Dog day afternoon (& morning & night)

By Dr Oscar Rebelo
18 July 2011 17:27 IST

Dr. Rosario Menezes, the ever smiling effervescent and genial  pediatrician from Vasco has been screaming hoarse about the dangers of Rabies in Goa, for years now. Mostly his advice has been ignored or at times, even ridiculed by the motley bunch of vociferous ‘animal lovers’.

And now, predictably, the chickens or shall we say the dogs have come home to roost.

The number of dog bite cases in our little state has increased so dramatically, that it almost certainly competes with the number of mining leases the Digambar Kamat government dishes out every month. If you do not die of mining pollution, there is a good chance you may die of rabies, in style.

I understand the morally sound and very persuasive arguments put forth by the sincere champions of animal rights and acknowledge the difficulty work put in by two of the most celebrated activists I know, the graceful and elegant Norma Alvares and Angela Kazi. Killing  or torturing any form of life is perverse.

However, it is very evidently seems, the strategy is not working on the ground. The dogs are ferociously multiplying. The dogs are ferociously running around, the dogs are ferociously  biting and many of the dogs are ferociously rabid.

So, from the human prism, I seek answers to a few of my very serious doubts.

(1) How can anyone in our cities be sure that the confirmed rabid dogs have not bitten other stray animals, thus potentially delivering a rabies ‘dog’ – demic on our hands? Surely, strays do not have a complaint register, do they?

(2) What if your child, unsupervised, gets licked by a rabid dog playing on the beach? often, kids also do not have a complaint register. Hence, if your child develops and dies of an encephalitis ( a brain infection), the virus could very well be a rabies virus and your pediatrician may be in the dark about it.

(3) Any standard textbook mentions that Rabies Immune Globulin (RIG) must be given as standard prophylaxis for preventing rabies. RIG is expensive and almost never available in government hospitals. Hence, the standard rabies vaccine may not provide you 100 per cent cover. It is almost akin to using a ruptured  condom and then taking yours bets on the pregnancy. Good luck mate!

(4) Why is it that despite a great degree of love and compassion for animals in the western world, you never see strays frisking around as tourist attractions on the streets of Paris, London or New York. The only sophisticated stray currently running around there appears to be Rupert Murdoch and they are planning to assassinate him as well.

(5) What if a red light minister or sarkari babu gets bitten by a stray dog, when apparently haggling for free fish at the market? Will we then see tangible, concreter action to rid  the market of strays? Hell hath no fury like a minister bitten, but not shy.

(6) Why is it that despite allegedly successful sterilization campaigns, the stray population multiplies faster than the Indian Mujaheedin?

(7) Do we as doctors, consider rabies as a possible differential diagnosis in flaccid paralysis patients (weakness of lower limbs, upper limbs and face ) which ultimately kills. Rabies may not always  present itself in its archetypal violent, aggressive neurological manifestation .

(8) What is our strict enforcement of vaccination programmes for domesticated animals? Does anyone keep a log? Is there a fine on owners for non compliance? Did we know that even cat bites can lead to rabies? These creatures with ‘green eyes’ always cleverly escape public scrutiny.

(9) Do I, as a tax paying or non tax paying citizen, have the inalienable human right to walk the streets of my town freely and fearlessly, not having to look over my shoulder as to when that crazy adorable son of a **** is going to bite my pants off or should is surrender that right to this nebulous and dangerous animal love?

(10) Who pays compensation and costs of health care in case of rabies or should I even die in penury for this worthy cause. Statistics say  that every dog bite leads to a negligible number of fatal rabies, but what if I am the fortunate one called to sacrifice my life? Am I prepared to be the hero? Has anyone even asked my permission if I was to be that hero?  Has a memorial been erected to rabies victims in our country?

Let me confess. I abhor dogs!!Period ! Yeah, yeah! I know the familiar argument goes, a dog is a man’s best friend and they have fluffy ears and they are loyal and all that jazz. But  they also bite unprovoked.

I still recall fondly how, when on a home visit to see a patient, the domestic dog thought my tibia was fair game and sunk his bloody teeth into my leg. I had to take my shots, got paid a measly fee for my house call and had to endure the jolly guffaw of the pot-bellied owner when boomed,”Oh, Figo does that to only people he likes,” Heavens, what does he do to guys he hates?

So okay, may be do not shoot them, torture them or position them. We all want our place in heaven after all.  THE STRAYS MUST NECESSARILY GET OFF OUR STREETS and the animal lovers must show us the way, work out the solution. Now and pronto!

We, as Goans, have enough amount of misery inflicted on us by animals in our political arena. We do not need any further suffering of the whimsical, salivating teeth  of our friendly, neighbor hood super dogs.

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Dr Oscar Rebelo

Dr Oscar Rebelo is one of the leading social activist of Goa and a practicing doctor. He led the historic peoples’ movement in 2006-07 to get the anti-Goa Regional Plan scrapped and save Goa from total destruction of Goa’s ecology and natural beauty. He is a Goa-based leader of Aam Aadmi Party. He is also a columnist.

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