SHC irked at Sindh govt for delay in action against stray dog incidents
Inquires why ARVs are not being provided, directs to expedite process, warns of court action
On Dec 20, 2019, the Sindh High Court (SHC) sought the complete details of Hasnain’s case from the provincial health department. A two-member bench comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Agha Faisal was hearing a plea pertaining to the campaign against stray dogs and the provision of anti-rabies vaccine (ARV).
Manora Cantonment Board, Karachi Cantonment Board, and Faisal Cantonment Board submitted their replies on the petition. Their replies stated that an operation against stray dogs is being carried out and the dogs are being vaccinated.
The court inquired whether dog-bite incidents are being controlled. In response, the representative of the Sindh government said that a dog vaccination campaign has been launched in collaboration with Indus Hospital. The provincial government’s representative maintained that dog-bite incidents have significantly decreased.
The court took notice of the attack on Hasnain Bughio in Larkana. Six-year-old Hasnain was mauled by half a dozen dogs. He died during treatment at the National Institute of Child Health (NICH), where he was shifted due to the lack of medical facilities in Larkana. The court sought the complete details of the inquiry carried out for the incident, the initial medical aid provided and the overall treatment facilities provided to Hasnain from the Sindh health department.
Why is the situation this bad if 287 vaccines are available at hospitals in Karachi, asked Justice Mazhar. He inquired as to why there are reports of children dying due to the unavailability of vaccines. “We only receive news of unavailability of vaccines in Larkana. Why are vaccines unavailable there?” he questioned.
The health department’s additional secretary maintained that Larkana hospital has 240 vaccines and proper treatment is given there. The court asked why the vaccine was not available for Hasnain at Chandka Medical College Hospital (CMCH), Larkana. The additional secretary stated before the court that this is just what the media reported. The facts differ from these reports, he said.
The media reports what happens, remarked the court. The bench observed that the family would have told the media that their child was not being treated.
The court was told that a PC-1 plan has been prepared for vaccination of stray dogs. You are involved in making plans but the difficulties of people are not being addressed, observed the bench. “Whether you follow the Turkish model or any other, the issues of people should be solved. The process should be fast tracked,” remarked Justice Mazhar.
The court directed that the approval for PC-1 by the Sindh chief minister and the cabinet should be taken soon and work should begin immediately. Immediate action is required to solve the problems faced by people, remarked Justice Mazhar.
The court granted the Sindh government an extension of 20 days for the approval of PC-1 and directed the provincial government to set up a complaint cell and a helpline for the convenience of citizens. The court also directed the provincial government and local government agencies to continue their operation against stray dogs and ensure the provision of vaccines in all hospitals.
Why don’t people get the vaccines if 11,000 are available in Sindh, asked the bench. The court expressed annoyance at the agencies for not setting up a task force and directed them to form the task force immediately. Public interest work should not be delayed, remarked the bench while warning that the court would take action if its orders were not implemented immediately.
The court adjourned the hearing till January 14.
SHC summons local govt officials over rising dog-bite cases
On April 13, 2021, a two-member bench, comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Amjad Ali Sahito of the Sindh High Court summoned the local government secretary, the Karachi commissioner, Karachi Metropolitan Cooperation administrator and other officials in personal capacity to question them about the lack of anti-rabies vaccines.
Irked at the authorities, the bench asked why dog-bite cases are not being curbed and questioned the performance of officials.
A report submitted by the local government secretary stated that a tender has been issued and progress is being made.
During the hearing, advocate Tariq Mansoor, maintained that 5,000 dog-bite cases have been reported thus far in the current year. Besides, he said, 92,000 dog-bite cases were reported in 2019 and 260,715 cases were reported in 2020.
At this, additional advocate-general Tariq Dero said that he did not know where the petitioner had gotten these statistics from.
Expressing annoyance at the government lawyer’s comment, the bench remarked that five to 20 dog-bite cases are reported on a daily basis.
Elderly citizens have stopped visiting parks as dozens of stray dogs run amuck there, remarked Justice Mazhar. When will the authorities take action, he asked.
During the hearing, the counsel representing the cantonment boards stated that NGOs raise objections when stray dogs are poisoned and killed.
The court summoned the local government secretary and other relevant officials in personal capacity and sought detailed reports from cantonment boards by the next hearing slated for May 6.
SHC irked at change in stray dog helpline
Orders restoration of 109, following vaccination laws
On June 2, 2021, a two-member bench, comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Amjad Ali Sahito of the Sindh High Court directed the Karachi Municipal Corporation and other relevant authorities to restore the helpline launched to curb rising dog-bite cases in the province. It was again 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.