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An Anti-rabies Campaign With Bite

As vehicles whiz past E.M. Bypass on the city's eastern fringe towards the airport, a signboard on the left indicates the Kolkata Municipal Corporation's dog pound// now run by Maneka Gandhi's People for Animals (PFA).

It is here that the adage every dog has his day comes true. This sprawling pound aims to restore the mental and physical health of stray dogs. And it particularly focuses on anti-rabies vaccination for the canines.

"We are as much working for humans as animals. The welfare of animals and humans is related since our stray dog sterilisation and anti-rabies vaccination programme only helps prevent rabies in humans," Debasis Chakrabarti, managing trustee, PFA Calcutta, told IANS.

"Since it costs only Rs.25 to vaccinate a stray dog against rabies compared to Rs.1,500 for a human, it is more advisable to spend money on vaccinating dogs for the sake of humans."

With an estimated 19,000 people dying from rabies in India every year, the NGO offers a new model to fight rabies and save thousands of poor people who cannot afford the costly post- bite anti-rabies injections. The injection costs around Rs.1,500, which not many can afford.

PFA suggests that the government spend more money on anti-rabies vaccination for dogs so that a dog bite in a locality is not cause for alarm among the victims.

Indian deaths from rabies account for nearly 35 percent of such deaths worldwide, according to data available with WHO. Worldwide nearly 55,000 people succumb to rabies, mostly caused by dog bites. Of this, Asia accounts for 31,000.

Chakrabarti said: "In a letter to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya we have written that the only way to tackle rabies effectively and economically is to vaccinate the stray dogs. Since the days of killing stray dogs in a cruel and futile exercise are over we can at best sterilise and vaccinate the dogs for our own well-being."

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