Dog culling out in the open may have stopped since the embargo imposed in 2012, but treating street animals as dirt hasn’t.
It's two in the morning. You wake up to a faint sound stirring in the distance. Or it may have been in your dreams, you can't tell for sure.
You try to go back to sleep, but can’t. It's that sound again. It's a dog howling. It’s probably the dark brown puppy from the next block that wags its tail and greets you on your way to work every day. Sounds like there’s a confused scuffle. The whimper sharpens, turning almost into a helpless plead now. You hear an irritated voice of a man shushing, “shut up.”
All the unpleasant images and content on your newsfeed that you scroll past quickly, pile up at this ungodly hour. Dogs killed, skinned and hung by the neck from a tree, puppies set on fire, fed blades and other sharp objects by the neighbourhood kids. All become vivid and clear.
You bury your head under the pillow. Let the sounds fade. Go back to sleep. One sheep, two sheep, three sheep, four. On your way to work in the morning, you pause for a minute on the next block, waiting for the little wobbly head to come running. But you're running late already. You look for him the day after, and the one after that.
You never see him again. The tong stationed nearby breaks it to you one day: "He was found lying dead a few days ago. Good riddance. The neighbours had been complaining, they bark too much."
Did he try to fight back with his little paws? Did his big brown eyes beg and plead for one last breath?
Dog culling out in the open may have stopped since the embargo imposed in 2012, but treating street animals as dirt hasn’t. Illegal killing of stray dogs when no one’s watching is an everyday occurrence, even by government authorities who argue it’s necessary to eradicate rabies. So shall we start killing HIV patients now?
Dog culling is not just inhumane and ineffective, but it also sends out the message that it’s okay to fear, hate, and torture street animals. Dogs, who are often subjected to inconceivable physical abuse, are man’s best friend. If you come across a dog that’s aggressive, there’s probably a pretty good reason behind it.
What can be done?
The first thing to do is to register the fact that dog culling is ineffective. If a thousand dogs in a region are killed, another thousand form packs and relocate from the neighbouring area.
What we need right now is for the two city corporations, DSCC and DNCC, along with other government bodies, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development, and Co-operatives to develop an immediate action plan to implement a nationwide animal birth control (ABC) and mass vaccination program. It's the only sustainable and long-term solution.
According to officials, each of the city corporations is given crores of taka for street dog control, which should ideally include vaccination and neutering to curb the overpopulation problem of these animals -- and, how that money is spent each year demands a thorough investigation. Additional fundraising opportunities (by collecting donations from individuals and institutions) should also be explored.
A tentative program may include setting up mobile clinics with experienced and equipped vets to offer spaying, neutering, and vaccination for the street animals. The detailed records of the number of dogs vaccinated and neutered in certain areas should be maintained for re-vaccination. These dogs can be marked by ear-notching (cutting out a little portion of the ear and sealing the wound right away) or tattooing (inside the ear).
What can you do?
Start by teaching your child that street animals are not science projects. Raise awareness on animal cruelty among your neighbours, colleagues, friends, and family.
If you have leftover food, feed a stray dog. You can also adopt one, they make the best guard dogs. It’s time we get over our fascination with foreign breeds, most of which have a hard time adapting to hot climates like ours. Instead adopt and save a street dog, who has been neglected, abused, and mistreated their entire life.
If you see an injured street animal, call Paw Foundation (01909 617994) or Care for Paws (01750 578138) for help.
If you’re not capable of helping in any way, just leave them be. They have as much right to live and breathe as we do.