Saturday, 22 October 2016

'Stop creating a scene; it’s just a dog'

My family has been feeding stray dogs regularly since 2011. There are 20 dogs now, but earlier, the count was higher. Not all neighbours are happy with us…many see dogs as a nuisance and a ‘sanitation threat’.

Four months ago, I saw a Corporation van pick up three pregnant dogs. Three men dragged the pups after beating them up with a steel rod. One of them bled.

“I take care of these dogs, please set them free. They’re pregnant. Maybe, you can take them with you after they’ve delivered,” I told them. They refused and claimed that someone in our neighbourhood had complained about the dog-menace, and hence the visit. I tried to stop them but they asked for money.

“Where’s the license-tag? If you want them back, then pay `1,000 (per dog). If you don’t, then we cannot guarantee what will happen to them. We won’t leave them in the same place either. If they are that important to you, keep them in your bedroom. Stop creating a scene. They’re just dogs after all,” they said, and took them away.

I went to the Corporation office to meet the official concerned. I was told that he was busy with back-to-back meetings. Later, I was able to get hold of him over the phone, and explained the whole story to him. He said that while Corporation is responsible of catching the dogs, the rest — including operations like sterlisation and leaving them back on the same streets they were picked from — lies with the Blue Cross. “Sometimes, we do the sterilisations as well. That depends on the zone the animal belongs to,” he said. I interrupted the conversation and asked if the dogs had been killed. He said, “No”, and enquired about the date, time and where the dogs were taken away from. Unfortunately, I couldn’t give him the exact details as I had forgotten everything.

The official added, “Why didn’t you bring this to our attention immediately? We are trying to be kind to the street dogs and our men have stopped all the ‘catching and killing’. Did you tell them who you are — that you work for the press, etc? They would have not been rude.” Then, I contacted Dawn Williams of Blue Cross. Why are pregnant dogs on the streets taken away? He said, “Both male and female dogs can be sterilised, but not when a pregnant dog close to her due date. Ideally, these people should have explained to you why they are taking the dogs. Each dog (after they reach us), will be tagged and given numbers. After sterilisation, either we, or the Corporation leave the dog at the place we picked them up.”

Dawn explained how Blue Cross had persuaded the Corporation to neuter them and administer anti-rabies vaccines before discharging them. “The infected and diseased dogs were killed earlier, now it is not so. Corporation dog-catchers will not demand money to do their job, but the sub-contractors do…they come in the middle of the night. They shouldn’t do it, but it happens. In any case, Corporation isn’t the villain,” he clarified.

But isn’t it the job of the Corporation to monitor what’s going on? “I always tell people to bring proper evidence before they approach us with complaints. Photos or videos bring more clarity. When someone stops you from taking photos — that’s an offence. Legal action can be taken that case,” he insisted.

He has a word of advice to thise feeding stray dogs. “If you’re looking after dogs, attend to their medical needs too. People should interact with street dogs more. By doing that, dogs become more friendly and there are fewer chances of them biting us. Also, when someone familiar with dogs approaches them, they obey and it’s easier to get them vaccinated, instead of someone forcing it on them.” And what about the dogs that were taken away from my neighbourhood? Your guess is as good as mine!

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