Many animal rights activists accused shop owners of not feeding or providing the pets with access to sunlight, fresh air
In the midst of the eerie quiet under the lockdown, loud cries for help began to permeate the air in Katabon on Saturday.
The cries Swapan Das heard were coming from the pet shops that were shuttered with birds and dogs in cages inside the stores.
He quickly posted a status on Facebook about their plight and the issue went viral. Many animal rights activists accused the shop owners of not feeding them or providing them with access to sunlight and fresh air.
On Monday, in the middle of a national lockdown the Fisheries and Livestock Minister SM Rezaul Karim went to check the condition of the animals himself. “Don’t be cruel to animals. Cruelty towards them is a criminal offence,” the minister told the shop owners.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, the minister said: “I have now let them keep the stores open for two hours a day to feed the animals and let them have some fresh air. This is for non commercial purposes only.”
He also urged local administration to make sure the animals were treated well.
Aqua and Pets Association’s Vice-President Delowar Hossain explained that because the authorities would not let them open the shutters, the animals had to be fed with them closed.
“I have five shops, and in this lockdown, I come from Khilgaon to Katabon daily and from 9am to 8pm. Police did not permit us to open the shutters so we fed them with the shutters down in the morning and afternoon.” There are about 23 dogs and over 500 birds in Delowar’s five shops. He said he moved some of the animals to other locations but added that he had to take care of them here at the Katabon shops.
Rakibul Haq Emil, founder of People for Animal Welfare, said: “We offered to move these animals somewhere else but the pet shop owners didn’t want to do that.”
Emil said that on Sunday the Fisheries and Livestock Ministry was told about the incident and was asked to step in to help them. “Feeding animals in this awful confinement will only add to their suffering,” Emil added.
Dr Md Asaduzzaman, veterinary surgeon at the Central Veterinary Hospital in Dhaka, visited the Katabon pet shops following the instructions from the Fisheries and Livestock Ministry. “Veterinary hospital is ready to treat and offer services to the animals. Every day, we have a seven-member medical team present to treat them.”