An original translation by Ava Lon with much thanks.
Published on 22/09/2016 at 11:17
In Karachi, Pakistan ultraviolent megalopolis, dog culls hardly move anyone, but a handful of animal rights activists and veterinarians are trying to find a more humane way to limit the stray animal population.
In the animal home to the Edhi Foundation, on the outskirts of this city of over 20 million inhabitants, residents are pitiful to see.
This respected charitable organization, known for its ambulances and mortuaries, is one of the few to accommodate, among paralytic crushed cats and donkeys exhausted by a life of hard labor, dozens of abandoned dogs, which will mostly return to the streets once cared for.
These are the lucky survivors: they escaped the last operation as of mass poisoning conducted by the municipality, which gets rid of stray dogs under laws dating from the nineteenth century.
Animal rights are the least concerns of the inhabitants of Karachi, who see dogs as “disgusting”, particularly because of religious prejudice.
Last month, the carcasses of dozens of dogs poisoned in an umpteenth slaughter campaign were gathered under a blazing sun on one of the biggest roundabouts of the city, before being cleared by bulldozers, without ceremony.
“We have a lot of complaints of dog bites, and the most severely affected victims are the children,” is justified Maqsood Memon, part of the municipal health services.
According to the most conservative estimates, there would be at least 35,000 stray dogs in the port city.
And each year there are about 15,000 cases of dog bites, says Dr. Isma Gheewala, who runs a veterinary clinic in an upscale neighborhood of Karachi, Defence.
“Our mindset is such that when we see a dog we throw rocks at it or children pursue it,” she says. “When dealing with an aggressive dog his reaction can be aggressive, and that aggression can have serious consequences.”
Religiosity may explain this attitude only partly. “The Preachers describe the dog a disgusting animal and believe that the killing does not matter,” said an animal advocate, Syed Mustafa Ahmed.
“This is a totally false interpretation of Islam, which merely seeks to prohibit access to places of worship for dogs because they are unclean,” argues Ahmed.
Municipal laws dating from the British colonial era allow the municipality to kill by bullet or poison stray dogs.
But the poisoning is not very targeted, nor is the shooting, said Dr. Gheewala. “Often, the animals don’t die of gunshots, then they’re brought, wounded,” she said.
Even 100% effective, slaughter is “not a correct solution” said the vet Khalid Memon, who works with the Edhi Foundation. “If you want to control the population, simply spay and neuter,” he says.
Last year, three organizations have joined this purpose. The NGO SOS Animal Pakistan (SAP) and a store for pets, Home for Paw and Claw, organized under the aegis of the Edhi Foundation, teams of three people who are doing the rescue of stray animals reported by population.
“In fact, we limit the number of animals in a humane way,” said Ahmed, who heads the joint relief operations. “The main objective (…) is to catch street animals, vaccinate them and sterilize and release them after six days.”
– “They are living beings” –
One team recently found a dog shot in the neck, the animal was entrusted to the clinic of Dr. Gheewala, where his wounds were treated and covered.
The vet says they thus receive six to twelve stray cattle per day, plus pets. His team treats them, castrates or sterilizes them and then they are sent to the Foyer Edhi for animals.
The adoption rate is almost zero, according to Dr. Gheewala, even when animals are adopted, they are often abandoned at the first signs of illness or problem.
Sterilization is important, but harder still to change perceptions, says Ahmed. “Allah created the dog, and he did not create them to be killed,” he said.
“After all, they are living beings,” adds Dr. Memon.