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Civic scurry to check stray dog count

Another first for the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC): a census on stray dogs, prompted by a surge in their population. Alarmed at the prospect of an outbreak of rabies and other canine-borne diseases, mayor Subrata Mukherjee has directed his council member (conservancy) Rajib Deb to undertake a borough-wise field-level census of stray dogs, with a little help from NGOs.

“In the absence of base-level data on the city’s canine population, we in the CMC are a little confused. While animal-lover NGOs make tall claims on their success in sterilising strays, citizens complain of a spurt in the population of streetdogs in their areas,” said the mayor. “We aren’t sure exactly how many dogs need to be sterilised in a day or a month or a year to rid the city streets of strays in the next two or three years,” he pointed out.

The mayor has opted to involve the conservancy department in the drive, instead of the civic health department, because the former has a broader organisational set-up, that can effectively collect grassroot-level data.

There are over 1,000 block sarkars in the conservancy department and each of them has to look after two or three streets (paras). They will be asked to supply data to their respective district conservancy officer (DCO). The DCOs will be the monitoring authority at the borough level.

“We will welcome NGO involvement in carrying out the census, and an organisation called Love-N-Care for Animals has already agreed to take up the responsibility of tagging the dogs to facilitate the census,” said mayoral council member Deb. The organisation helped the civic authorities in their recent clean-up drive by taking away the cats from hospitals.

Other organisations active in the city for sterilising strays include the Calcutta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (CSPCA), People For Animals, Friends of Dogs and South Calcutta Animal Welfare Society.

The civic health department claims it sterilises about 1,200 street dogs every year and about 7,000 have been sterilised over the past three-and-a-half years.

But conservancy officials dispute the claim. “Most of the NGOs exist only on paper and their intervention, as a whole, is too small to count when dealing with the spurt in the city’s canine population. The figure now stands at one lakh-plus,” pointed out chief engineer (conservancy) Arun Sarkar.

Mayoral council member in charge of health Pradip Ghosh said the civic body would exterminate stray dogs earlier. Following Maneka Gandhi’s visit to the city in 1997, the CMC switched to a more humane alternative — of sterilising the strays to control the population.

And the NGOs had been carrying out the sterilisation programme, for which they were getting a grant from the central government, Ghosh added.

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