Making ‘strays stay’: A human project
They may lead ordinary lives but are extra ordinary people. Like moms and dads they looking to see if their “babies” are hungry. They fed them, give them water and even at times ensure that they get shelter. It’s just that their babies are the four legged kinds- stray dogs. And yet they are harassed, chased by those who think stray dogs are a “menace”. With the population of these four legged “friends” going up, the conflict is getting more intense
Let’s begin by meeting the ‘moms”, the folks who protect and feed stray dogs. “Moms’ casue most of them happen to be lady protectors
Debbie Nair, a furniture stylist, has shared her home with animals, mostly strays, since she was a child. She says that there are so many stray dogs out there that need help: “If the entire human race is meant to be cared for then why can’t we include these dogs? There is also a law on the same.” Debbie feeds stray dogs and shares some of the negative experiences she has had doing so: “Many people don’t like stray dogs because they think that they are dangerous to the public. But these dogs don’t bark or bite unless provoked; like being stoned at or other such harassment.” Her own neighbours were against her and they felt that Debbie was encouraging the dogs. However, there is a law stating that if an animal feeder is harassed, the aggressor can be taken to court. The Animal Welfare Board of India issues IDs for people who feed stray animals and these people are protected by this law. “From the time I informed my locality residents about this law, they have backed off.”
However, Himaani Choudhari, an animal rescuer in Goa, hopes that the ID cards make a difference as not many know about it. “I know so many people who love feeding dogs in their locality but each cooperative society has its own set of rules, sometimes not taking into account prevailing laws. In some residential societies, I have witnessed people being threatened with fines and even eviction for feeding strays within the compounds,” she says. Himaani explains that during her job of rescuing animals, she came across a terrifying incident where a dog was abandoned by his owner and while begging for food around the neighbourhood, he was wounded with third degree burns after some people threw boiling water on him. His wounds were then infested with maggots. Himaani got to know about this through her friends and immediately rescued the dog, sterilised and treated him and today he lives happy and healthy at Stray Assist in Porvorim. Also addressing the issue of stray cattle, Himaani says that it’s not their fault. “Cowshed owners ill-treat the male cows and as soon as the female gives birth to a male calf they are removed from the shed and sent on streets as they are of no use to the owners. That’s the reason these cows roam around with no shelter or proper food. Not many are aware about this,” she says. Himani is currently working towards finding a way to help stray cattle. PAWS (Panjim Animal Welfare Society) in St Inez is an animal shelter that has been taking care of sick, unwanted dogs and also rehabilitating street pups. Sanchita Bannerjee Rodrigues and her team at PAWS explain that as an animal welfare society, they take responsibility of stray dogs and treat them by disinfecting, sterilisation and vaccination. They aren’t allowed to relocate the dogs, as per the law. “Since the animals are reintroduced to the same place, people feel we are not doing our job properly. But they don’t understand that like humans, even dogs have emotions and feel a sense of belonging to a place. We try our best and treat them but have to leave them back at the same place,” says PAWS co-coordinator Anuradha V Pai. Conclusively, Ramiza Sayed another co-coordinator at PAWS says that as long as the person feeding strays takes responsibility of a group of dogs and does it within their own territory, without creating problems for the residents there or interfering with them, the person has the whole right to do so and can file a complaint against people harassing them. “As far as the law is concerned with regard to the ID cards, I think people should start following it.”
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