The Sindh High Court directed the Karachi Municipal Corporation and other relevant authorities on Wednesday to restore the helpline launched to curb rising dog-bite cases in the province.
A two-member bench, comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Amjad Ali Sahito, was hearing a plea pertaining to the stray dog population and the unavailability of anti-rabies vaccines (ARVs) in Sindh.
During the hearing, the petitioner's counsel maintained that people are still dying of rabies. Two children died of the disease recently, he added.
He informed the bench that the 109 helpline has been generalised and its number has been replaced by a seven-digit one.
Irked, the bench remarked that a three-digit number was easier to remember. It asked whether the 109 helpline was active and if not, which one is currently active.
The section officer replied that the 109 helpline was not active. He failed to recall the seven-digit number for the current helpline.
Expressing annoyance at the decision to change the number, the bench directed the relevant authorities to restore 109.
The court was informed that the Sindh cabinet has approved by-laws pertaining to vaccination and neutering of stray dogs.
But when will a notification be issued, the bench asked the government representative.
The court directed the additional secretary to issue the same within two weeks and instructed the KMC, district municipal corporations (DMCs) and cantonment boards to implement the law.
However, in a report submitted by the Sindh local government department the court was informed that thousands of stray dogs have been killed across the province.
As many as 7,637 stray dogs were poisoned across the province in May alone, according to the report. Of these, 1,154 strays belonged to Karachi, 1,448 to Hyderabad, 1,216 to Sukkur, 2,374 to Shaheed Benazirabad, 904 to Mirpurkhas and 541 to Larkana.
The report further mentioned that the local government department is working on an application, on which the performance of union councils can be reviewed regarding dogs. For this, the department will be taking monthly reports from the health department.
With regards to vaccinations, the petitioner complained that the stray dogs were not being tagged after being vaccinated.
The bench expressed anger at this and directed the relevant authorities to ensure vaccinated strays are tagged accordingly. The court reminded that the government had adopted the Turkish model, which calls for tagging the dogs so it is evident whether the dog has been vaccinated.
Several areas, including Malir, Khayabane Ittehad, Faisal Cantonment Board and Gulistan-e-Jauhar were highlighted during the hearing as places where no measures have been taken to curb dog-bite cases.
The Malir DC maintained, however, that strays were being vaccinated in his district.
Directing the KMC, DMCs and cantonment boards to follow the by-laws, which call for vaccinations not killings, and control dog-bite cases, the court adjourned the hearing till August 17. Besides, the court sought the restoration of the 109 helpline.
The same bench sought arguments from the government lawyer over a petition filed by residents of Burns Road area.
"Have the roads been opened," Justice Mazhar asked the Traffic SSP.
The official replied in the affirmative, adding that an alternate route has been planned as well.
However, the petitioner's counsel contended that neither cars nor bicycles could pass through the alternate route.
The court reminded the government lawyer that business activities should be considered as well.
Following this, the assistant advocate general sought more time to prepare arguments.
Accepting his request, the bench adjourned the hearing till June 8.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 3rd, 2021.