Dhaka, Bangladesh
Addressing stray-dog problem imperative

Addressing stray-dog problem imperative

Stray dogs continue to pose a threat to public health in Dhaka city in particular. According to the Infectious Diseases Hospital officials, they are getting on average 200 dog-bite patients every day at the hospital in the city’s Mohakhali area. Moreover, over 36,000 dog-bite patients have taken treatment from the hospital in the last eight months while 76,000 took treatment in 2019 and 81,000 in 2018. Besides, roughly 95 per cent of the victims are from Dhaka. Alongside some other animals, dogs are responsible for spreading rabies, a viral disease that causes inflammation of the brain in humans and other mammals, leading the patient, if not treated in time, eventually to death. It is worth noting that local -government bodies are generally responsible for the control of dog population in respective areas. But Dhaka South City Corporation for the last 30 months and Dhaka North City Corporation for 11 months have not reportedly done anything to control the dog population for ‘lack of manpower and budgetary allocation’. In such a situation, stray dogs in the city have increased their population at an alarming rate, causing public sufferings. Over decades, local-government bodies have resorted to mass culling of dogs in an attempt to control the animal’s population. But the High Court put a ban on such a cruelty to the domesticated carnivore in 2014. Also, the Animal Welfare Act 2019 which was enacted on July 10, 2019 repealing the earlier Cruelty to Animals Act 1920 to protect animal rights prohibits the killing of any animal. Against this backdrop, DSCC in particular opted recently for the relocation process to fight the menace. But different animal- rights organisations protested this drive, and rightly so, arguing that the law restricts both culling and relocation of animals. Additionally, they filed writ petition with the High Court over the issue, leading the DSCC to abandon the stray dog- relocation process. Indeed, relocation cannot be a solution to the dog-bite problem. In the first place, it is virtually transferring a danger from one place to another, indicating, worse still, some sort of elitism as it prioritises the capital city over an area inhabited mostly by low-income groups. Moreover, dogs strictly maintain their territory and after relocation local dogs would continue to fight with them over their territorial right, creating a public nuisance. Hence, the DSCC decision not to further pursue the controversial process is welcome. But it does not mean that the DSCC should wash its hands of the matter as the problem not only persists but also, in some cases, has intensified. Experts have time and again stressed sterilisation and vaccination of dogs as the best way to protect public health and animal rights, too. Following the suggestion, the government took an action plan in 2011 to vaccinate and sterilise each and every dog to deduct zero death from rabies by 2020, which was later extended till 2022. But, regrettably, the project reportedly stumbled after running well some time because of lack of funds. According to health-department officials, they completed vaccination for only one round in 60 districts out of 64 and in four districts twice as part of the plan. Moreover, the communicable disease- control unit of the health department vaccinated 48,512 dogs in 2019, although there was no study on dog population in Dhaka. Anyway, the Dhaka North city mayor is expected to immediately act as per his own words to make an effort to strengthen vaccination and sterilisation in cooperation with government and non- governmental agencies in his area. The south corporation is also expected to follow suit in greater public interest.

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