Animal Birth Control is fixing the dogs faster than anti-dog attitudes

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2007:


Koramangala pound in Bangalore may have been the
quietest location in India having anything to
with street dogs in the aftermath of a January 5,
2007 fatal pack attack on a nine-year-old girl
named Sridevi.
The Coalition for a Dog-Free Bangalore
and similar groups nationwide made Sridevi’s
death focal to ongoing efforts to reverse the
nine-year-old central government commitment to
sterilize street dogs instead of killing them.
(See guest column on page 7.)
In Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala state,
also called Trivandrum, a February 10, 2007
confrontation between dogcatchers capturing dogs
for extermination and proponents of the local
Animal Birth Control program reportedly burst
into violence.

At Koramangala, however, built circa
1934 by the British troops, several hundred dogs
rested in low-roofed cement kennels with scarcely
a bark. Some awaited sterilization surgery in a
clinic where dogs were for 65 years electrocuted.
Others were under post-operative observation to
avoid infection. Soon they would be returned to
the neighborhoods where they were collected.
The unusual quiet of the Koramangala
pound may result mostly from the kennels being
arranged in single rows, with each front facing
the back of another kennel instead of the front
of another kennel and an unfamiliar dog staring
back. The dogs are housed in compatible pairs
whenever possible.
Other ABC headquarters in Bangalore were as noisy as they were busy.
The attractively landscaped Com-passion
Unlimited Plus Action hospital and shelter on the
Hebbal Veterinary College Campus closely
resembles the Help In Suffering facilities in
Jaipur, whose ABC program was among the first
prominent successes. Both institutions were
founded by British expatriate Crystal Rogers
(1906-1996). Rogers recruited and trained CUPA
core personnel Suparna Ganguly, Shiela Rao, and
Sanober Bharucha.
CUPA also manages the Koramangala ABC program and an outpatient clinic.
On February 23, 2007 CUPA hosted World
Health Organization chief F.X. Meslin and Animal
Welfare Board of India chair R.M. Kharb for the
formal debut of new national Rabies Free India
campaign, sponsored by the Animal Welfare Board
and the federal Ministry of Environment and
Using an oral vaccine developed
especially for street dogs, Rabies Free India,
“will be launched in Delhi, Chennai and
Bangalore,” Ganguly explained to The Hindu. “The
vaccine is ensconced in a food pellet. When the
dog bites the pellet, the vaccine mixes with the
dog’s saliva.”
After five years of testing, the oral
vaccine was recently approved for general use by
the Drug Comptroller General of India.
Another Bangalore ABC program operates
from the headquarters of Karuna, formerly called
the Bangalore SPCA, across a sidestreet from
CUPA on the Hebbal campus.
Canvassing adjacent neighborhoods for two
hours apiece on foot, I found that up to 70% of
the adult dogs in the relatively affluent Karuna
sector were sterilized, and more than 90% of all
dogs in the poorer and more densely populated
CUPA sector, which had about half again as many
Two half-grown litters belonging to
unsterilized bitches living near encampments of
migrant construction workers accounted for most
of the unsterilized dogs in the Karuna sector.
They appeared to be almost chubby, with little
competition for local food waste.
There were by contrast only two puppies
in the CUPA sector, where only six of the 64
dogs seen lacked an ear notch marking them as
sterilized and vaccinated.
A third organization, the Animal Rights
Fund, handles the outlying southern parts of
Bangalore where Sridevi was killed.
While I was not able to canvas the ARF
sector on foot, few dogs were visible from
bumper-to-bumper car traffic–except around meat
shops, as documented by ARF volunteer Poornima
Harish (page 7.)
Officially, Bangalore still has 56,500
street dogs, 21% fewer than seven years ago,
after sterilizing more than 25,000 in recent
years and killing nearly 6,000 who were deemed
potentially dangerous.
Granted three acres of prime lakefront
real estate on the edge of Bangalore in 2003, on
which to build a new state-of-the-art ABC
hospital and adoption center, ARF fought
squatters for nearly three years to clear the
land for construction, and is still trying to
raise the $20,000 estimated construction cost.
The delay, however, may have been
indirectly beneficial, in that the ARF design
concepts have considerably evolved.
Indian cities lacking effective ABC
programs are still killing more than four million
dogs per year, chiefly by poisoning, ARF
founder Dilip Bafna told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
This is more than twice as many dogs as
are killed per year by U.S. animal control
agencies and humane societies.

Spectacular successes

The Indian cabinet in December 1997
accepted a unanimous Animal Welfare Board
recommendation that ABC should fully replace
killing dogs for rabies and nuisance control by
2005. The Blue Cross of India had demonstrated
the concept in Chennai since 1964. Successful
full-scale ABC programs were already underway in
Mumbai and Jaipur as well, but with low
visibility, and consequently with relatively
little controversy.
The 2005 goal was missed, largely due to
thin resources–but where ABC promoters found the
means, the results are dramatic. In Bangalore,
Chennai, Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai, and
Visakhapatnam, the ratio of street dogs to
humans has dropped from about one dog per 10
people, still seen in areas without ABC, to as
few as one dog per 160 people.
Ahmedabad, starting later, is fast
catching up, with an ABC program entirely funded
by the city government, managed by the Animal
Help Foundation. Working from city buses
converted into mobile clinics, the 28 Animal
Help veterinarians sterilized 45,011 dogs in
2006, about 10,000 more animals than were
sterilized by any other organization in the
world, and are aiming for 60,000 in 2007.
In Delhi, ANIMAL PEOPLE publisher Kim
Bartlett observed, “The dog populations are down
and the dogs you see are in relatively good
Likewise, in Mumbai, “There are many fewer
dogs. I only saw two or three females who seemed
to be nursing pups, or had been recently,”
Bartlett said. “There were some young dogs, but
I saw no unweaned puppies. Most of the dogs I
saw seemed to be intact males,” indicative of a
strategy–which ANIMAL PEOPLE has warned Mumbai
ABC program planners against–of sterilizing
females first, to reduce the dog population
fastest. The hazardous aspect of sterilizing
females first is that intact male dogs are the
most likely to display aggressive behavior,
especially when they congregate around the
relatively few remaining bitches in heat.
“There is obviously still much
sterilization work to be done in Mumbai,”
Bartlett concluded, “but the situation would
seem to be much improved. Nine years ago, it
was not possible to look in any direction without
seeing one or more dogs. Now you may go blocks
without seeing dogs. When you see them, there
are likely to be two or more,” probably close to
a food source.
“There is much less food garbage visible
in the streets,” Bartlett noted. “We saw a few
areas with garbage dumps and there were always
dogs there, but not so many” as before the ABC
programs started.
Along with sterilizing and vaccinating
dogs, the most successful ABC programs emphasize
the necessity of removing food waste from the
streets, which if not consumed by dogs may
encourage population explosions among feral cats,
rats, monkeys, and pigs.
While removing garbage seems to have kept
monkeys and pigs from replacing dogs in Mumbai,
Bartlett observed that cats appear to be numerous
and breeding in the vicinity of a major temple.
“In Agra,” Bartlett reported, “where
there is no ABC program, the situation for dogs
is as bad or worse than nine years ago.”
In inner Chennai, the Blue Cross of
India and People for Animals ABC programs have
cut dog numbers to barely more than might be seen
in any U.S. city, though the U.S. dogs would not
be free-roaming.
Far into the rural districts on the
fringe of the sprawling Chennai suburbs, two
Blue Cross of India satellite facilities appear
to be practicing ABC with remarkable success.
Dogs still sprawl in the dust beneath peddlers’
carts, but have conspicuous ear notches.
In and around Visakhapatnam, the
situation is similar. Seeing a single
unsterilized mangy bitch near an outlying temple
was cause for a Visakha SPCA volunteer to summon
an animal ambulance–while mentioning that the
presence of one untreated dog might indicate the
presence of others, who possibly followed job
seekers in from the countryside.
On January 18, 2007, the government of
Tamil Nadu recognized the success of ABC by
allocating 5.8 million rupees to sterilize more
than 275,000 dogs in 50 cities.

Fighting in the streets

But then there was the Thiruvananthapuram
incident, reflecting hostility toward dogs
persisting among Indians who fear recurrent
rabies outbreaks, accept religious dogma that
dogs are unclean, or promote other uses of the
ABC funding.
The official version of whatever happened
at Thiruvananthapuram, as reported on February
12, 2007 by an anonymous “special correspondent”
to The Hindu, was that “The City Corporation
sought police assistance after foreign nationals
allegedly assaulted a municipal health teamÅ One
animal handler who was injured in the incident
was hospitalized,” the anonymous correspondent
claimed, though later accounts clarified that he
was only treated as an outpatient for a hand
“The Kovalam police booked four foreign
nationals,” The Hindu said, “including Avis
Lyons of Animal Rights Kerala, on charges of
assault and preventing government officials from
discharging their duty.”
The dogcatchers claimed to have been
“accosted and manhandled by a gang lying in wait
for them,” after they were “lured into a trap.”
“I set up Animal Rescue Kerala to
implement ABC,” responded Lyons in an e-mail to
members of the Asian Animal Protect-ion Network,
“and have been sterilizing street dogs for four
years. ARK has sterilized all of the dogs in the
Kovalam area, and has memorandums of
understanding with the panchayats (village
councils) of Vizinjam and Venganoor, in effect
covering the whole of the area.
“In September 2006,” Lyons continued,
“the mayor of Trivandrum asked if ARK would teach
his staff to do ABC. Twenty Trivandrum staff
were at ARK for three days learning how to catch,
pre-medicate, and handle stray dogs. They then
used this information to kill most of the stray
dog population in Trivandrum,” Lyons alleged,
“including dogs sterilized by ARK, and also
people’s pet dogs. The Trivandrum staff have
been caught on camera killing and burying dogs by
the roadside,” Lyons charged. “I am pursuing
court proceedings to stop the killings.”
On the night of February 10, 2007,
Lyons said, “we saw the dogcatchers’ vehicle
full of dogs,” outside a hotel in an area
covered by one of the ARK memorandums of
understanding. “We were told that the hotel had
called the dogcatchers,” Lyons continued. “All
of the dogs in the area have been sterilized and
vaccinated by ARK. There were 11 dogs in the
vehicle, two with collars, one a dachshund very
sick with distemper.
“We tried to stop the vehicle, but the
police arrived and told us we had to let it go.
They would not talk to my advocate, nor would
they let me fetch the memorandum of
understanding. I asked the policeman in charge
for his name, but he hid his badge and then took
it off so that I could not see it. By this time
the vehicle with the dogs had been driven off,
the dogs going to a certain death.”
Thiruvananthapuram veterinarian L.
Ravikumar asserted that Lyons and friends “have
raised a challenge to the rule of law.”
Commented Blue Cross of India chair
Chinny Krishna, “This is most ironic considering
that it is the municipality which is not
following the rule of law–namely the ABC rules.”
Elaborated A.G. Babu of the SPCA Idukki,
“Ravikumar said that he would continue catching
and killing stray dogs, and claimed that he
would never care for the provisions in the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 or the
ABC rules. He claimed that killing dogs was part
of his style of ABC.”
Affirmed Roxanne Davur of the Terra Anima
Trust in Ooty, “All catchers trained by Animal
Rescue Kerala for the ABC programme are now used
to catch and kill dogs, and besides their salary
are paid an extra twenty rupees for any dog
Thiruvananthapuram health committee chair
G.R. Anil reluctantly suspended the dogcatching
program amid the exposure, he told The
Hindu–and revealed the reason for it.
“Every year, we capture a large number
of stray dogs from the wards neighbouring the
temple during the run up to the Attukal Pongala
festival, which attracts tens of thousands of
devotees,” Anil said. “There is a likelihood
that the devotees will be exposed to marauding
stray dogs.”
But sterilized and vaccinated dogs seldom harm anyone.

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