Retired cavalry general rides to the rescue of Animal Birth Control programs
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2010:
CHENNAI, AHMEDABAD– Responding to alleged corruption that
has in recent years crippled the Indian national Animal Birth Control
program, Animal Welfare Board of India chair Rammehar Kharb warned
the cities of Ahmedabad and Ludhiana against employing unauthorized
“You are requested to cancel your ABC contract awarded to
Animal Shelter & Hospital at Ahmedabad Foundation, which is not
recognized or registered with AWBI,” Kharb wrote to the Ahmedabad
Municipal Corporation, “failing which AWBI will be constrained to
initiate action in the matter.”
A similar warning went to Ludhiana for contracting for ABC
services with the Amritsar-based firm Doggie Lane.
Kharb, a veterinarian and retired general in the Indian Army
Remount Corps, notified ABC providers after the mid-2009 publication
of the AWBI Standard Operating Procedure Manual for Sterilization of
Stray Dogs that they must comply with the SOP to continue to receive
The AWBI, a federal agency, underwrites city ABC services
on a matching basis. Monitoring performance, however, has lagged
behind allocating funds. This has attracted unscrupulous service
“There are two kinds of unscrupulous contractors,” explains
Abodh Aras of the Mumbai ABC service provider Welfare of Stray Dogs.
“Some do this for the money, and show fictitious figures. The
public then believes that many more sterilizations have been
conducted than have actually been done.
“Others catch dogs who have already been sterilized, or do
surgeries with a high mortality rate, which is akin to a killing
rate. Then there are well-meaning people who either have no
expertise in running an ABC program, or are misguided, or are plain
stupid,” whose incompetence calls the value of ABC into doubt.
Aras in August 2009 recommended that the AWBI should publish
a list of ABC service providers whose performance has flunked the
Clementien Pauws, founder of the Karuna Society in
Puttaparthi, added detail to Aras’ descriptions of ABC mismangement.
Once, responding to a complaint from a veterinary student
who found five badly spayed dogs dead on a road, Pauws said she
found that the local ABC facility “was an old chicken barn without
electricity or water, and only mesh instead of windows. The
operating theatre consisted of an old table,” Pauws remembered,
with “no medication or other equipment. Inside were no holding
facilities. The building was dirty and unused for a long time,”
Pauws found. “Outside it was painted nicely, with a sign. We took
photos and reported our findings.” Despite Pauws’ report, she
testified, the organization received funding to perform another
1,000 ABC surgeries, after purportedly doing 500.
“We went to their office and asked for the details,” Pauws
said. “On paper, 500 dogs were sterilized or castrated. Not one
dog died, not one had a problem, none had internal bleeding, none
were pregnant, none had a pyometra, none had distemper, there were
no maggot wounds, and none had dog bites,” indicating a need for
rabies quarantine. “Yet everything was properly signed for by the
relevant authorities,” Pauws marvelled.
The AWBI “has received several complaints against ASHA
Foundation for claiming money for bogus sterilizations,” Kharb wrote
to the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.
The first Ahmedabad ABC service provider was the Animal Help
Foundation, founded in 2000 by Rahul Sehgal, who now coordinates
ABC programs in several other Indian cities and in Bhutan, where he
works under the auspices of Humane Society International. In
2005-2006 Animal Help sterilized 55,000 dogs in Ahmedabad,
introducing to India the use of gas anesthesia and same-day release
of dogs, if they are operated on without complications.
ASHA bid against Animal Help for the Ahmedabad ABC contracts
in 2007. The contract allocation was delayed for more than six
months. Unable to pay the Animal Help veterinarians to work in
Ahmedabad, Sehgal transferred teams to Bangalore, where they are
still active, and to Hyderabad, where the Blue Cross of Hyderabad
had already withdrawn from providing ABC service after encountering
Animal Help left Hyderabad after experiencing mob violence
allegedly incited by the same factions who had discouraged the Blue
Cross of Hyderabad.
Meanwhile the Animal Help surgical methods became
controversial after several veterinarians who claimed to have been
trained by Animal Help botched numerous surgeries while working for
other ABC programs.
An eight-member veterinary team sent by AWBI to investigate
the Animal Help surgical approach evaluated, vindicated, and
recommended it in 2009.
In the interim, two persons associated with ASHA invaded the
Animal Help office in Ahmedabad on July 30, 2007, menacing Sehgal
with staves while destroying three computers and damaging his
vehicle. Kharb urged the Ahmedabad police commissioner to
prosecute the alleged offenders, but ASHA nonetheless ended up as
the major Ahmedabad ABC contract holder, with Animal Help handling
only a small part of the city.
On November 30, 2007 ASHA director Harmesh Bhatt appealed to
ANIMAL PEOPLE for funding with which to buy vehicles and surgical
equipment, claiming that ASHA was “a registered trust approved by
the Government of India.”
Two years later, on November 20, 2009, Jamalpur district
councillor Imran Khedavala asserted to the High Court of Gujarat that
the Ahmedabad street dog population had increased from 230,000 to
more than 300,000. Unsuccessfully seeking an order that Ahmedabad
should begin killing street dogs, which would contradict the
national law that created the ABC program, Khedavala blamed both
ASHA and Animal Help.
Khedavala’s action encouraged Zahid Qureshi and Ruturaj Jadav
of the Ahmedabad Mirror to investigate. They found that 13,691 dogs
had been sterilized in Ahmedabad, mostly by Animal Help.
“We neutered 1,400 dogs in one and a half months,” Harmesh
Bhatt told them. “Our participation ended four months ago.”
The one and a half months coincided with the summer visits of
German veterinary students Alina Pohl and Laura Schueller, who
recounted their experiences on personal web sites and to the Times
News Network. In their first three weeks, they told the Times News
Network, they operated on 45 street dogs. In subsequent
correspondence they clarified that they did no sterilization surgery.
An investigator who reported to the AWBI found no evidence
that ASHA employed any other veterinary help. Yet ASHA claims to
have won the ABC contract for the city of Surat, as well.
In Ludhiana, meanwhile, “Steriliz-ation of stray dogs in
the city, which was to get under way on February 10, 2010, has been
put on hold,” reported Kuldip Bhatia of the Ludhiana Tribune.
Doggie Lane had contracted to sterilize 20,000 dogs in 2010, but
“lacked the required number of skilled and qualified veterinary
professionals and also did not have the necessary experience in
conducting surgical procedures at such a large scale,” Bhatia
“We have invited the second lowest bidder to take up the
work,” said Ludhiana commissioner A.K. Sinha.