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Wednesday December 08, 2021

SHC orders airing of public awareness messages in electronic media about helpline against stray dogs

March 20, 2020

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) chairman to ensure airing of public awareness messages on the electronic media and cable TV networks in the province so that people may lodge complaints from their localities against stray dogs.

The direction came on a petition calling for controlling the population of stray dogs and ensuring the availability of free anti-rabies vaccines. Regarding the publication of advertisement in newspapers and the electronic media with regard to the creation of the helpline service, the local government secretary and the task force chairman submitted their explanation with regard to show cause notices. They submitted that public awareness messages with regard to the helpline service in case of dog-bite and stray dog cases have been published in 11 national and regional newspapers.

They submitted that some public awareness messages were also telecast on the electronic media and sought more time to submit a report. The task force chairman submitted that he had written a letter to the Pemra chairman so that a direction may be issued to television channels to air public awareness messages regarding the facility to lodge complaints about stray dogs and dog-bite incidents.

A division bench of the SHC headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar directed the Pemra chairman to ensure that the public awareness message with regard to the creation of helpline shall be aired on all television channels in the larger public interest so that it may come into the knowledge of the public.

The local government secretary submitted that the helpline centre had been receiving complaints that were being forwarded to the authorities concerned for an immediate response. The high court also issued a notice to the PEMRA Karachi region general manager and submit a compliance report on whether public awareness messages had been aired on the electronic media, and adjourned the hearing till April 16.

On a previous hearing, the high court had taken exception to the failure of the local government department for not publicising the creation of the helpline service in the print and electronic media to deal with stray dogs and dog-bite cases in the province.

The SHC had observed that a helpline should be created and publicised for information of the general public through the print and electronic media so that in case of complaint, proper steps could be taken by the task force and they could forward the complaint to the relevant district municipal corporation or the cantonment board.

The high court was informed that the Sindh chief minister had approved the summary and administration approval had been accorded for the execution of a development scheme to fight rabies and check the population of stray dogs at a cost of Rs963.316 million. The local bodies secretary said the concurrence of the scheme had also been issued by the planning and development department.

The petitioner, M Tariq Mansoor advocate, had submitted in the petition that the 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 across Sindh during the year that ended up to June 30, 2019.

He had submitted that dog-bite incidents had been worsening day by day due to failures of the provincial and local administration to cope with the situation as on the one hand, stray dogs had not been detained and on the other hand, anti-rabies

vaccine was not available in the government-run hospitals.

The high court was requested to direct the provincial and local governments to take necessary steps for vaccination, detention and control of stray dogs as per the World Health Organisation guidelines and ensure the supply of anti-rabies vaccine in the government-run hospitals.