India reaffirms support of Animal Birth Control program

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2006:
NEW DELHI, ISTANBUL, BUCHAREST,
BELGRADE–The historic progress of compassionate
teachings about animals from east to west
appeared evident yet again in September 2006
rabies and street dog population control
developments.
India in September 2006 reaffirmed
neuter/return and vaccination as the official
national anti-rabies strategy.
Turkey was embarrassed by exposés of
inadequate supervision of a similar policy,
brought into effect by law in June 2005.
Several Romanian local governments,
including in the capital city of Bucharest,
appeared to be either ignoring or trying to roll
back animal control holding requirements, to
expedite killing.


In Belgrade, the Serbian capital,
municipal agencies allegedly actively discouraged
nonprofit animal welfare efforts, while
escalating killing dogs and cats.
“Rabies is prevalent throughout India
except on the islands of Lakshadweep and Andaman
and Nicobar, but has a low public health
priority,” the Indian Ministry of Environment &
Forests acknowledged in a September 20, 2006
statement of support for the Animal Birth Control
strategy that has been national policy since
December 1997. “Though exact statistical data is
not available, it is estimated that in India
approximately 20,000 people die of rabies every
year,” which also “causes a large number of
deaths in domestic and wild animals.
“Moreover,” the Ministry of Environment
& Forests continued, “there is a huge
expenditure incurred on post-exposure
vaccination. Therefore, there is an urgent need
eradicate this dreaded disease, as has been
achieved by Malaysia and Singapore.
“The main vector of rabies in India is
the dog. The twin strategies to control and
eradicate rabies in India will be to achieve at
least 80% prophylactic immunization of dog
population and to push forward the existing
ABC/Anti-Rabies program for stray and community
dogs.
“More than 70,000 stray or community dogs
are [already] being sterilized every year and
given anti-rabies vaccine,” the Ministry of
Environment & Forests summarized. “These dogs
are returned to their original habitat after
sterilization. This program,” carried out by
local charities with Animal Welfare Board of
India support, “has significantly reduced the
incidence of rabies in Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai,
Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad, Banglore,
Kalimpong, and Kolkata.”
The Ministry of Environment & Forests
admitted the difficulty of achieving “mass
immunization of stray or community dogs who are
not accessible for injectable rabies
vaccination,” but explained that “the problem
can now be addressed,” referring somewhat
obscurely to the introduction of oral rabies
vaccines for street dogs.
“The entire success of this project,”
the Ministry of Environment & Forests concluded,
trying to rally cooperation, “rests on local
municipal bodies, rural administrations, and
state government veterinary services,” which in
some parts of India have been slow to encourage
the ABC approach.
Killing street dogs, the Ministry
emphasized, “is inhumane and does not go well
with our cultural ethos of love and compassion
for animals.”
Elaborated Blue Cross of India chief
executive Chinny Krishna, who first demonstrated
the ABC approach in 1964, “There is an oral
rabies vaccine for street dogs, claimed to be
most effective, now available from Virbac of
France. With 26% import duty, it sells in India
for 120 rupees ($2.75 U.S.) per dose. Intervet
is on the verge of releasing an oral rabies
vaccine for street dogs, and competition may
bring the cost down.”
The Virbac vaccine, Krishna said, “can
be stored at four degrees Centigrade indefinitely
and used at temperatures up to 40 degrees
Centigrade and can even be kept at 40 degrees
Centigrade for several days. It is supposed to
be quite palatable, though it smells terrible.
Even if a dog receives up to 10 times the normal
dose, it is supposed to be okay.
“It is a live vaccine,” Krishna noted,
“so it must be given to the animals by someone
who will be responsible for picking up uneaten
baits before moving on.
“Dogs who eat the oral vaccine can be
vaccinated by the injectable even immediately
thereafter, so if an orally vaccinated dog is
later spayed and vaccinated conventionally,
there would be no adverse reaction.”

Turkey

In Turkey, explained Linda Taal of the
Dutch organization Stichting ActieZwerf-honden,
which works closely with several Turkish
organizations, “The June 2004 law stipulating
that neuter and release is the only permitted
method of solving the stray dog issue took effect
in July 2005.
“For part of Istanbul the work was
contracted out to a pesticide company. The
situation is abominable,” Taal continued.
“People from the Homeless Animals & Environmental
Protection Society (EHDKD) and Society for the
Protection of Animals (SHKD) on September 15,
2006 photographed the evidence at the Sariyer
Kocatas shelter,” an Istanbul municipal facility
now operated by a private contractor.
Taal and others soon distributed the
shocking photo portfolio worldwide.
“This year, Istanbul Metropolitan
Municipality opened a tender for neutering and
releasing 5,500 stray dogs,” retired economist
and longtime Sariyer Kocatas shelter volunteer
Dr. Bilge Okay of EHDKD explained to ANIMAL
PEOPLE. “No animal protection organization could
enter the tender,” because of a requirement that
entrants should already have completed a project
with the municipality worth at least $267,000.
“The contract was given to the lowest
bidder, Biosav A.S., which is an insecticide
producing firm,” and subcontracted a firm called
Anadolu Ilac Gida Ltd. Sti. to do the work.
“SHKD and EHDKD, as two organisations
experienced in neuter/release, offered our help
free of charge,” Okay said. “We offered
to train their vets in endoscopic neutering
techniques, at which our vets are experienced.
We gave them two vets, whose salaries are paid
by the animal organisation FHDD (Friends of
Fethiye Animals) to do operations and to train
their vets. These two vets worked for the
project for two months. We recommended to them
another vet who was experienced in neutering.
They fired him after a short time because he
objected to how things were handled. We offered
our experienced team to train their dog
catchers. They didn’t accept our offers.
“The dogs are carried in vans without
ventilation,” Okay alleged. “Dogs who are
picked up in the morning arrive dead. Sick dogs
are taken to operation without any medical
treatment. And we have had many calls from
animal lovers saying that they are releasing dogs
in places where the dogs don’t belong. We talked
to AIG several times, telling them about our
concerns,” Okay said, before taking the
complaints public.
“Our aim in publishing our pictures,”
Okay emphasized, “is not to destroy
neuter/release. On the contrary, we want the
neuter/release project to be applied properly and
humanely, and to be successful. We have
struggled for many years for neuter/release to be
accepted as the only rational and humane way to
solve the stray dog problem. Now that the
implementation has begun, it is our only wish
for it to be successful, because we are aware
that the alternative will be poisoning, as for
hundreds of years.”
ANIMAL PEOPLE on September 17 asked
Biosav to explain the EHDKD and SHKD photos, but
received no response.
There have been other difficulties in
introducing the Turkish ABC program.
“The regulations state that every
municipality in Turkey is now responsible for
their own neutering program, and they have to
build temporary shelters and operating clinics.
They also have to engage a veterinarian to carry
out the neutering operations,” explained Friends
of Fethiye Animals founder Perihan Agnelli, who
led the effort to make neuter/return the Turkish
national policy.
“Some municipalities are employing young,
newly qualified vets to do this work, but they do
not have experience in performing spaying and
castration,” continued Agnelli. “This has
resulted in municipalities asking us for help in
training their new vets. Some of the vets come
to our centre in Fethiye, where we accommodate
them.
“Whilst many municipalities are setting
up their own programs, which they will manage
with their own personnel, some of the larger
cities like Istanbul, Ankara, and Sivas have
hired private organizationa,” Agnelli
acknowledged. “I haven’t heard anything negative
from either Ankara or Sivas, but I have heard
that the company that won the bid in Istanbul is
making a mess of things.”
British clothier Robert Smith, who has
sponsored several sheltering and neuter/ return
pilot projects in Istanbul, “offered to
undertake catching, neutering, and releasing
dogs on their behalf,” Agnelli added. “The
company agreed, but the municipality refused the
help.”

Romania

Smith, also involved for about seven
years in Romania, on September 15 unveiled “a
proposal and budget for a neuter/return project
in the whole province of Bihor, Romania, which we
intend to implement over the next three years,”
he said.
But Smith pre-empted his own Internet
discussion of the project after becoming aware of
a Romanian Senate proposal which, as translated
by Romanian animal advocates, would limit the
holding time for impounded dogs to just five days.
As ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press, Smith
and others were still trying to establish whether
that was the legislative intent, or whether the
intent was to set a minimum holding time of five
days, as required by the U.S. Laboratory Animal
Welfare Act in 1966 and reiterated in the Animal
Welfare Act of 1971. Originally applied only to
animals who were sold to labs, the five-day
standard became the default minimum for all
impounded animals in most states.
Sara Turetta of the Associazione Save the
Dogs and Fundatia Daisy Hope founder Aura Maratas
meanwhile reported aggressive municipal dog
collection and killing in downtown Bucharest.
“The action was run by night with the
support of the police,” Turetta e-mailed. “The
‘cleaning’ of the area,” in the neighborhood
where a loose pit bull terrier killed a Japanese
visitor in February 2006, “was done,” Turetta
alleged, “in order to give a western look to the
capital during the meeting of the International
Francophone Organiz-ation,” held on September
28-29.
The most recent and apparently the most
limited of many Bucharest dog-purges during the
past 10 years occurred while Turetta was
providing emergency help to the impounded dogs of
Calarasi, which she described as “a very poor
town 60 kilometres from Cernavoda, on the
frontier with Bulgaria.”
In 2003 Turetta “visited the kennel run
by the Sufletel association,” she recalled,
“which was starting activity concurrent with the
town killing stray dogs. Save the Dogs has a
video clip, shot in 2003, showing the violence
of the dog catchers. Many dogs were choked to
death on the street with metal nooses,” Turetta
alleged. “The dogs who survived capture were
killed by an injection of air or toxic agents in
the peritoneum. After protest by local animal
lovers, they shifted to shooting, which they
are still doing. According to the local press
and Sufletel, dogs are still brutally caught,
brought to the edge of town, and shot by
huntsmen.
“When we visited the kennel in 2003, we
gave one single piece of advice to the chair of
Sufletel: stop!” Turetta recalled. “They did
not have the economic resources nor the medical
knowledge to ensure decent living conditions to
the dogs hosted there.
“Back in 2003 and today still we cannot
manage a second facility, and at that time we
could not give them any economic aid. Calarasi
was one of many emergency situations in Romania,
and we had to step backward despite our
willingness to help.
“Unfortunately, the association did not
follow our advice,” Turetta said. “This year,
Sufletel asked us for the help of our mobile
clinic. On August 8 we went to Calarasi to
arrange for neutering the 230 dogs at the kennel.
About 150-170 of them were severely ill. Almost
all the dogs were bald from mange. Many were
close to death.
“Near the kennel,” Turetta continued,
“there were four or five tons of bones, the
basic food for the dogs, mixed with corpses,
left to rot under the sun because the authorities
cannot and do not want to organize a waste
collection service.”
Turetta published photographs of the scene on Save The Dogs web site.
Starting on August 9, Turetta said,
“Four vets from Unisvet, three volunteers from
Save the Dogs, and a worker from the Cernavoda
kennel spent three 10-hour days at the Calarasi
kennel. Unfortunately, some dogs were in such
poor health that they had to be euthanized. The
rest received worming and flea treatment. About
100 dogs were treated for mange. About 40 male
dogs were neutered.” Construction was started on
new perimeter barriers and kennels.
“The bones and corpses were removed by a
bulldozer and disposed of,” Turetta added.
“Unfortunately, despite a picture of our team
published on the first page of a local newspaper,
dog catchers were working the next day in the
city center,” capturing more dogs to be killed
and increasing the inclination of local animal
lovers to take strays to the overcrowded shelter.
Turetta in September led a follow-up
visit to Calarasi, with a mobile clinic donated
by the Dutchypuppy Foundation and additional
support raised from Italy, the Netherlands,
Sweden and the U.S.
This time they sterilized 50 dogs,
focusing on pregnant females; treated 150 dogs
for mange; introduced microchipping; followed
up on making physical improvements to the
shelter; and began making staff changes to bring
in more caring and dedicated people.
“We will keep you updated,” Turetta pledged.

Serbia

The Serbian situation reached
international notice through appeals for
international political support e-mailed during
the last weeks of September by Slavica Mazak
Beslic of EPAR (Friends of Animals Society), who
operates a shelter in Subotica.
“Local authorities sent a building
inspector, who commanded us to destroy all of
our dog houses and destroy our dog shelter with
450 dogs,” Beslic said, lamenting that even
before the demolition order came, “We need more
boxes for 43 dominant dogs who are still on
chains because they cannot be together with other
dogs.
“When we as a nonprofit nongovernmental
organisation asked for help from the republic and
local authorities, and offered collaboration,
they refused,” Beslic said.
Part of Beslic’s complaint concerned her
contention that the government should pay the
cost of vaccinating the shelter dogs against
rabies. The inspection and demolition order
appeared to follow a dispute over vaccination.
Beslic illustrated her arguments– and
the need for improvement in Serbian animal
control practices–with photos of about 30 dead
dogs in plastic bags at a garbage dump. The
photos, Beslic said, were taken on September
20, 2006, in the town of Smederevo. The dogs
were impounded without food or water, according
to Beslic, and then poisoned or clubbed.
“We try to explain to the authorities of
Serbia that a more useful, economical, and
more humane approach, including sterilization
and adoption, is the best solution for stray dog
control, but nothing changes,” Beslic alleged.
“They now do mass killing and sterilization
together, and we can see that last week some
dogs were sterilized and after this the same dogs
were killed.”
Investigating Beslic’s allegations,
Belgrade activist and journalist Jelena Zaric
told ANIMAL PEOPLE that, “Belgrade owns one
killing pound, in the OVCA district, and
sponsors several private killing pounds around
Serbia,” some of which appeared to be
implicated. The OVCA pound practices apparently
represent the norms.
Taking statements from six witnesses to
OVCA pound procedures, Zaric concluded that it
“does not work to law, does not possess
appropriate management, and the workers do not
possess the skills needed to work with animals.
“Captured animals are kept without water,
food, and proper medical care,” Zaric
summarized from the witnesses’ statements.
“Sterilization is performed on animals who are in
very bad health, and are held further without
proper post-operative care.
“Killing methods,” that Zaric was told
about, “include injecting various toxic
detergents, injecting the concentrated
insecticide Nuvan, various kind of oral
poisoning, suffocation by plastic bags or ropes,
hanging, clubbing, smashing animals’ heads with
heavy doors, smashing restrained animals on the
floor, and injections of T-61,” a paralytic
lethal agent used mainly to kill mink on fur
farms, used by some U.S. animal control agencies
until banned in 1986.
“The OVCA facility is closed to the
public,” Zaric added. “The procedure for dog
adoption is very hard, and it takes more than 5
hours to obtain needed documents to get inside.
Even with the needed papers, no one with our
investigation could get inside the area where the
dogs are held. It is very hard to get inside the
killing area. All of our witnesses were citizens
who under pressure from workers gave money or
gifts before entering the area where dogs were
held in cages.
“By statements from all sides involved,
every year, from October through April, Belgrade
kills more than 6,000 dogs,” Zaric said, “but
there are no precise statistics.
“Sterilization plans have failed many
times,” Zaric continued. “Pet sterilization is
not popular in Serbia. We do all we can,
without the help of city officials.
“Caretakers spend their money to
sterilize street animals,” Zaric reported, “and
then the dog catchers kill them.”

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