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ѹ, 15 Զع¹ 2009

From The Times of India: 10 Jun 2009, 0503 hrs IST, TNN

CHENNAI: See what dogged determination can do. The incidence of the dreaded rabies disease, which has plagued India for years, has been virtually 
eradicated from the city. According to the department of health, Chennai Corporation, no cases of rabies were reported in the last one year.


"There has been no case of rabies in the last one year, and in the last three years, complaints of stray dogs have come down drastically," said corporation health officer Dr B Kuganantham, attributing it to better community care of street dogs. The number of deaths due to rabies had been decreasing steadily since 1996, when the corporation adopted the Animal Birth Control-Anti-Rabies (ABC-AR) programme. There were 120 deaths due to rabies reported in 1996. The number came down to five by mid-2000.


The ABC-AR programme consists of a process of sterilisation to control stray dog population and vaccination to prevent rabies. The success of the programme hinges upon the sterilisation of 70% of the dog population in a given area within one reproductive cycle, which is normally six months. According to the corporation, over 80% of the dogs in Chennai have been sterilised. The current dog to human ratio is pegged at 1: 40.


The overwhelming success of the programme in the city has led to its implementation in other parts of the state. Until now the programme was restricted to five corporations and 50 municipalities but the state level co-ordination committee, the first to be set up in the country early this June, decided to extend the programme to 561 smaller towns in Tamil Nadu.


 "When was the last time you saw a dozen puppies suckling its mother on a Chennai street? ABC is a humane approach to avoid killing of stray dogs in urban environs,'' said D Rajasekar, secretary, Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI).


Animal welfare organisations like People for Animals (PfA), Blue Cross of India (BCI) and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have also played a major role in the success of the programme. The ABC program was first conceived by the Blue Cross in 1966. In 1964, an estimated 16,000 dogs were killed by the corporation, said BCI honorary secretary Saraswathi Haksan. The ABC programme was conceived as an alternative to this.


The programme has found mention in the timeline of Environmental Milestones released recently by Radford University, Virginia. The ABC programme, which has been endorsed by the WHO as a viable long-term solution to the stray dog problem, is being implemented in several parts of the country, including all the metros. As of 2007, India had an estimated 20,000 deaths due to rabies annually, the highest in the world, according to a survey done by the Rabies in Asia (RIA) Foundation.


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