perils of a growing stray dog population
By Qadeer Tanoli
Despite efforts of different town administrations, the numbers of stray dogs is increasing in the metropolis, posing a potential threat of rabies in the city.
The health department of the City District Government Karachi (CDGK) provides poisonous capsules to town administrations on demand. It is the responsibility of every town administration to initiate either full fledged campaigns against stray dogs or address any complaints in this respect at any time of the year. Stray dogs can be seen in almost in every town but those areas are their special breeding points where storm water drains are situated. For instance, stray dogs are found in abundance alongside the banks of the Mahmoodabad Nullah and Manzoor Colony Nullah.
Dr Abdul Wahab, Veterinary Officer at RC Hospital MA Jinnah Road, said that the breeding/mating season of dogs starts from October and ends around January. He said generally stray dogs dwell at places where they can get food easily. That’s the reason why stray dogs can be found in large number at the large Katchra Kundis (garbage dumps) and other similar places. He informed, a bitch typically gets pregnant twice a year and can produce five to 12 puppies in the period.
He said besides killing stray dogs through the traditional technique of feeding them poisonous capsules, their number could also be controlled through castration of male dogs. This is the method preferred by most animal rights groups which claim killing dogs by poison is cruel and leads to other problems such as the accidental poisoning of pets and birds. Dr Wahab agreed and said this technique would need anesthesia worth Rs100 and blades to operate the stray dogs to control their birth rate. According to him, this solution would resolve the problem once and for all whereas poisoning or shooting is only a temporary ‘solution’.
To keep rabies away, pet dogs are generally vaccinated once in a year which cost only Rs200 per dog. However, he said, vaccination of stray dogs has never been taken as seriously as it should by the authorities and worth considering.
In reality, the authorities concerned have never taken measures to get rid of stray dogs other than feeding them poisonous capsules. The sanitary staff places these capsules at night where stray dogs are found. Early in the morning, they check the results and carry dead dogs to a suitable place for dumping.
According Administrator Lyari, Muhammad Raisi, during the anti-stray dog campaign which started from June 1, so far 450 to 500 dogs have been killed through poisoned capsules in his town. He said this campaign is still in process and town administration staff takes notice of any complaint from the public. “Recently I got a complaint from Union Council-1, Agra Taj, which was immediately addressed,” he informed. He said the health department of the city government has been providing poisonous capsules for stray dogs according to a town administration’s requirements. Generally, his town administration places a request for 500 to 1,000 poisonous capsules to the health department of CDGK.
He said a sub-inspector of the sanitary department is handed over around 20 poisonous capsules during anti-stray dog campaigns and the sanitary workers pick the bodies of stray dogs early in the morning so that the foul smell from these bodies can be avoided. Afterwards, he said, these bodies are shifted and properly dumped at landfill sites.
According to the town administrator, the stray dogs are smart creatures and in case of an anti-stray dog campaign they leave their dwelling places and only return ‘home’ when the campaign is over. He said generally this creature lives alongside sewerage drains. He said in Lyari, stray dogs are found mainly in Agra Taj, Machhar Colony and in other areas through which storm water drains pass.
In comparison with other town administrations, the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Town has less stray dogs. According to Administor Gulshan-e-Iaqbal Town, Syed Raza Abbas Rizvi, after every 15 days an anti-stray dog campaign is initiated in the town specially in outlying areas like Sachal Goth (UC13), Metroville (UC-11) and in areas which are adjacent to Sohrab Goth.
He said for this campaign, the staff concerned is given around 200 capsules and 30 to 40 stray dogs are killed.
Interesting instincts of stray dogs
- According to experts, stray dogs generally never leave their dwelling places unless there is some life threat to them.
- They rarely welcome a dog who is a stranger on their home turf unless the rival is powerful and asserts its dominance.
- Sometimes motorcyclists get harassed when a stray dog starts racing with the vehicle while barking at the riders. In case the rider decides to speed the motorcycle to avoid the dog’s attack, the animal will also increase its speed to compete with the rider.
- According to experts, one should stop the bike instead of trying to speed away. They suggest that in such cases slowing down the bike normally leads the stray dog to stop as well.
- It is also commonly observed that stray dogs target scavengers and ragpickers, often Afghan children.
- Generally stray dogs in urban areas are good at crossing roads to avoid being crushed under vehicles.
Immediate treatment for a dog bite victim
A senior specialist, who regularly deals with dog bites, claims that if a dog has bitten anyone on the neck or head, the victim should be rushed to a hospital within the shortest possible time. Dr Naseem Salahuddin, head of the department of Infectious diseases at the Indus Hospital, said in case of dog bite on one’s leg or other parts of the body which are at some distance from the head, the victim should be shifted to a hospital during the next 24 hours at the maximum. She said the depth of injuries also matters in such cases, as deeper wounds may prove fatal and demand immediate treatment.
According Dr Salahuddin, in remote areas where there are no treatment facilities, the victim’s injuries should be washed with soap and clean water as part of first aid. She said the injuries should be washed in this way for up to 10 to 15 minutes.
The application of soap, or any other reliable antiseptic solution, prevents the spread of the virus in the body.
She said after falling victim to a dog bite, everyone should be given treatment for rabies at a hospital. She said there is no laboratory in Pakistan which can detect whether the dog responsible for the attack is rabies-affected or not.
She informed that one cannot take a chance on whether the dog is rabies-affected or not so the victim should be vaccinated as though he had become a victim of an infected animal. In countries like India, Sri Lanka and Thailand there are laboratories in which it can be detected whether the attacking animal has rabies or not by examining the animal in a lab for some days. However, she said, there is no such laboratory in Pakistan which can examine such animals and reach the correct conclusion.
Dr Salahuddin believes rabies cases are increasing in the country due to the increased population of dogs but they are not reported if they occur in remote areas. She said in many rural areas, due to an absence of medical facilities, dog bite cases are handled through faith healers. Unfortunately, old vaccines are still being used in Pakistan which were discarded in the modern world decades ago.
She said depending on the nature of injuries, the victim’s treatment may cost from Rs3,000 to Rs5,000 because of the need to inject modern vaccines through five injections. Delaying the shifting of a victim to the hospital may increase their chances of becoming rabies victims.
According Dr Salahuddin, there is no remedy in the world if, unfortunately, one becomes a victim of rabies. She said a headache, fever, aching of throat muscles, restlessness and hydrophobia after being infected are the symptoms of the deadly disease. A rabies patient death, she believes, is among the worst and there is no other disease which brings about such a terrible death.
The love and fear relationship
By Qadeer Tanoli
Nasir Jamshed has fallen victim to dog bite incidents twice in his life so far. These repeated incidents and the awful treatment he had to undergo have made him really conscious about the presence of dogs around him. The 24-year-old chap keeps switching professions off and on. He used to run a small grocery shop at Junejo Town, Manzoor Colony, and afterwards started working as a driver at a bungalow. Currently, he is looking for another job to earn his livelihood.
While sharing the experiences of his dog bite incidents, he said his pet dog had bitten him on his left arm when he was 14 and a student of grade seven. He was trying to latch the dog when it went out of control and instead of obeying its master, bit him on his arm. This incident took place in his native village, Thathar, which is part of Qalandarbad (Mansehra). “It was a terrible incident as my dog had made a big slash in my flesh with its teeth and my injured arm became completely numb,” he recollected.
He was immediately shifted to the nearest hospital in Abbottabad. The doctors gave him 14 injections in his navel and a single injection used to be injected in the same part of his body every day. He said at that time, dog bite cases used to be handled free of cost but as he was treated at a private hospital his family was charged Rs1,500 per injection. Besides giving him medical treatment, his parents also managed to employ spiritual treatment for him as well. The traditional treatment, which included rubbing red chilies in powder around the injured parts of the body, was also given to him.
In 2001, Nasir shifted to Karachi and was admitted to a private school when the second dog-bite case occurred. He was passing alongside the Mehmoodabad Nullah, when all of sudden a bitch which was guarding her newly born puppies bit him hard on his leg. This time, he was shifted to a well-known government hospital for dog bite treatment. He was fearful that once again several injections would be administered to his navel. However, he did not have to suffer this type of treatment again due to advances in medicine technology.
The doctor injected a total of 21 injections to him on his both arms, a single injection each day. He said this time a single injection cost his family Rs4,500. After his ordeal, Nasir has developed a deep fear of dogs and instantly leaves a place whenever he sees a dog anywhere.
According to him, besides facing the painful treatment, a dog bite victim also faces severe itching around the injured part of the body.
Nasir is absolutely sure that both the dogs which bit him on two different occasions were not infected by rabies at all. He knows well what rabies-affected dog looks like and how it behaves. He believes one sign is that a dog usually froths at the mouth when infected.
For the love of strays
Carol Noreen is an animal lover. A school principal by profession, everyday, she puts on a big cooking pot of dog and cat food on her stove. The idea is to provide food to owners who cannot afford to feed their animals. One such owner is her watchman who has adopted a stray cat.
“I cook food for the animals myself, I do not like to leave this job to my servants,” she says.
Noreen volunteers for Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), and has rescued several strays. She shares one such instance when she saw an injured dog, at PIA Colony, Gulistan-e-Jauhar, while going to work. Since she could not rescue it all alone she called up her team for help. The vet in the team, sedated the dog, and took it for treatment.
Noreen has posted its picture on the organisation’s facebook page, and is now looking for a foster home for it. The only criterion for adoption is ‘a loving family’, she says.
“While it is easy to find homes for other animals, people are less acceptable to the idea of street dogs as pets,” she laments.
Currently, she is taking care of three dogs, one of which has a broken backbone. The other was rescued by the known VJ Anoushey, and the third is the one she owned initially.
She is strongly against the poisoning of stray dogs. “Dogs should be checked for rabies before putting them to death,” she points out.
In his regard according to her the best prevention can be taken up by people themselves, by getting a rabies vaccination. “All of us at PAWS get vaccination, you never know which animal is rabid,” she explains.An animal with rabies may scratch or bite, and thus pass on the virus, she maintains.
She loves animals, but for her the last resort for a rabid animal in unbearable pain is euthanasia, or mercy killing.
Amidst the city cleaning campaigns, which involve elimination of street dogs, is the small, yet unwavering voice of animal rights groups, which demand a more humane treatment
Most recommend the World Health Organisation’s long term strategy of catch-neuter-vaccinate-release in order to deal with rabies and stray dog control. This, they believe, is the only effective control for rabies.