Lack of veterinary ambulance continues to hamper animal welfare

More than twenty years have passed since Uttarakhand was founded, however till date the State government has not started any animal ambulance service to attend to the lakhs of stray dogs and other small animals surviving on its streets. Not just remote areas but even the State capital, Dehradun does not have even one government ambulance for small animals to help mitigate the pain and suffering of wounded and sick animals.  

As per official estimates there are over 2.5 lakh stray dogs in Uttarakhand; 35,000 of these being within Dehradun city. However, the only one vehicle provided to Raipur veterinary hospital is only for large animals. Even though it is called an ambulance, it is merely a transportation vehicle as it is not equipped with any basic ambulance facilities like oxygen cylinder, life support or even proper lights. “The government order states that this ambulance is to be used only for large animals. The mandate for government vets is to provide free treatment to stray animals. But these ambulances have to be provided by respective municipal bodies and district Panchayats,” Dr Manish Patel, veterinary officer, Raipur told The Pioneer.

However, surprisingly when this correspondent brought the need for animal ambulance service in Dehradun city to the attention of Municipal Corporation of Dehradun veterinary officer, Dr DC Tiwari and asked if any steps would be taken towards this, Tiwari retorted, “We do not have any ambulance for small animals and there is nothing planned in the regard. Will the MCD do everything? Dogs are not heavy, people can take injured or sick stray dogs to vets on their own.” 

A senior veterinary officer who wished anonymity stated, “The reality is that the government is not focused on animal welfare, it is focused only on livestock production. Animal lives, especially of strays, are not valued. Hence, critical facilities like ambulances for animals do not get priority. Having a robust animal ambulance service in every district of Uttarakhand is a dire need.  Operations of the ambulances should be outsourced to ensure smooth functioning.”

Discussing this subject, joint director of Uttarakhand Animal Welfare Board, Dr Ashutosh Joshi said that the real problem was not unavailability of vehicles but the absence of forward linkages. “Ambulances can be provided easily but where do we keep these injured or sick strays after we pick them up? To solve this, we have started work on an initiative in which we shall earmark and empanel registered NGOs working for animal welfare. The government will provide a fixed amount for every rescued stray kept at these empaneled NGOs and monitor their work. This should be launched in Dehradun on a pilot basis in one month’s time and expanded to all other districts if successful.”  

Meanwhile, animal-welfare volunteers emphasised that only big NGOs can afford to buy and run their own ambulances but the majority are smaller NGOs and compassionate individuals who rescue stray animals in their personal capacity face a major challenge of not having any animal ambulances for service to critical and emergency cases round the year.

“We desperately need equipped ambulances as the backbone of a public emergency veterinary response system so that  distressed  animals get timely treatment either on site by doctors on duty in the ambulance or by being taken to vets safely. Turnaround time and data of services rendered should be maintained systematically,” said Richa Bhutani, trustee member of Dehradun Animal Lovers. There is no known animal ambulance in Dehradun. Around three NGOs have only transportation vehicles for animal rescue.

It should be noted that GVK EMRI, that had launched 108 ambulance service in Uttarakhand, is already running 1962 Mobile Veterinary Services in Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Gujarat. For instance in Gujarat, the free Karuna Animal Ambulance service was launched in October 2017 with 11 ambulances for the welfare of stray animals and in 2018 expanded to all the districts of Gujarat by adding 26 more ambulances. Up to July 2019 this service had treated more than 84,000 animal patients. 

Asked if Uttarakhand government would consider launching 1962 animal ambulance service in Uttarakhand too, a senior officer in the Department of Animal Husbandry informed, “GVK EMRI has already made a presentation on this but the project is expensive hence not likely to be passed.” 

Monday, 22 February 2021 | Anupma Khanna | Dehradun

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