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October 23, 2019

SHC tells govt to form task force to curb dog-bite cases

Karachi

October 23, 2019

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday directed the local government secretary to immediately constitute a task force to control dog-bite incidents across the province.

Hearing a petition seeking the controlling of the population of stray dogs and the availability of free rabies vaccines, the SHC’s division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar asked the LG secretary what efforts were being made to protect the people from the increasing cases of dog bites.

Secretary Roshan Ali Sheikh said the LG had issued funds to the district municipal corporations (DMCs) for maintaining vehicles and purchasing equipment for dogs’ detention, sterilisation and vaccination.

Sheikh said the government had directed the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and the DMCs’ municipal commissioners to ensure the culling of stray dogs, as well as asked the DMCs to launch an effective and well-coordinated campaign to check dog-bite cases.

He said a plan had been made with regard to controlling the street dogs’ population and fighting rabies with the assistance of the Society for the Protection of Animal Rights.

He also said that several steps have already been taken to launch this project effectively, and they have constructed a model centre in Ibrahim Hyderi in collaboration with a private hospital to trap, neuter and release canines, but its PC-I is yet to be prepared.

The LG secretary assured the court that the PC-I will be prepared within a week and submitted to the Planning & Development Department for approval. The DMCs’ municipal commissioners claimed that they have already made efforts to cull stray dogs.

The court directed the health and LG departments to submit their progress reports, as the matter is of grave importance and needs immediate attention. The court also directed the LG and health departments to expedite the project and submit a report about its implementation.

Health Secretary Saeed Ahmed Awan submitted a statement, saying that 16,359 rabies vaccines were available at 313 hospitals, including the district health offices, in Sindh.

Metropolitan Commissioner Dr Syed Saifur Rehman said the KMC is supervising 14 hospitals, of which four are general hospitals, where the vaccines are available. He said that 304 rabies vaccines are available at the Abbasi Shaheed hospital, 34 at the Sarfaraz Rafiqui Shaheed Hospital, 70 at the Gazdarabad Hospital and 100 at the Landhi Medical Complex.

He claimed that vaccines were being arranged by the KMC out of its own funds and that no funds had been provided by the LG department. He said the KMC will also arrange vaccination as and when needed.

The court directed the health secretary to ensure there is no shortage of rabies vaccine in any of the districts of the province. He said the South, West, Central, Malir and Korangi DMCs have sent their requisitions for funds for consideration.

The court observed that no huge fund outlays were involved for launching and running a campaign against stray dogs, but these efforts may be made with some limited resources if such efforts are made willingly by the authorities concerned.

The court directed all municipal commissioners and the DMCs’ representatives to arrange vehicles and deploy their staff in their respective areas to immediately deal with the situation so that the public may be saved from dog bites. The court directed the health and LG secretaries and the DMCs to submit their respective compliance reports by November 7.

Petitioner M Tariq Mansoor Advocate had submitted in his petition that Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho had given a statement before the provincial assembly that more than 92,000 dog-bite cases had been reported across Sindh this year by June 30 and there was a shortage of vaccines due to the ongoing tension with India and the closure of Chinese companies’ operations.

He said dog-bite incidents have been increasing day by day due to the failure of the provincial and local administrations to deal with the situation, as on the one hand stray dogs have not been detained and on the other, anti-rabies vaccines are unavailable at public hospitals.

The court was requested to direct the provincial and local governments to take necessary steps to detain, vaccinate and control the population of stray dogs in accordance with the World Health Organisation’s guidelines, and to ensure supply of rabies vaccines at government hospitals.

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