"Animals have come to mean so much in our lives. We live in a fragmented and disconnected culture. Politics are ugly, religion is struggling, technology is stressful, and the economy is unfortunate. What's one thing that we have in our lives that we can depend on? A dog or a cat loving us unconditionally, every day, very faithfully," said Jon Katz, a renowned American author and journalist.
While the entire world is busy fighting a pandemic that has taken so many lives, unfortunately, Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) on August 13, 2020, decided that it is more salient to focus on 'relocating' 30,000 of South Dhaka's innocent stray dogs in hopes of reducing the spread of rabies and making the city 'safer.' It is illegal according to the 'Section 7, Animal Welfare Act 2019' that specifically states- "Killing or removal of stray animals is considered a crime under this act/law." This type of hate towards the street dogs stem from lack of education and awareness which is what animal rights activists are aiming for-- to educate the misinformed public.
During an interview with animal rights activist Ms Saria Saguaro, who has been constantly working towards the safety of these stray dogs alongside organisations like PAW Foundation Bangladesh and Obhayaronno-Bangladesh Welfare Animal foundation, she mentioned that the dogs are being heavily drugged and dumped at Matuail landfill while some are also being brutally killed. However, the majority of the dogs of Dhaka city have been vaccinated and sterilised just last year, among which 28,000 of them were from South Dhaka itself. Vaccination and sterilisation are the most effective and internationally recognised ways of managing free-roaming dogs. Removal of dogs is only acceptable when it is done in a targeted and humane manner of unvaccinated, ownerless dogs as stated by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Therefore, relocating the vaccinated dogs will cause more harm than good as the unvaccinated dogs will take over the area causing rabies to spread faster. The streets of South Dhaka are homes to these dogs, and it is unethical to remove them from their natural habitat. Moreover, dog culling destabilises the dog population which increases the risk of rabies in both humans and dogs according to WHO. Ms Saria also stated,"Relocating dogs just cause more havoc because they compete with other territorial dogs for food to go by and some of the relocated dogs are starting to come back to their previous habitat rendering the practice counterproductive."
Photos and videos of neighbourhood dogs being put in sacks and taken away have been circulating around social media which has sparked massive protests regarding the situation. Renowned artists like Kanak Chanpa Chakma have also taken part in this protest by painting murals with other animal lovers to spread awareness regarding the situation and to portray that these dogs just want to feel loved, but instead are faced with sufferings inflicted by mankind. Moreover, a writ petition was filed by PAW Foundation, Obhayaronno and actress Jaya Ahsan seeking the cancellation of the decision taken by DSCC to relocate the stray dogs. Saira also added that she was surprised when she met many people who were adamant towards the demonstrations and made rude statements on the animal rights activists.
However, all hope isn't lost as there is still time to put an end to this inhumane practice and follow the examples set by small communities like Mirpur DOHS which has taken it upon themselves to vaccinate their neighbourhood dogs with the help of Obhayaronno. Obhayaronno is also offering discounts and packages which will reduce the costs of vaccinations of stray animals. On the other hand, Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) has been discussing and collaborating with private organisations to take the proper measurements in vaccinating and sterilising the dogs of North Dhaka. These are examples of how things have to be handled in a more humane way.
Dogs are people's friends, always have been. Removing these innocent lives from their somewhat living areas is illegal and barbaric as well. Sensitive minds are already aware of the situation and raising their voices. Only hope is that DSCC authorities realise things before it is not too late.
The writer is a first year business technology management student at Ryerson University whose most favourite thing in the world is food. After graduating high school from The Aga Khan School, Dhaka, she now spends her free time cooking and experimenting with different kinds of food. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org