Kerala starts mass vaccination drive for stray dogs

Kerala starts mass vaccination drive for stray dogs

The Latest increase of dog bite cases in Kerala, pulled the state government to start a month-long vaccination drive at reducing the risk of being affected by rabies. The vaccination drive is set to begin on September 20th today and will go on till October 20 through the coordinated efforts of the Animal Husbandry Department (AHD) and Local Self Government (LSGD) Department. Earlier, the month of September had been declared vaccination month in Kerala and pet dog vaccinations have been conducted since September 1.

The state’s Animal Husbandry Department, on September 15, identified 170 hotspots across the state to priorities vaccination drives. Places that reported a monthly average of 10 or more bites between January and August 2022 were selected as hotspots.

Animal Husbandry assistant director Dr R Venugopal said that 37 ABC centres and 78 dog catchers are available with the department now. “The Kudumbashree has submitted a list of 470 dog catchers. If one dog is caught and handed over for vaccination, the volunteer will be paid Rs 300. Their services will be availed soon,” he said. The dog catchers in the Kudumbashree list however need to be trained and vaccinated before they are deployed. The government intends to conduct follow-up vaccinations every September in the coming years.

It is estimated that there are currently four lakh stray dogs in the state. However, only 78 people are involved in dog catching. The local and animal welfare departments have decided to implement the vaccination drive on a full scale from September 28 after appointing more people and giving them training and vaccination.

Even though the ministerial meeting has decided to start the vaccination drive in the state from today due to the increase in stray dog menace, it will take a few more days to get fully prepared. As per the current plan the aggressive and violent dogs among the ones caught for vaccination would be accommodated in temporary dog shelters. These facilities have not yet been readied in many places owing to public protests. Also, there is scarcity of Veterinary Doctors and trained dog catchers.

The number of reported rabies deaths went from five in 2020 to 11 in 2021 and 21 in the first eight months of 2022, according to the Directorate of Health Services (DHS) data. This is due to multiple reasons that came together in the background of the Covid-19 -induced lockdown, said Venugopal. The state had a stray dog population of 2.8 lakh as per a 2019 AHD survey.

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