This is the humane culling BBMP and SDFB talks about

Posted On 15/07/2011 By In Investigation & Analysis With 1281 Views

The truth about ABC+AR programs in Bangalore: Misreporting, resultant hysteria and missing and culled dogs

This is the humane culling BBMP and SDFB talks aboutOn 1 July 2011 there was an unfortunate incident, and a mutilated body of a 2 yr old boy was found in New Yelahanka Town, Bangalore. The headlines in most papers immediately put the blame on dogs and gave rise again to calls for ending the ‘stray dog menace’ of Bangalore. It is noteworthy that dog population in Delhi and many other cities is higher or comparable, and yet Bangalore dogs are blamed for vicious ‘pack behavior’, then they must be either more ferocious than the dogs of rest of India, or there is a hidden truth behind labeling strays as murderers.

Not only the facts related to the event in New Yelahanka Town, and subsequent cases, but information related to Animal Birth Control (ABC) + Anti Rabies (AR) programs has been misrepresented. This paper discusses some of these issues.
While no-one wants strays on the road, baying for their blood and causing them to be treated and put down in the manner the are, can’t be called civilized behavior. In the after math of the said event the BBMP Commissioner and Ministers of the State Cabinet have gone on record wanting a solution leading to culling or removal of dogs that is clearly illegal. Stray dogs in Bangalore have already started paying the price and dogs have started going ‘missing’ on increased citizen complaints. There is nothing merciful and humane about this killing. This action violates legal precedence including High Court Judgements of the Delhi High Court and a SC stay order and violates:
  • The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960)
  • Indian Penal Code, Sections 148, 149 and 38 (J)
  • SPCA Act
  • Directive Principles of State Policy, Article 51 (A) of Constitution of India
Many of the reports that were published carried misleading or sensationalist headlines when the data in the report did not support the headline, clearly showing the bias of at least some of the reporting. With a decision pending in the Karnataka High Court on the issue of treatment of stray dogs, this points to creating public perception influencing the popular & political perception. On a call made to the CM’s office the opinion against dogs was called by his secretary as a ‘people’s movelment’ confirming the direction where public perception is sought to be molded.
In the “Free Speech Vs. Fair Trial Under Criminal Procedure (Amendments to the Contempt of Court Act, 1971) the Supreme Court took suo moto notice of extensive prejudicial coverage both in the print and electronic media, and observed that several such publications are likely to have prejudicial impact on the suspects, accused, witnesses and even Judges and in general, on the administration of justice.
We have also independently verified the details of the case, on location, including photographic evidence and it is clear that no Indian stray dogs would be able to attack and kill in this fashion. Some gaps in the reporting are:
  • None of the initial reports quote any BBMP official saying the death was due to a dog bite – its the police who maintained from the beginning that it was dogs who killed Sandeep, thereby closing the case.
  • BBMP have maintained that its a hit & run or a black-magic case. As late as 13 July 2011 Dr Parvez Piran, Jt Director, Animal Health has stated that his report on the boys death is inconclusive and the matter needs to be probed by the police.
  • Reports are clear that the blood trail leads from the location to the dump where the boy was found i.e. he was dragged there and did not walk to the dump
  • The boy who went missing about 4AM (depending on reports) and was found (earliest at 5-15, latest at 5-45AM) in that time had covered (or was dragged) 700mts (this is actual measured distance and not 300-400 mts as reported)
  • At 5-15 Zahira Sultana reportedly found the body – so a dog or dogs weighing 20kgs at the most has dragged the boy weighing 18kgs, 700mts while the father was searching for it in the same area? That means that the father searched for, reported and walked with the police to the location in 60 mins.
  • Subsequent media reports indicated that the Post Mortem ascribed the reason of death as Animal Bite (not specifically dogs)
However in light of the uproar government ministers and an ‘NGO’ called Stray Dog Free Bangalore (SDFB) have demanded that the Animal Birth Control (ABC) (Dog) Rules 2001 should be revoked as these have had no effect. The demand is for the resumption of the pre-rules practice of municipal bodies killing stray or community dogs en masse. They also have called for citizens to stop feeding dogs and called for culling of dogs as a solution. In addition to it being completely illegal, it is contrary to data from India and worldwide.
  • Feeding of Dogs: The Delhi High Court in its judgment has allowed for stray dogs to be fed by citizens even in closed residential areas
  • Culling of ‘nuisance’ dogs: The Supreme Court upheld that the barking cannot be considered an offense and a dog can’t be exterminated because of it. And instead of the BMC rules, the ABC Rules will be applied as it provided for a broad based panel to decide the fate of stay dogs.
  • The World Health Organization’s Technical Report Series 931 clearly states: “Since the 1960s, ABC programs coupled with rabies vaccination have been advocated as a method to control urban dog population and rabie. Culling of dogs during these progams will be counterproductive as sterilized, vaccinated dogs may be destroyed.”
Efficacy of ABC+AR as a method of population and rabies control is not an uncertain fact as claimed by SDFB, projected to the Bangalore reader and echoed by government ministers. Facts are:
  • Empirical evidence in the US indicates that dog rabies is eliminated when 80% of the dog population = 4 months or 70% of the total dog population is vaccinated (WHO, 2004).
  • In Jodhpur, Rajasthan, ABC+AR studies have confirmed that the 80% threshold of vaccination coverage in the stray dog population is achievable.
  • In Chennai ABC+AR started in 1996, from 2005 onwards there are 0 rabies incidents (100% achievement in 9 yrs)
  • In Jaipur ABC+AR started in 1997, from 2001 onwards there are 0 rabies incidents (100% achievement in 4 yrs)
  • In Mexico, human rabies cases declined to zero within ten years since mass vaccination of dogs started (Lucas et al., 2008).
Karnataka ministers, Government & BBMP officials are quoted giving ultimatums of 2yrs for completion of ABC programs, SDFB calling for an immediate close of the program and culling to start, this is contrary to research and data that:
  • ABC+AR programs are expected to take 13-18 yrs for stabilization, or 5-7 years for a smaller population.
Culling as a method of population and rabies control does not work. WHO recognises that slaughter often produces a short term effect but even maximal catching rates (up to 24% of dog population per year) make no significant impact in the dog population. Here are some facts:
  • Sao Paolo, Brazil: Till 1997, 300 dogs were killed every day in a decompression chamber with an increase in dog population.
  • Naples, Italy: Till 1991, 5000 strays were caught and killed every year with no change in dog population
  • Chennai, India: Culling started in 1860 when one dog was killed everyday and by 1995, 135 dogs were killed everyday. Yet the city’s stray dog population and the incidence of human rabies continued to rise.
  • Bangalore, India: From 1936 to 1999 Bangalore City Corporation’s chose a strategy of electrocuting stray dogs to death and vaccinating pet dogs with neural issue vaccine. 25 million stray dogs were killed but the population of stray dogs, and the number of dog bites and human rabies cases, continued to increase
  • Hong Kong: Till 1990 approximately 33,000 dogs were killed every year, with no impact on population
  • East Europe: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan Republic, Moldova and Ukraine cull by shooting at sight, and in all countries numbers of stray dogs had either increased or remained constant.
The reason culling cannot not work is it is impossible for BBMP to catch and kill every stray animal within 2 months, the length of pregnancy of dogs. The surviving dogs will do their very best to refill the territory by producing young. Even with 3 surviving pregnant females it is possible for dogs to regain their present population of 183,000 in 4-5 yrs!
Is it possible that ABC+AR should not be successful because India is the largest market for post-exposure prophylaxis vaccinations? Consider this:
  • Every year approximately 500,000 people in India receive the post-exposure prophylaxis vaccinations (5 shots) at Rs. 1500 per vaccination. One dose of vaccine to vaccinate a dog against rabies is Rs. 25. 30 million dogs could be vaccinated with the amount of money that is spent on human rabies post exposure prophylaxis. The stray dog population in India is estimated to be something between 8-20 million dogs. If there is continued incidence of ‘stray dog bites’ is it not the companies that make human vaccines that benefit the most?
  • An epidemiological study of rabies in Bangalore by M K Sudarshan, Savitha Nagaraj, B Savitha and S G Veena (Journal of Indian Medical Association Vol 93) says that rabies deaths from ‘BMP areas’ dropped from 95 (in 1975) to 20 (in 2000) and thereafter to 0 (in 2005). Where is the case of a rabies outbreak in Bangalore (it is easy to see that the rabies deaths that are reported in hospitals in the BBMP areas are of patients brought in from rural areas into Bangalore)?
The other suggestion from SDFB finding resonance with BBMP and Govt ministers is ‘moving’ dogs and is a poorly thought out suggestion because:
  • In an area where there is a balance between the number of incoming animals and losses through adoption and natural death, it might be possible for dogs to be housed, but
  • In an area where the incoming numbers exceed the numbers lost to adoption and natural death, there will be too many animals to provide satisfactory living conditions for them. So the call for moving is nothing better than a call for culling.
  • Where will these dogs moved to, when BBMP can’t provide human living conditions to 60% of Bangalore?
BBMPs own data (2010) is telling. Consider these facts:
  • At the time of the Great Bangalore Dog Cull of 2007, of the total dog population (327280 dogs), Strays were 56.15% (183758 dogs) and Pet dogs were 43.85% (143522 dogs) – so pet dogs are a significant population, and in a large part not nuetered or vaccinated.
  • In 2003-2004 the percentage of dog bites in BMP areas from strays was 55% and in 2007-2008 it dropped to 52.99% , but in 2009-2010 it has risen to 62% of total bites. How can culling be called a solution when in the immediate aftermath Great Bangalore Dog Cull of 2007 the stray dog bites rose by 20% in 2 yrs?
  • ABC programs had started in a small way in 1995, but when in 2000-2001 it came into effect a total of 12,250 dogs were caught at zero budgeted cost. Over the last 10 yrs the average cost of a dog caught has been Rs 327, but this cost rose alarmingly from Rs 313/dog to Rs 418/dog (a rise of 33%) in 1 year of the Great Bangalore Dog Cull of 2007. So catching dogs and killing them was more expensive than the ABC+AR programs.
  • In 2009-10 (upto Mar’2010) considering the amount of payout per dog at Rs 500, the total payout of Rs 2.59 crores is made by BBMP to AWOs when the expense occurred was Rs 1.05 crores.
Clearly this is case of misplaced, even loaded priorities. But also clearly there are proven solutions for the stray dog population and rabies control. BBMP’s priorities be to control stray population and rabies needs to be on:
  • Garbage disposal: A zero-garbage Bangalore would be an excellent benefit for the citizens in many ways, including the fact that stray dogs would go down dramatically if there was nothing for them to eat on the roads.
  • An observational report from the Wellington Cantonment, Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, by the Health Superintendent in 2010, states that since door-to-door collection of garbage in the civilian area of the Cantonment started the dog population that used be very large has drastically declined.
  • Replacing dogs as scavengers and not clearing garbage has its own perils. If all dogs are eliminated by any method, their place will be taken over by another species e.g. rats, monkeys, cats or pigs. All of them will carry their own risks for public health.
  • Intramuscular AR Vaccine: Using the intramuscular AR vaccine provides protection for up to 41 months, for most strays this period will exceed their lifetime (Coyne and others, 2001)
  • Oral rabies vaccine: Oral rabies vaccine baits can be used in areas where it is difficult to achieve an adequate vaccination coverage by injectable vaccines only
Many citizens, governments and activists cite the stray free streets of Singapore, Stockholm, San Francisco or Sydney as Bangalore model. But these are not the result of indiscriminate killing of thousands of dogs but a fact that the problem has never risen to the extent because of different sanitary and ecological conditions, dog licensing programs, public education for responsible ownership.
Bangalore can be stray dog free in a civilized humane way, if we kept our neighborhood clean.
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