In India the legislation to prevent cruelty against animals was made as early as 1960, in the shape of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The same year the Animal Welfare Board was also created to mitigate unethical treatment of animals. Despite these interventions the horrific incidents of animal abuse in India have perpetually been on the rise. Gandhi had rightfully propounded that “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”.
Across almost all Indian cities and towns the snowballing population of stray animals is being perceived as a health menace or nuisance for the public. In the last few years several heart rending incidents of violence and mass killing of stray dogs in various states had caught media attention. In fact each month the municipal corporation of Dehradun receives complains where residents want stray dogs, cats, monkeys and cattle removed from their localities. This sheer revulsion of people towards stray animals emanates from the cases of dog bites, monkey bites and cattle bullying that are becoming increasingly common. Instances where young children as well as elderly have succumbed to serious injuries through animal bites are not unheard of. Most of these street animals are not vaccinated, underfed, ill and abused. It’s not a surprise then that they tend to attack someone whom they perceive as a threat. Most animals have been roaming about in a particular territory for years and fed sporadically by residents of that area. They become very territorial in nature and tend to confront those entering their localities after dark. People often get fed up of being chased by stray dogs and monkeys. Often feral cats, monkeys and cattle break in to their premises in search of food. People’s frustration due to limited help from municipal bodies, animal shelters and rescue centres results in a majority of them becoming violent towards such animals. They simply take law in their own hands by sometimes hiring paid individuals to kill or relocate the cats and dogs, despite laws clearly forbidding displacement of stray animals from territory to another. This feeling of revenge against stray animals emanates from the inability of people to empathise with their plight.
With expansion in residential areas and felling of forests, human and animal confrontations have become inevitable. These homeless animals have no place to live and keep wandering in residential places and markets in search of something to eat. Alongside human abuse, they also become victims of road accidents and sustain crippling injuries. Neither are animal emergency medical services sufficient in number nor do people in general have the will to provide prompt medical help to them.
Every year the stray animal population seems to be rising unabated. The main reasons being the failure of Government in effective administration of neutering services to stray dogs and doing the needful for other stray animals.Besides this several people ruthlessly abandon their old and sick pet dogs and cattle. These abandoned animals are completely unable to fend for themselves and end up being either critically injured or being starved to death. In many neighbourhoods in Dehradun people regularly complain of monkey menace.People fail to understand that it is humans who have made inroads into their habitats and not vice versa.
The only solution to ensure the safety of people as well animals is a proactive initiative by the government, NGOs and the public. A mass systematic neutering must be done for all the stray dogs by the government with the involvement of non profit organisations working for animal welfare. People must be strongly discouraged form discarding leftover food in residential areas to avoid attracting animals. Garbage containers must be properly closed and cleaned routinely. Anyone dumping waste carelessly outside the waste containers must be fined heavily. Acts of cruelty against stray animals including killing, maiming or poisoning must be thoroughly punished by law enforcers. Animal rescue centres must be better funded by government and people should be encouraged to make donations to them. Maximum number of stray animals should be shifted to animal rescue shelters and more farms should be developed as rescue centres for capacity expansion. Free and quality treatment should be provided for injured animals by the government through proper helplines and ambulance services. Pet owners should be pressed into obtaining official registration and proper vaccination for their pets. Any acts of abandoning pets should be punishable. More and more people should be encouraged to adopt cats and dogs from rescue centres rather than purchasing expensive foreign breeds. Values of giving and kindness should be inculcated in children by taking them to animal rescue centres and farms and encouraging them to feed animals.
In Dehradun several organisations like People For Animals, Doon Animal Welfare, Wildlife Preservation Society Of India, Raahat and few others are already making a huge difference by helping animals in distress. We need more magnanimity and volunteering for providing a life of dignity to animals in our city who suffer in silence. With little humanity and generosity on the part of humans, a peaceful coexistence between humans and animals can become possible. Inspiration can be taken from Istanbul where a veterinary bus with a team of doctors drives around the city and provides food, vaccination, medicines and restorative treatment to stray and orphaned animals. Initiatives like these talk volumes on the moral evolution of people in society. Just like us, animals want to live their lives free of pain and suffering. It is up to each one of us to make choices that respect all animals on earth.
(The author is a retired civil servant)