New Delhi: A pack of dogs beat a three-year-old girl to death on December 17, 2021 in Moti Nagar, West Delhi. Data from dog bites from the three metropolitan bodies of the capital shows that the city has experienced at least 90 dog bite cases every day in 2021. Official reports from municipal body health facilities show that a total of 31,913 dog bite cases were treated in metropolitan facilities, with a maximum of 16,007 cases in Eastern MCD, 11,119 cases in Southern MCD, and 4,787 dog bite cases in Northern MCD institutions. However, the actual numbers are expected to be much higher as these numbers do not include cases treated in private clinics or hospitals. Maharishi Valmiki Infectious Disease (MVID) hospital, which operates north of the company, has also seen at least 38 rabies deaths since 2017.
The number of dog bite cases in the four zones under the South Corporation has fluctuated between 10,000 and 11,000 over the past three years, with 11,312 cases recorded in 2019, 10,383 cases in 2020, and 11,119 dog bite cases in 2021. The facilities run by North DMC have decreased during the pandemic as many of its hospitals were dedicated to covid treatment, a North MCD official said. Of the 4,787 dog bite cases observed in the northern companies’ health facilities, 1,700 were treated in the Hindu Rao Hospital, 1826 in the Maharishi Valmiki Infectious Disease Hospital, and 1,261 cases in the ARV (anti-rabies) centers, the report said as of Dec. 16 2021 states. The number of dog bite cases in six zones of the northern MCD was 9,018 in 2019, 7,200 in 2020, and 4,787 this year.
Hindu Rao Hospital is the largest dog bite center with 38,000 cases treated since 2017. A senior northern official argued that hospitals like Hindu Rao attract dog bite cases from all over Delhi as it has historically been associated with such treatment. Across the eastern part of the city, the East MCD’s Swami Dayanand Hospital has treated 3,153 cases of dog bites with a rabies vaccine, while polyclinics treated 12,854 cases.
Sterilization and Government Programs
The World Health Organization estimates that 36% of the world’s rabies deaths occur in India each year, most of them children who come into contact with infected dogs. EDMC Mayor Shyam Sunder Aggarwal said that according to the established rules, no dog is allowed to be relocated to another area. “Most of the calls we receive from citizens are requests to pick up stray dogs and drop them off elsewhere, which is not legally possible. At best, we can sterilize dogs and hand them in at the same place, ”he explained. The mayor said EDMC has spayed 1.45 lakh dogs since 2012 and performed 18,000 sterilizations this year, but the numbers continue to rise. “Dogs don’t usually bite when treated kindly and fed. A new program we are running allows people to adopt stray dogs and we will help them vaccinate and neuter the adopted dogs, ”he added.
Delhi does not have an accurate count of the number of stray dogs roaming its streets. The last all of Delhi poll was conducted in 2009 by the former United MCD, which found the number of stray dogs in the capital to be over 5.6 lakhs. According to a 2016 survey by the NGO Humane Society International, there were over 1.89 lakh strays in South Delhi alone. “A proposal to conduct a new census was rejected by the finance department, citing a financial crisis,” said an official who oversees the city government’s animal prevention program. A stray dogs subcommittee set up by the Delhi Assembly in 2019 estimated the city’s population at around 8 lakhs.
The national capital has a checkered history of fighting the stray dog population. As the population skyrocketed in the 1990s, companies began feeding them the nerve agent strychnine. The barbaric practice ceased in 2001, after which the Citizens Authority tried to use chemical sterilants. Companies are now using operational sterilization to control the dog population.
A sample survey carried out by SDMC in 2016 showed that 40.3% of the males and 27.8% of the bitches had been sterilized. A report from the New Delhi City Council claims that 55% of the stray dog population in the community area has been spayed, while no such study has been conducted in the other three Delhi local authorities. EDMC operates two dog sterilization centers (ABC animal birth control centers) in Usmanpur and Ghazipur with the help of NGOs. North MCD operates 8 such ABC units, while SDMC has 11 such sterilization centers, where an average of 4500-5000 dogs are sterilized each month. “Under the current regime, the operations are carried out by NGOs while the corporations pay them. But the number of sterilization centers is nowhere near adequate for the growing population. There should be at least 3 sterilization centers in each zone in order to achieve the goal of a rabies-free city for the next three years, “said a senior supervisor of the SDMC veterinary department. The three companies in Delhi oversee a total of 12 administrative zones.
Pilots and solutions
In addition to the East Corporation’s announcement that it would encourage the adoption of stray dogs in its areas, the New Delhi City Council also ran a pilot near the Lodhi Gardens to make dogs more community-friendly by training them to be more people-friendly to be and on warning signs for safety in their area. Delhi urban companies are also pushing for rabies to be declared a reportable disease so that the disease surveillance program can be improved. Sonya Ghosh, an animal activist, says if a dog is found to bite multiple people, after notifying the company, it can be taken to a shelter where it will be observed before it can be released. “The company needs to make sure the case is real, check medical certificates for bites, and make sure the animal is actually aggressive. Once that’s done, shelters across the city will keep the animal and study its behavior to see if it can be released or not, ”she says.
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