The Inhuman Practice Of Dog Culling Springs From Imprudence, Misheld Beliefs
In a country where acknowledging human rights is a rarity, recognizing that there is also a parallel domain of ‘animal rights’, is asking too much of a people consumed by their own deprivations and miseries.
A lot of us have grown up being told that ‘angels and blessings’ don’t make way into a home where a dog dwells and have, sadly, believed it to be true all our lives. Being the most shooed away and bricked stray in urban settings and whether one is particularly a dog person or not, the canines are subjected to the cold-blooded act of culling, too brutal a form of animal abuse to be ignored easily.
In fact, for me, and many would denounce me for saying so, animal rights need greater recognition and advocacy than human rights, since these literally speechless creatures of God cannot speak up for their own selves or protest like humans do. They are mere inhabitants of a world that we run, control and shape, making or breaking habitats, and the rights of all occupier species therein, with our vicious acts.
Of late, official dog culling drives have become a routine undertaking in many localities around Lahore and Karachi. According to statistics shared by Todd’s Welfare Society – an animal rescue and shelter initiative based in Lahore – a dog is shot or poisoned in Pakistan every other minute, out of fear or due to the nuisance associated with stray and homeless dogs. Some of the dogs targeted get lucky and succumb to the bullets immediately; others suffer for hours in pain and trauma, until they die from blood loss or, rarely, a kind person catches them suffering in pain and helps them get medical help. Lucky are the ones killed immediately; those taken to a vet to be saved while much damage has been done, later live a disabled life of impairment and more abuse on the same roads from where they were rescued. In most cases though, help never comes and the canines die in agony and pain.
A recent video doing the rounds on social media graphically shows two puppies being shot mercilessly, while scavenging for food in an open plot in phase 5 of DHA Lahore. As the dogs lay dying and bleeding, videos and pictures were made of their bodies by the DHA guards and passersby. The reactions of the onlookers only go to show how mundane the sight of their deaths was and how little the lives of animals matter to us as humans. Cruel killing of a pet pit bull, called Chuck, in DHA, Lahore, and earlier culling of dogs like Bella and Kiki, who were taken for strays, are still seething in zoophilists’ memories.
Todd’s Welfare Society together with ARAG, Animals Rights Advocacy Group, Punjab, are fighting for the rights of these canines and many others like them. Jointly the two organizations are trying to raise awareness through their platforms and have initiated the WHO recommended TNVR, (Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate, Release) campaign that involves catching homeless and stray cats and dogs and transporting them to a veterinary clinic where they can be neutered in order to control their population and make them safe for humans.
ARAG and TWS are making efforts collectively as animal rescuers, to ask for policy changes and new laws for animal safety in Pakistan. Though, both organizations have been championing to put an end to dog culling, they have been extended little cooperation on the matter by the government or society.
Stray dog population and cases of dog bites in Karachi have particularly been a cause for concern since long. Heeding the guidance of animal activists, the provincial administrations initiated sterilisation measures for stray dogs in the city, but supplementing the campaign alongside with culling rendered these measures inconsistent and largely, ineffective. Also, acute shortage of the rabies vaccine, is a serious issue that exacerbates the situation, while the rundown state of dog-bite centres, especially in small towns and rural areas, is problematic too.
A report published in Dawn two months ago states that while Sindh has been seeing a surge in the number of dog bite cases causing human suffering and increasing hostility towards stray dogs, ‘the provincial government seems to be in no hurry to make uniform local government byelaws under which officials would be required to provide protection from stray animals and ensure their humane handling.’
The mass dog culling in karachi, the report says, took place in the areas of Phase V and VIII of DHA and Clifton, where many dogs were shot dead. ‘What made the act more gruesome were reports that the municipal staff fired multiple shots to kill one single dog.’ It pointed at the inability of the municipalities to see how ‘civilized communities tackled the problem of free-roaming dogs in communities through a mass animal vaccination and birth control programme.’ Additionally, the report suggests that since dog population thrived in localities with open garbage dumps, such sites in residential areas with stray dogs end up increasing the risk of transmission of different diseases, including canine rabies’ transmission.
Adding fuel to this is the sad reality that dogs have been traditionally seen in our country as impure, unclean and evil as a religious obligation, many quoting Islamic injunctions in support of the baseless belief. People justify the abuse and neglect of dogs, citing religious doctrines, even though cruelty against animals clearly contradicts the Quran’s view that all animals form “communities like you.”
In Surah al-Kahf of the Holy Quran, a dog is the companion of the young men of the cave whose prayers are accepted by Allah as part of His mercy, and not desecrated due to the presence of a dog. Through this story of the companions of the cave (Ashab al-Kahf), Allah makes these young people and their dutiful dog a lesson for the whole of humanity. For those pious young people who wholeheartedly submitted to God and whose prayers He answered, a question arises as to why was there a dog in their company, if dog is evil, impure, and a bad omen? When showing His mercy to these young people, why did He include such an animal that is seen by many as representing evil, and not some other animal?
All denouncing beliefs pertaining to dogs held by the people come from controversial or weak Hadith and not from the Quran. The holy book does not state a single word against dogs. Too often, jurists propound their own personal ideologies in the name of Islam and the Prophet (PBUH).
An excerpt from Quran-Islam.org, a widely trusted forum for religious guidance, reads:
“Traditional Muslim scholars claim that the saliva of the dog contains contamination. In V.5:4 God tells us that it is okay to eat what the trained dogs catch (dogs are used in hunting). If the dog is an animal which causes contamination by mere touch, would God tell us that it is perfectly alright to eat what the dog catches with his mouth (let alone just touch the dog)?”
There is a dire need to enact, upgrade and implement animal welfare laws that give protection to animals and punish those executing or encouraging such brutal acts.
Faryal Shahzad is an entrepreneur and a freelance journalist based in Lahore.