Work to protect the people from stray dogs has stopped in Punjab because of the provincial government’s failure to find a permanent solution to the problem.
The number of stray dogs roaming in the streets, markets and villages in the province is on the rise, while the government remains undecided about solving the problem without killing the animals.
Amid increasing complaints about fear pf attacks by the dogs, various government departments shift the responsibility of addressing the problem on each other.
According to officials concerned, It is the responsibility of the Punjab government to provide health and education facilities to the people, while the local bodies are bound to provide them municipal services. However, the provincial government is expected to devise the policy for protecting the life and health of the citizens.
Under the Local Government Act 2001 departments related to municipal services were were set up at the district level to solve the problems of the people locally.
After the implementation of the system, employees responsible for killing stray dogs served under the districts governments, making it easier for the people to get the services.
The previous government enacted the Local Government Act 2013, which abolished the district government system and restored the old system of municipal corporations.
Health and education services were separated from the local government system and district authorities were created to look after the sectors.
The present government also maintained the health and education authorities under the local government law of 2019.
Now the Lahore Metropolitan Corporation is facing difficulties due to lack of resources and powers regarding dengue spray and killing stray dogs.
After high court orders of not killing stray dogs in the cases filed by some non-governmental organisations (NGOs), officials from the local government, health and livestock departments started working on a project on the directions of Punjab government to protect the citizens in accordance with the verdict.
The local government department trained employees across Punjab to catch stray dogs and all of them were vaccinated against rabies by the health department.
In Lahore, 14 employees underwent training and vaccination.
The plan was to catch the dogs and put them in shelters, where they were to be neutered and vaccinated against rabies.
The first phase regarding collecting the stray dogs from various areas was implemented, but confusion persists about the responsibility and funding for building the shelters and feeding and raking care of them.
Under the circumstances, the number of stray dogs in the cities has increased once again, resulting in increasing complaints of dog bite and fear among the people.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Lahore District Health Authority Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr Muhammad Saeed confirmed that campaigns to kill stray dogs had been stopped.
However, wherever a complaint is received, a team kills the dog involved in the attack to protect the citizens of the area.
“It is not our job to collect stray dogs, keep them at a shelter home and feed them,” he said in reply to a question.
Dr Saeed said the employees who catch dogs had been vaccinated by the authority. The official said the project to keep the dogs confined could not be completed until the related work was completed by all the departments concerned.
In May, three departments along with the municipal authorities were made responsible for eliminating stray dogs in order to protect the citizens in the province due to lack of coordination and clear demarcation of responsibilities while amending the laws.
Letters were sent to the local bodies in order to bring the local government, health and livestock departments, and district administration together for the purpose.
According to officials, the epidemiology department earlier functioned in the local bodies across Punjab, including Lahore.
Responsibilities were assigned to the employees of the department and the expenses were borne by the local bodies to protect the citizens from seasonal diseases, as well as mosquitoes and stray dogs.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2021.
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