The shots of the first round had cut through the posh Model Town tranquility, jolting residents of neighbouring houses. The sound of ominous cawing of carrion crows rose from the graveyard that was their home.
Omer Rajpoot was woken from half slumber by the almost-human piercing whine of a creature in pain. No gunshot bangs or cawing can mask the terrible cry of pain wrenched from the gut of a critter on the verge of death and all thoughts of coursework and sleep were driven from his head. Rajpoot ran to the graveyard next to his house and saw a guard standing in front of two dogs lying in a pool of blood, ready to leave.
Two dogs were put down by security guards of the Model Town Society near midday on March 4. They had made the graveyard in G-Block their usual haunt and would be sighted often running through graves, digging up the dirt and lying down in the holes they had dug up. The guard that did the deed had used a 12-bore double-barrel gun.
One of the dogs looked dead enough but the other was bleeding profusely and whimpering pitifully. Rajpoot turned to the guard angrily. “Why would you do that to a living creature?” The guard apologised profusely as he turned around to extract another round of pellets. “I told him to leave. He had done enough harm.”
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT Location: Model Town, LahoreI died today, while I was happily roaming around with my friend minding our own business, some bad guys came and shot us. My friend died right next to me, I saw his limp body but I didn’t die. I was shot twice, once in the neck and then in the eye. I cried out in pain, I begged for the pain to stop. I died today, but before that I lay there in agony for hours. I couldn’t see anything. They shot me in the eye you see. I could no longer see the beautiful world where I once roamed free. All I felt was unbearable pain.I died today, but before that I realized there are both good and bad people. Some evil people shot me but some good ones looked after me as i lay on the ground bleeding to death. They tried to help me but it was too late. They injected me with something and i was finally at peace, I finally felt no pain..I died today.
Posted by Todd’s Welfare Society on Thursday, March 3, 2016
It was a busy day for Kiran Maheen at the marketing agency where she works. She received a frantic call at around 12:45pm. “I’m at the Model Town graveyard, I don’t have a car and we need to get this dog to a vet ASAP.” There was no time to lose. Maheen called up several clinics asking them to send someone. “There is no animal rescue service in this town,” she was told. Vets couldn’t just close their clinics and rush to a site on call, she was told. Dr Hamid, who runs a veterinary clinic in DHA, told her he would send someone but they would have to wait. “But there was no time,” Maheen says. The dog was losing blood fast and her frantic cries had become broken whimpers. She contacted Aisha Khalid, a volunteer animal rescue.
Khalid was on her way from DHA when she received the call. “I’m on my way,” she replied. No questions asked. The resourceful animal rights activist had rope on her when she arrived at the graveyard, to tie up the dog’s muzzle in case she bit anyone who tried to pick her up. The graveyard workers helped us carry the bleeding dog to Khalid’s car, Rajpoot says. Then they rushed the dog to Dr Asim’s Pet Clinic in Faisal Town where Dr Zohaib was on duty.
The dog lay on her side on the blood spattered surgical desk in a tiny room surrounded by strangers in white coats trying to ascertain how badly someone had botched her murder. The rope used to tie up her muzzle had left streaks of fresh blood on the white sheet. Her eyes were gone. Her ears punctured. She had suffered multiple site injuries. Dr Zohaib told the people who had brought her that this happens when someone shoots from the front. An assistant used a swab to wipe the grime and congealed blood from her thigh as Dr Zohaib administered the fatal injection putting her to final rest.
Dr Zohaib says that the dog had been shot in both eyes and the muzzle. The pellets had exploded and she was wounded in multiple sites. The bleeding from eyes was not stemming but she could still be saved. “In fact, had the guard just left her there to die, she would have stayed alive for two days before she could die.”
He says that he had asked Khalid and Rajpoot if they wanted him to save the dog. “It could be done but it would require an enucleation operation in which we would have to take her eyeballs out.” He told the two that keeping the dog alive would mean having to care for it constantly. “They would have to nurse it back to health and then figure out how to take care of a blind dog.” He says it was kinder to put her down, so they did. Within a few minutes of receiving the fatal injection, the dog stopped quivering and whimpering. The events of the day have been burned in Rajpoot’s memory. “You cannot forget such a thing so easily.”
Maheen uploaded a video of the event on her Facebook page Todd’s Welfare Society and the post went viral. The Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) shared the post saying: “Our constitution has laws against animal cruelty and once upon a time, Karachi had vets paid for by the city and animal inspectors who would monitor cases of ill treatment. The taxpayer still pays for these vets, those inspectors and animal hospitals – but there is no accountability of this infrastructure anymore.”
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT I died today, while I was happily roaming around with my friend minding our own business, some bad guys came and shot us. My friend died right next to me, I saw his limp body but I didn’t . I was shot twice, one in the neck and then in the eye. I cried out in pain, I begged for the pain to stop. I died today, but before that I lay there in agony for hours. I couldn’t see anything. They shot me in the eye you see. I could no longer see the beautiful world where I once roamed free. All I felt was unbearable pain.I died today, but before that I realized there are both good and bad people. Some evil people shot me but some good ones looked after me as i lay on the ground bleeding to death. They tried to help me but it was too late. They injected me with something and i was finally at peace, I finally felt no pain..I died today.
Posted by Todd’s Welfare Society on Thursday, March 3, 2016
Section 5 of the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 1890, states: “If any person kills any animal in an unnecessarily cruel manner, he shall be punished with fine which may extend to two hundred rupees, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with both.”
However, there are no provisions on the culling of stray dogs. Tariq Zaman, principal staff officer to the Lahore DCO, says that the city district government of Lahore has its standard operating procedures when it comes to culling stray dogs.
According to the rules, nuisance-causing stray dogs in urban spaces can be put down by feeding them food laced with poison. Zaman says that the poison is toxic enough to kill a dog in under two minutes. He says the idea is not to let the creatures suffer too much pain and so the deed must be done swiftly. Government officials can shoot dogs, but only in rural areas and that too only if they pose a threat to residents of the area.
In June 2015, three brothers were killed and their mother was wounded by stray dogs in Chak 80, Feroza, Rahim Yar Khan. It is the local administration’s responsibility to ensure such incidents do not take place and at the same time it is also important not to cull dogs in a cruel manner, Zaman explains. Furthermore, city district officials tasked with shooting dogs are supposed to pick up the carcasses and bury them.
He says the Model Town Society had not followed these SOPs. “We sent the society our SOPs in this regard on March 11 and have insisted that they follow them.”
Maheen, however, does not deign it a step in the right direction. “We do not need more directions on how kill creatures. How is that the humane way of going about it?”
Dr Hamid, the only vet to have responded to Maheen’s call, says there is a single point agenda for the authorities when it comes to stray dogs. “They are considered a menace and they have to be eliminated.” The government and managements of housing societies like the Model Town do not euthanise stray dogs. They either feed them poison or shoot them with 12 bore guns which cause much unavoidable pain. Several countries have phased out this barbaric practice. The Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 1890, in India has been enforced on orders of the Supreme Court, he says. The best option in this case is TNR – Trap, Neuter, Return. Stray dogs are captured, vaccinated against rabies, neutered, and set free. This is the only foolproof way of ensuring a decrease in the population of stray dogs and cats, he says. Every stray dog dies not bite and even pets can contract rabies. “I get up to four cases of botched dog culling a month and the issue with cats is even worse.” He says it is understandable that animals, and especially strays, are not a matter of priority for the government. It is too early to demand shelters and animal hostels, however, it is not too early to demand that the government look into neutering and vaccinating strays rather than killing them.
In January this year, the Model Town Society hosted a massive dog show featuring over 150 dogs of various species. The pets were celebrated and given prizes. They were put on TV and had hundreds of people clamber over each other just to pet them. This side of Model Town lives in contradiction. As these same residents are the ones requesting that strays be culled.
Aman Jaffar, an instructor at LUMS and a resident of Model Town F-Block, says the problem with imagining room for stray dogs in a posh residential space like Model Town is that they do not fit upper-middle class and upper class aesthetics. He explains it through a Foucauldian lens of hygiene and modernity wherein stray dogs violate the sanctuary and the idea of what a modern housing society should look like.
Muhammad Zia, who has worked at the Model Town graveyard for 35 years, expands on this by explaining that the Model Town security guards do not just randomly shoot strays at sight. Nor is this a routine operation. “These dogs show up out of nowhere and poop on graves and dig them up…imagine if the grave of your loved one is desecrated this way…you’d want to put that creature to death wouldn’t you?” The requests for culling dogs, especially strays in this graveyard, come from residents of Model Town themselves, he explains.
It is mostly residents of such housing societies that throw all notions of compassion out of the window and ask their colony management to put dogs down, says Maheen. The Sui Gas Housing Colony has done this and the State Life Housing Society launched a dog culling operation only last week, she says. That is not to say that residents of such areas aren’t capable of turning this practice around. Recently, Home for Paws and Claws, an animal rights organisation in Karachi, approached the head of the Memon community in a certain neighbourhood where dog culling had been requested by residents of the area. The community elder heard the activists out and decided to give TNR a try. “They managed to vaccinate, spay and neuter 10 strays in two days and the community itself has raised funds for it.”
The University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences once used to have the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (a non-profit animal welfare organisation). The organisation has not been functional for the last several years, but if revived, Maheen says, has the potential to spearhead a campaign to vaccinate and neuter dogs. This is the only long-term solution to this, she explains.
In the 1870s, the administration in New York City came up with a macabre solution to do away with its ‘stray’ problem. They locked up dozens of stray dogs at a time inside an enormous iron cage and drowned them in the East River. The move had been celebrated at the time for being an effective way to put an end to growing population of stray dogs. The only problem was that it didn’t work.
Certain states in India were caught up in a debate over mass culling and the efficacy of the law that bars culling of strays. In an article for The Hindu last year, the former president of the Indian Society for Veterinary Surgery looks at the problem of a rising population of stray dogs as a multifaceted issue that is inseparable from problems pertaining to disease ecology, the movements of stray animals, changing behaviour patterns of communities and rampant urbanisation. A multi-pronged problem requires a multi-pronged strategy. Feeding dogs strychnine or using long barrel guns as a solution cannot suffice, says MPA Murad Raas, a resident of Model Town.
The lawmaker learned about the botched dog culling in Model Town from Twitter and decided to take action. “We do not have relocation facilities and asking the government to provide one will do us no good.” He says the issue requires serious thought and a strategy at various levels of the administration. “I decided to take a step and approached the Model Town Society. I told them this had to stop.” He says while the society assured them that they would look into various alternatives in this regard, “I doubt they can do much”.