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Paws to reflect

  • Published at 02:49 pm November 9th, 2017
Paws to reflect
Last week, the nation witnessed animal cruelty at its worst when animal welfare activists dug out the remains of two female dogs, along with fourteen puppies, who were beaten brutally and buried alive in the capital’s Rampura area. How is this senseless act of brutality justified? On October 29, a local security guard named Siddique along with his followers beat up two mother dogs and fourteen puppies, hitting them with stones and rods until they lost consciousness. They were then stuffed in a sack and buried in a nearby field, while they were still alive. Upon questioning, the locals said that one of the dogs bit a child, which eventually lead to this gruesome act of cruelty. This incident illustrates how normalised the abuse of animals has become, even for the slightest reason, and this level of torture is seen as a sadistic reaction by ordinary people.

No place for animals?

In 2012, the High Court passed a law stating that dog culling in Dhaka is illegal and subject to penalty. Moreover, according to the 1920 Animal Cruelty Act in Bangladesh, it is against the law to kill or abuse animals without any reason, they will be punished with either six months of imprisonment or a Tk200 fine or both. However, a new draft that has been approved by cabinet this year consists of stricter provisions for the prevention of animal cruelty. According to the new Animal Welfare Act, the guilty can face imprisonment of maximum two years or Tk 50,000 fine or both, for killing animals. The draft also proposed a maximum of six months imprisonment and a Tk10,000 fine or both for animal cruelty. In spite of this, it is common to see people mistreat animals on the street, kicking or throwing stones at street dogs for the sake of entertainment alone. However, the cruelty shown to the dogs in Rampura has created a social media storm and for the first time in Bangladesh, an autopsy will be conducted on the deceased dogs. This is after a case was filed against the accused in Rampura police station by animal activists stating Siddique as the prime suspect.

What can you do?

Animal welfare organisations have already started discussing what can be done in the light of such horrific events. Obhoyaronno, one of the leading animal rights groups in Bangladesh, has decided to immediately kick-start a citywide humane education program, where volunteers will go into abuse-heavy areas like Rampura with educational material and have one-on-one conversations to collectively change the mindset of communities towards street animals. According to founder of Obhoyoronno Rubaiya Ahmed, “We want to stop the animal abuse before it happens. We have seen that a lot of these acts are done by youths who probably want to feel heroic or relevant in the community by committing these acts, which often times they consider a favour to the community. It is important to engage with these young people and change their mindset and instill compassion in them. We need to rehabilitate abusers as much as the victims of animal abuse.” But it is not just street animals that are at risk here. Many of us adopt or buy pets without any idea on how to look after them and cater to their needs – let alone treating stray animals in the right manner. People who own dogs may love them whole heartedly, but fail to understand that their pets need proper care and attention. According to Samira Ehsan, who is currently caring for five dogs at her home, “most of my dogs are from other families who decided to take on a dog without any idea on how to take care of them. They were all locked up somewhere and tied with chains. It is amazing to see the change in them when they actually come into a family that will not just feed and groom them but play with them and give them time and affection.” She added, “That is why I urgently ask anyone thinking of getting a dog, please remember that they are not toys but living creatures who need round the clock care, and it is a lot of commitment. And please do not buy but adopt, because as recent events show, there are a lot of unloved animals on our streets who need to be saved.”