For nearly three and a half years, the stray dog spaying program run by Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) has been discontinued.
The last sterilization was in August 2018. Since then, animal lovers in the city have had to pay for the sterilization costs of the dogs they look after.
However, dog lovers claim that having the dogs spayed at private centers was very expensive, with each spaying costing €6,000 to €7,000. They also have to cover the cost of vaccinations, dog food, and injuries or illnesses, which is beyond the reach of any medium-sized dog lover.
Experts claim that the Animal Birth Control (ABC) program has been shut down not only in Thane but also in most MMR countries as many companies have stopped funding. This has led to an increase in the dog population, leading to cases of cruelty to strays.
TMC officials claimed that the tenure of the NGO that performed the sterilization until 2018 ended, after which it was not renewed due to lack of funds and Covid. The work order will now be issued and the tenders will be finalized in the coming weeks.
According to TMC data, 11,346 cases of dog bites were reported between March 2020 and November 2021. Recently there was a case of a dog biting at least 34 people in the Wagle Estate area.
Since the spaying program began in 2004, the company has spayed and released 58,537 dogs €8 cr.
A FREE MATTER
Shubhra Rawlins, a dog lover from Ghodbunder, said: “TMC’s sterilization program was discontinued in 2018. We feeders have the dogs spayed in our areas. However, it is very expensive as I have spent €6,000 to €7,000 on each dog. In addition to the operation, we also have to keep the dog in the shelter for a week so that it can heal. This also includes transporting the dogs to animal shelters. Sometimes the cost is as high as €10,000 per dog. Apart from that, we also vaccinate the dogs and give out dog food. The vaccination for each dog is €400. If we care for 10 dogs in the area, it is not possible to spend that much money. There are eaters and dog lovers from slums and middle class families who can’t afford these expenses.”
Rawlins added that the company used to have a well-established program that compared to other MMR cities better. However, since its closure, the stray dog population has increased. “This has also led to animal cruelty. The bitch I adopted gave birth to puppies just before she came to live with us. All puppies were burned. Such incidents could be avoided with effective birth control programs,” she said.
Priyanka Dabholkar, Founder of the Animal Welfare Foundation added: “It’s not just the prevention programs. For almost a year the veterinary clinic at Wagle Estate was closed and the vaccination program was also halted. We used to take dogs there when there were maggots or diseases and injuries. Now we have to take them to private hospitals and pay extra for treatment.”
The NGO has written several letters to the TMC to resume the program. However, there is no progress.
ABC PROGRAM ESSENTIAL
Vidya Heble, another dog lover from Saket Complex, added: “Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is running a spaying program in Mumbai. However, the TMC stopped their own. So we need to take dogs to Mulund or Deonar. This also includes transport and other logistics. Vaccination against rabies was also discontinued, leading to an increase in rabies cases. This is another issue that needs to be addressed.”
Dog lover Bharti Redkar added that the ABC program is essential as puppies die on the streets, which is a cruelty in itself.
Shakuntala Majumdar, President of the former Thane Society for Protection and Care of Animal, SPCA (soon to be renamed Community for Protection and Care of Animal, CPCA), said: “Not only Thane, many other companies have had their sterilization programs suspended in of the Mumbai metropolitan area since the outbreak of the pandemic. Funds for ABC have been transferred for Covid. Recently, when we still had some hope of funding, the third wave started.”
This delay in animal control has led to an exponential increase in the stray population. “People have also started aggressively feeding stray dogs as most of them were at home and had free time. This has led to a massive increase in the dog population. The second problem is that since there is no animal welfare agency, there is no state control or oversight of the ABC program. The previous board has been dissolved. Due to zero monitoring, most NGOs underpaid or did not pay basic sterilization fees.”
Referring to the high cost of sterilization in private centers, Majumdar added, “Apart from the sterilization, the dogs also have to stay in the hospital for six to seven days for post-operative care, hence the high cost.”
€1.40 CR BUDGET ALLOCATED
dr Kshama Shirodkar, Veterinary Officer, TMC said: “It is true that the program was discontinued in 2018. However, we are now issuing a work order for the same in the coming weeks. The tender will be closed and the work will also begin as we have been allocated a budget of €1.40 cr.”
A source from TMC claimed that work has stalled due to a lack of funding. He said: “We still have not paid the bills of the NGO that has been helping with sterilization and vaccination programs. Therefore, they are not willing to cooperate with us. The process was also completed in 2019. However, the head of department at that time retired and since then there have been several changes in the position of health officer. When the pandemic hit, we didn’t get funds for animal welfare. Last year we only got €20 lakh and even had to close the treatment center as a result.”