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January 15, 2020

SHC orders launching helpline within three days to control stray dogs

Karachi

January 15, 2020

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday took notice of the failure of the authorities to comply with its directives to establish a complaint cell to deal with stray dogs and dog-bite cases, telling the chairman of a task force constituted in this regard to create a helpline within three days.

Hearing a petition call for controlling the population of stray dogs and ensuring the availability of free anti-rabies vaccines, a division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar observed that it had already been directed that a complaint cell and a helpline be set up for registering public complaints for taking prompt action, but the task force had not created any helpline despite directions.

The court observed the helpline and the cell should be publicised for the information of the public through the print and electronic media. It said that in case of any complaint of a dog-bite incident or dangerous stray dogs, members of the public may lodge their complaints with the helpline, and the task force secretariat would immediately forward the complaints to the DMCs or cantonments for urgent action.

The court issued show cause notice to executive director national institute of child health for not filing compliance report with regard to medical treatment to six years old boy from Larkana who died due to dog biting.

It observed that the director of the National Institute of Child Health (NICH) was directed to submit the complete medical treatment record of a six-year-old boy, Husnain, who died at the hospital week after being attacked by a pack of rabid dogs, but no record was produced before the court.

On the previous hearing, the court had taken notice of the rabies death of the boy from Larkana, and directed the health department to conduct an inquiry and submit a report with regard to provision of the initial first aid and medical treatment of the child by the government hospital. It had inquired an official of the department why the child was not provided with initial medical treatment and why the anti-rabies vaccine was not available at a government hospital in Larkana.

The additional secretary of health filed a report, submitting that the medical superintendent of the Chandka Medical College Larkana had said that Husnanin Bughio was admitted in a critical condition on November 14, and all necessary treatment measures were taken at once and injections, AVR and immunoglobine were injected to the patient. He said that as the patient’s condition was dangerous, he was referred to Karachi for further treatment on the advice of a consultant.

The additional health secretary submitted that the letter was communicated to the HICH director on January 7 to provide a report, but no reply had been received.

The court also took notice of non-approval of the PC-I for a programme to fight rabies and check the population of stray dogs at cost of Rs1,074 million.

The additional secretary of local government submitted that a summary had been moved to the chief minister on December 26 for approval of the PC-1 for the scheme, which was endorsed by the local government, planning and development board, and finance department and only approval by the CM was required.

The court observed that the government should expedite the process as much time had been spent on approval for the PC-1 and the delay was also against the larger public interest. It stated that such types of efforts should have been taken expeditiously and on a priority basis so that miseries of the public at large may be eased; however, it was strange that no positive efforts were made for the approval of the PC-1, except asking for dates to comply with its directives.

It gave the last chance to the additional advocate general to submit a report with regard to the approval of the summary. It observed that in case no orders were passed on the summary, the chief secretary would appear in person and explain the reason for the delay.

The high court also directed the chairman of the task force, who is the special secretary of local government, to appear in person and inform the court what efforts were made by him on the request of the District Municipal Corporation Central to make available poison to kill stray dogs in its jurisdiction.

The additional secretary of local government submitted that the last meeting of the task force was convened on January 10, but the representatives of the cantonment boards did not appear. The counsel for the cantonment boards said that they would attend the meeting if prior intimation for the meeting was given to the boards.

The court was informed that the government and local bodies authorities had so far killed and dumped as many as 46,426 stray dogs in the province, including 3,750 in Karachi, 25,721 in Hyderabad, 4,068 in Sukkur, 8,409 in Mirpurkhas, 2,990 in Shaheed Benazirabad and 1,488 in Larkana.

The cantonment boards’ representatives submitted their replies mentioning that they had already established dog control cells and they were making all possible efforts in the larger public interest against the stray dogs to control dog-bite incidents in their territorial jurisdictions. The court directed the cantonment boards and the DMCs to continue their campaigns against stray dogs and submit compliance reports.

The court directed the Sindh government and local bodies’ authorities to continue action against the stray dogs in the province and adjourned the hearing till January 29.

Advocate M Tariq Mansoor submitted in the petition that provincial health minister Dr Azra Pechuho had given a statement before the provincial assembly that more than 92,000 dog-bite cases had been reported from across Sindh during the year that ended on June 30, and that there was a shortage of anti-rabies vaccines due to the ongoing tensions with the neighbouring India and the closure of a Chinese company’s operation.

He submitted that dog-bite incidents had been increasing day by day due to the failure of the provincial and local administrations to cope up with the situation, as on the one hand the stray dogs had not been taken away, and on the other anti-rabies vaccines had not been made available to the government-run hospitals.

The court was requested to direct the provincial and local governments to take necessary steps for vaccination and control of the population of stray dogs as per the world Health Organisation guidelines and ensure a supply of anti-rabies vaccines in the government-run hospitals.

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