For nearly three-and-a-half years now, the stray dog sterilisation programme conducted by the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) has stopped.

The last sterilisation was done in August 2018. Since then, animal lovers in the city have to bear the sterilisation cost of the dogs they take care of.

However, dog lovers claim that getting the dogs sterilised at private centres was very costly with each sterilisation costing 6,000 to 7,000. Besides, they also have to bear the expense of vaccination, dog feeds and any injury or sickness, which is not affordable for any middle class dog lover.

Experts claim that the Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme has halted not only in Thane but also most of MMR as many corporations have stopped funding it. This has led to an increase in dog population, leading to cases of cruelty towards strays.

The TMC officials claimed that the tenure of the NGO that did sterilisation till 2018 ended, after which it was not extended due to lack of funds and Covid. The work order will now be issued and the tenders will be finalised in the coming weeks.

As per the TMC data, between March 2020 and November 2021, there have been 11,346 cases of dog bites reported. Recently, there was a case of one dog having bitten at least 34 people in the Wagle Estate area.

Since the onset of the sterilisation programme in 2004, the corporation had sterilised 58,537 dogs, spending 8Cr.

A COSTLY AFFAIR

Shubhra Rawlins, a dog lover from Ghodbunder, said, “The sterilisation programme of TMC stopped in 2018. We feeders get the dogs in our areas sterilised. However, it is very expensive as I spent 6,000 to 7,000 on each dog. Along with the operation, we also need to keep the dog in shelters for a week for it to heal. This also involves transporting the dogs to shelter homes. At times, the cost is as high as 10,000 per dog. Apart from this, we also get the dogs vaccinated and spend on dog food. The vaccination for each dog is 400. If we take care of 10 dogs in the area, it is not possible to spend so much money. There are feeders and dog lovers from slums and middle-class families for whom these expenses are not possible.”

Rawlins added that the corporation had a well-set programme earlier that was better compared to other MMR cities. However, since its closure, the population of stray dogs has increased. “This has also given rise to cruelty in animals. The dog that I adopted had given birth to puppies just before she came to us. All the puppies were burnt. Such incidents could be avoided with effective birth control programmes,” she said.

Priyanka Dabholkar, founder of Animal Welfare Foundation, added, “It is not just the birth control programmes. For almost a year, the animal hospital in Wagle Estate was shut and the vaccination programme too has stopped. We used to admit dogs there in case of maggots or sickness and injuries. Now, we have to take them to private hospitals and pay additional for the treatment too.”

The NGO has written several letters to the TMC to restart the programme. However, there is no progress.

ABC PROGRAMME ESSENTIAL

Vidya Heble, another dog lover from Saket Complex, added, “The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) carries out a sterilisation programme in Mumbai. However, the TMC has stopped its own. So, we have to take dogs to Mulund or Deonar. This also involves transport and other logistics. The anti-rabies vaccine too has stopped, leading to an increase in rabies cases. This is another issue that needs to be addressed.”

Dog lover Bharti Redkar added that the ABC programme is essential as puppies are left dying on the road, which is cruelty in itself.

Shakuntala Majumdar, president of former Thane Society for Protection and Care of Animal, SPCA (soon to be renamed as Community for Protection and Care of Animal, CPCA), said, “Not only Thane, the sterilisation programmes was also suspended by many other corporations in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region since the pandemic set in. The funds for ABC were transferred for Covid. Recently, when we had some hope of getting funding, the third wave set in.”

This stalling of animal control has led to an exponential increase in stray population. “People have also started feeding stray dogs aggressively as most of them were home and had time on hand. This has led to massive proliferation of the dog population. The second issue is that there is no control or monitoring of the ABC programme by the State as there is no animal welfare board. The earlier board has dissolved. Due to zero monitoring, most NGOs have underpaid or not paid the basic charges for sterilisation.”

Talking about the high cost of sterilisation at private centres, Majumdar added, “Apart from sterilisation, the dogs also need to be kept in the hospital for six to seven days for post-operative care, thus the high cost.”

1.40CR BUDGET ALLOCATED

Dr. Kshama Shirodkar, veterinary officer, TMC, said, “It is true that the programme came to a halt in 2018. However, we are now issuing a work order for the same in the coming weeks. The tender will be finalised and the work will also begin as we have been allotted a budget of 1.40Cr.”

A source from TMC claimed that the work was stalled due to lack of funding. He said, “We have still not cleared the bills of the NGO that helped with sterilisation and vaccination programmes. Thus, they are not ready to work with us. Moreover, the process was finalised in 2019. However, the then head of the department retired and since then there has been several changes in the health officer’s post. Once the pandemic set in, we were not given any funding for animal welfare. Last year, we got merely 20 lakh and thus had to close down even the treatment centre.”


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