Refusing to make “donation” to politicians, Visakha SPCA loses animal control contract; rabies outbreak follows suspension of subsidized dog sterilization & vaccination service
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2011:
VISAKHAPATNAM–Rabies is reportedly raging again in northern
Andhra Pradesh state, India, a year after a newly elected Greater
Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation government took responsibility
for operating the local Animal Birth Control program away from the
The action in effect dismantled what was by far the largest
anti-rabies campaign in the region, and led to the Visakhapatnam
street dog population reportedly increasing from about 7,000 to as
many as 10,000.
At least seven human rabies fatalities and incidents of rabid
dogs and even a rabid horse running amok, biting dozens of people,
were reported in May 2011 from around a crescent extending from
Srikakulam and Parvathipuram in the northernmost panhandle of Andhra
Pradesh, above Visakhapatnam, through the Visag and Aruku districts
to the west of Visakhapatnam, to Kakinada and Rajamundry, south of
Visakhapatnam, along the River Godavari.
Unclear, however, was if the region actually had an
increase in rabies cases, or just had heightened awareness of rabies
as result of media attention to deaths and dog attacks. The Hindu
reported that 20 human rabies deaths occurred in East Godavari in
2010, 42 in 2009, 23 in 2008, and 54 in 2007.
From 1998 to June 2010 the Visakha SPCA sterilized and
vaccinated dogs for Visakhapatnam, replacing a corps of for-profit
dogcatchers who electrocuted strays, sold dog leather, and
responded to losing the dog control contract with a combination of
violence and defamatory political attacks.
Persevering to eradicate rabies from the inner metropolis by
2007, the VSPCA gradually extended sterilization and vaccination
service into the suburban areas known as the Visakhapatnam Circle,
which have approximately quadrupled in human population since the
VSPCA program began.
The sterilization and vaccination work was partially
subsidized after 2003 by the Indian federal Animal Birth Control
program. By the time political control of the Visakhapatnam regional
government changed hands in November 2009, the amount of funding
involved looked to some of the newly elected GVMC officials like a
significant patronage plum to reallocate to supporters.
To keep the ABC contracts, Visakha SPCA founder Pradeep
Kumar Nath told ANIMAL PEOPLE, he was asked to pay “astronomical
sums” to the parties in power, and to agree to allowing city
dogcatchers to dump outside of town any dogs whose behavior produced
complaints. Nath refused both conditions. The municipal dogcatchers
began dumping dogs outside of town anyway, leading to complaints to
local newspapers about problem dogs finding their way back even from
20 miles away, and to dogs being dumped near Nath’s home, in the
oldest part of the city.
Named GVMC veterinary officer, B. Rammohana Rao announced
soon after his appointment that the ABC and anti-rabies vaccination
programs would henceforth be done under his auspicies. The programs
appear to have been started only after rabies cases were again
reported within the GVMC.
Nath meanwhile kept the Visakha SPCA veterinary team together
by forming ABC India, a teaching-and-training program now deployed
against the rabies outbreaks.
“Dog culls have been reported in Rajahmundry, Vizianagram,
and surrounding areas,” ABC India managing director Lisa Warden told
ANIMAL PEOPLE. “ABC India teams are doing anti-rabies vaccination in
Rajahmundry in extreme heat and occasional heavy rain. Anti-rabies
vaccination has begun in Kakinada. We hope to contribute teams there
to expand their capacity. We expect to begin anti-rabies vaccination
in Visakhapatnam forthwith. The programs in each locale need to be
expanded at the earliest to ensure adequate coverage,” Warden said.
ABC India has also begun educating against translocating
dogs, implicated in spreading rabies from place to place. “Rabies
keeps appearing in different places in Andhra Pradesh that are not
close enough to each other to be within a dog’s regular range,”
Warden explained. As an unvaccinated dog may incubate and transmit
rabies through bites for weeks before active symptoms appear,
seemingly healthy dogs are often rabies vectors.
“We have prepared a short film about rabies prevention to
show throughout Andhra Pradesh,” Warden added. “It is currently
being translated into the Telegu language. We will provide it to all
districts and local television stations and it will be available on
our website. Additional teams, vaccines, and financial support are
urgently required,” Warden finished, “to prevent further human
deaths and dog culls.”