• Dozens of dogs poisoned by DMC-East
• Official says LG law makes local councils responsible for seizure, treatment of stray animals, but makes no mention of culling dogs
• Experts urge govt to find scientific way to control canine population, say dogs vaccinated against rabies are less aggressive
KARACHI: Despite having a fully fledged rabies control programme in the province under which the government is supposed to control canine population in a scientific and humane manner, district municipal authorities continue with the cruel, obsolete practice of poisoning free-roaming dogs in the metropolis, it emerged on Wednesday.
Sources said the most recent anti-stray dog campaign was carried out by the District Municipal Corporation (DMC) East where dozens of dogs were poisoned to death on Tuesday night.
The drive saw culling of stray dogs in several areas including Gulshan-i-Iqbal, Gulistan-i-Jauhar, Juma goth and Khudadad Colony.
Sharing her concerns, Dr Naseem Salahuddin, head of the infectious diseases department at The Indus Hospital, said that the government should have scaled up the Rabies Free Karachi project initiated a few years back.
“The project being carried out in collaboration with partners ended last year. Since its launch in 2019, we had been urging the government to own it and implement it across the city. Unfortunately, that never happened,” she said, adding only the government had the resources to scale up the project implemented in areas of Ibrahim Hyderi, Korangi, Landhi and DHA.
30,000 dogs vaccinated
“Under the project, 30,000 dogs were vaccinated and over 10,000 spay and neuter surgeries were performed. That was in line with the WHO’s [World Health Organisation] recommended one-health approach, which seeks elimination of rabies universally by 2030 with the help of mass dog vaccination and controlling [their] population through birth control measures,” she said.
Killing of stray dogs, she emphasised, was both cruel and ineffective as studies had shown.
“While high numbers of dogs in the city is a serious public health concern, the government needs to learn lessons from other developing countries where the dog population has been effectively controlled in a humane and scientific manner. This must involve community engagement and staff training,” she added.
Expressing similar concerns, Dr Abdul Ghafooor Shoro of the Pakistan Medical Association said it’s the state’s responsibility to find a way to control the dog population. The increasing canine population in the absence of rabies’ vaccine at tertiary care hospitals had put public life at grave risk.
“Recently, a dog-bite patient contacted a PMA doctor for treatment after failing to get the vaccine at the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, Civil Hospital Karachi and Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre on Sunday. If this is the situation in Karachi, it’s not hard to imagine what would be the state of affairs at other hospitals in Sindh,” he said.
When contacted, Junaid Iqbal Khan heading the Rabies Control Programme Sindh said a (warning) letter had been issued to the DMC concerned and that the department was engaged in efforts to control the canine population.
“The programme launched two years back had to face administrative hiccups, affecting its efficiency. However, we are hoping that with increased funds’ allocation in the upcoming budget, the department’s performance would improve,” he said.
Currently, he said, three centres with a total strength of 50 members were operating in the city which acted on public complaints. These centres were located in Arambagh, Nazimabad and Gulshan-i-Maymar.
“So far, over 5,000 dogs have been captured, spayed, neutered, vaccinated against rabies and released across Karachi. Dogs vaccinated against rabies are less aggressive. We are planning to set up 20 centres across Sindh including one in each district of Karachi,” he said.
According to Mr Khan, the Sindh Local Government Act (2nd Schedule, Sections 24 and 25) makes local councils responsible for seizure and treatment of stray animals, but there is no mention of killing dogs.
“Though culling isn’t officially banned, government instructions have been passed [to municipal authorities] several times to stop dog culling and adopt humane methods of dog population control. Culling is ineffective and a cruel method, which goes against our cultural and religious values.
“Dogs are social and intelligent animals and killing them is inhumane. If left alone, stray dogs do not pose a threat to anyone. In this regard, we are carrying out awareness sessions in schools where children are taught not to harm dogs and what they need to do in case of a dog-bite,” he said.
Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2023