Save Animals, Endanger Humans!
While the new draft of the Animal Welfare Act 2011 is a harbinger of good news to animal lovers; a deeper look into the entire draft indicates an outwardly blanket strictures of the law without a holistic approach to addressing stray animal issues and some of the dangers surrounding the stray animal menace to humans. It also circumvents the issue on the core responsibilities of government appointed civic authorities in curbing certain stray animal concerns- in particular stray dogs. GoaChronicle.com investigates…
This is what happened in Panjim in January 2010; in a shocking incident, a street dog, which had gone out of its senses, held the capital city to virtual ransom for around two and half hours. The dog bit around 18 individuals in the two and half hours creating a panicky situation around the city. It all started at 10 am near the Panjim market area (near Poshak) when the dog bit one passerby and then it went all around the city right through the Weekender showroom near Don Bosco, to the Panjim police station and then reached the Azad Maidan area. A scribe, policemen, students, advocate, teacher and several others were amongst its victims.
A recent incident where a six-year-old boy was mauled by a pack of strays near the Multipurpose Institute at Borda, has once again brought into focus the stray-dog menace in and around the commercial capital. Local activist Albert Fernandes said the boy, the child of migrant workers, was bitten when playing in the area and was administered the anti-rabies vaccine at Hospicio hospital the same day by some citizens concerned. Despite a dog shelter set up by the MMC at Agalli around six months ago, the vexed issue is far from being solved, claimed Fernandes. “It is a concern that the population of strays (dogs and cattle) is fast growing despite the so-called sterilization effort.” Pointing to poor sanitation conditions in different parts of the city, he alleged, “Overflowing dust bins and un-cleared garbage, especially in Borda and Gogol, have contributed to the increase in the canine population. Meat being dumped in the open is another contributor.” A senior doctor at Hospicio hospital said the medical institute has seen an increase in the number of dog-bite patients referred to the hospital for the anti-rabies vaccine and also for treatment of serious bites. As per Hospicio’s register of dog bites, 80-90 cases of dog bites are reported to the hospital’s casualty ward every month. Hospital authorities, however, insist the actual number could be much higher.
The above mentioned incident is just two of the real life examples on the stray dog menace in Goa, there are many and the cases are on a rise, while locals have been experiencing it, tourist too have become victims. In a travel advisory of the UK government tourists were warned about the possibility of stray dog bites in Goa and the need to take care when travelling.
The stray dog menace extends throughout India. In Mumbai last year, there have been 77,484 cases of dog bites and six deaths in 2010 alone. Last year also recorded the second highest number of dog bite cases in the city in last one decade.
Recently in Bangalore, stray dogs ripped apart a two-year-old baby at a brick construction site in Bagalur. The child, Prashant, was found dead and mutilated –the dogs tore away portions of his arm and leg.
As per the estimates published in the official report “Assessing Burden of Rabies in India”: WHO Sponsored National Multicentric Rabies Survey, 2003”, published by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, New Delhi, there are 25 million ownerless stray dogs in the country.
Worldwide the basic concept of domesticated animal welfare is that every animal must have an owner, a home, shelter, care, and veterinary services. In India animal welfare has been corrupted to mean: don’t interfere with the stray animals, let them roam wild, homeless, hungry, diseased and subject to death on the road.
As per the data and statistics published by the NICD, New Delhi the huge pool of unvaccinated stray dogs is responsible for the following:
- One stray dog attack/bite victim every two seconds, approximately 17 million each year. Children are regularly mauled to death, mutilated, and crippled including blinded
- One horrible agonizing death from rabies every thirty minutes, approximately 25,000 each year, at least 50 per cent of the victims is children. More deaths than Dengue, Japanese Encephalitis, Chikengunya etc
- Annual man days lost due to animal bites is estimated to be 38 million.
- Annual medical cost for animal bites treatment excess of Rs 2 Billion.
- India contributes highest number (50 per cent) of rabies deaths in the whole world, approximately 25,000 per year as per WHO/NICD Sources.
- Of the seventeen million bitten each year, only three million receive post exposure anti-rabies vaccine, leaving fourteen million unprotected from rabies. Forget about use of immunoglobulin Many of these die from rabies.
In the Prevention of Cruelty Act to Animals Act 1960 in Chapter 3, no 11, 3 it states
Nothing in this section shall apply to:-
- The dehorning of cattle, or the castration or branding or nose roping of any animal in the prescribed manner, or
- The destruction of stray dogs in lethal chambers * (by such other methods as may be prescribed) or
- The extermination or destruction of any animal under the authority of any law for the time being in force; or
- Any matter dealt with in Chapter IV; or
- The commission or omission of any act in the course of the destruction or the preparation for destruction of any animal as food for mankind unless such destruction or preparation was accompanied by the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering.
* Subs. by Act 26 of 1982, S. 10 (b), for the words “by the other methods with a minimum of suffering”. The PCA Act shall not apply “to the destruction of stray dogs in lethal chambers or by other methods with a minimum of suffering.”
The provision of the PCA Act 1960 highlighted in bold italics above has been deleted from the draft Animal Welfare Act 2011.
In view of the above draft Animal Welfare Act, if for some unfortunate reason stray dogs do indeed attack a human, if a human were to defend itself and cause serious harm to the animals, it will liable for prosecution, fine and even imprisonment in some cases.
Having deleted the above mentioned provision, Municipality Acts in different parts of the country will not be held accountable to curbing any stray animal menace in its area, especially when some of their responsibilities are as follows
- They must keep the streets free of straying animals
- They must prevent and check the spread of diseases (in this case from animals to humans)
- They must prevent any kind of public nuisance as defined in the Constitution of India (in this case nuisance caused in any public place by straying animals)
Here’s another interesting anomaly in the draft of the Animal Welfare Act 2011
(f) Of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) as per the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 read as follows
“To take all such steps as the Board may think fit to ensure that unwanted animals are destroyed by local authorities, whenever it is necessary to do so, either instantaneously or after being rendered insensible to pain or suffering. “
This particular clause has been deleted from the draft Animal Welfare Act 2011.
Instead of making the Municipal Authorities accountable for providing adequate shelters to strays and controlling stray menace, certain clauses of the law provide for them a loop to avoid these responsibilities.
While the effort made by the Centre to create stringent laws to ensure welfare of the animals is welcomed and a need of the hour; it is important to undertake the exercise in totality and government needs to make effort to provide shelter, food and safety to all stray animals.
Here is a look of the poor facilities provided by the government authorities in Goa; dog bites within Margao municipal area have increased because of lack of sufficient space and resources with the dog shelter. Recently, it was reported that two children were bitten by a stray dog in Margao.
The NGO which runs the dog shelter in Margao says the funds provided by the government to maintain the dog shelter are inadequate and the number of canines in the shelter is more than the allotted maintenance money given.
Speaking about the issue, the president of the South Goa Welfare Trust for Animals, Sandra Fernandes informed that the monthly amount of Rs 11,000 paid by the municipality was not sufficient as there were a number of other things to take care of. She said the shortfall was made up through donations.
Sandra informed that besides taking care of the dogs, vaccination was also given to the stray dogs in the streets which were a part of her initiative. Sandra said the municipality wanted them to have 100 hundreds dogs in the shelter but it was not possible with the amount paid by the municipality.
The question is whether the government will look at the real issues at hand or the animal issues that make headlines and international recognition.