is an earnest plea to kindly let ABC programme become a part of Digital India to help achieve zero human deaths due to dog mediated rabies by 2030.
Dr. Kuhu Roy