Punjab’s strays get a new deal

Provincial administration plans to control the population of street dogs without killing them


Asif Mahmood August 17, 2021

LAHORE:

Stray dogs have been the center of attention in Karachi, in the recent past, due to the purported nuisance they cause. That attention is now on the move and has made its way to the Punjab cabinet.

Not one to be left behind, the standing committee of the country’s most populous province’s cabinet has approved a comprehensive policy regarding the population control of street dogs instead of killing them. In a bid to walk their talk, a bill will be tabled soon and medical equipment and vaccinations for sterilization of strays has been provided at veterinary centers set up in different districts of Punjab.

Read Scores of dogs poisoned to death in Rawalpindi

Aniza Khan, a member of the Animal Rights Advocacy Group (ARG), who has turned her home in Samanabad into a shelter for stray dogs and cats, while talking to Express Tribune welcomed the move. “Under this new policy large housing societies can not launch dog killing campaigns as doing so would be illegal,” she said. While Aniza was unsure if any data was available regarding the exact number of stray dogs in Punjab, according to unconfirmed figures provided by Punjab Livestock, there might be more than 4.5 million strays in the province.

The provincial government started this plan of neutering stray dogs and saving them from going mad in May of this year - a process for which they will allocate Rs 1.8 million. The government will enlist the help of concerned agencies and livestock and animal rights NGOs to deprive 1,000 male and female dogs of reproductive capacity in each district of Punjab.

Don’t kill them

Aniza said that previous methods of killing free-roaming dogs, like poisoning, are not approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). She identified several disadvantages to poisoning or killing off dogs. “It is detrimental to our ecosystem as dog carcasses lie on the ground for many days, polluting both air and soil. Killing strays also means those animals and insects that become food for dogs will increase.” She informed that the United States, Europe and neighboring India have all banned the killing of dogs.

Prof. Dr. Masood Rabbani, Honorary Secretary of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Provost of the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, while talking to the Express Tribune said that the law’s evolution from the killing of strays by poisoning or shooting to spaying is a step in the right direction.

New policy

According to sources familiar with the details, the new policy involves several steps. Firstly, the staff of the Metropolitan Corporation will rescue the dogs from their district and register them. Then the dogs will be handed over to the Livestock Veterinary Center, where male dogs will be neutered and female dogs will be operated on to disable their ability to reproduce. After that, they will be vaccinated against rabies. Once these steps have been dealt with, the male and female dogs will be released into their natural environment as their bites will no longer pose a risk of rabies and their population will be controlled

Ayesha Iqbal, a member of the ruling party in the Punjab Assembly and an activist for animal rights, termed it as a welcome development. “For the first time in Pakistan, Punjab has taken an important step by enacting legislation that prevents cruelty to animals, especially dogs. We want to create a Pakistan where not only human beings but even animals and birds are treated well,” she told the Express Tribune.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2021.

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