Monday, January 23, 2012

Joy of Giving - Card 19 Experience

This was a tough week.

There is a wedding coming up in my family (my brother's) and I had just enough time during the week to see the strays in my locality and sigh "When will I be able to feed them this week!" And in reality I couldn't do it.

But I did one thing - as an alternate - and I know it may not be as good as feeding a stray animal with my own hands this week, but it is a beginning.

To complete this post I would have to relate the whole story. Of strays, what happens to them, how we can help and of how I got involved.

I have never been an animal lover. But two incidents increased my awareness about the stray dogs in my locality.

First, a few months ago, some notorious residents of a middle income housing complex near my own home poisoned almost 12 -15 dogs one night. Apparently they were fed up of the dog's scavenging and littering in the neighbourhood and since the few animal lovers in the complex used to feed the strays, the other unhappy residents plotted on getting rid of them for good.

Animals rights volunteers from the area spent a whole night in the local police station to get the complaint registered! Eventually despite the lapse of so many months, no one has been caught and the overburdened (with anti-terrorist and VIP duties) haven't done a single thing to nab the culprits of this heinous crime.

I had reported the issue in the newspaper and had also met the Police Commissioner of Pune, upon whose behest the FIR was eventually filed. But nothing happened after that. No investigations, no arrests, nothing (even though the Animal Welfare Act empowers the local police to arrest those found indulging in cruelty towards any animal - including the elephants and camels we often see being used to give rides to children.)

The second incident that changed my mind about these God's creatures was when my daughter brought home a pup from a stray litter inside our housing complex. It was the beginning of winter and the sight of the shivering, hungry pup squeezed my heart.

Eventually I housed three pups for two days, before returning them to their mother. Just as another animal lover in the complex and I were trying to get a feeding routine for the pups organised between us, we found that the pups had disappeared. We were told several stories by the security of the complex - all of them were hard to believe - someone had adopted all 7, a restaurant owner had adopted all 7 pups...etc etc etc.

Subsequently we discovered that the security guards, on the behest of the complex's managing committee had simply relocated the pups to another area. Till today we don't know if they survived.

The problem of stray dogs is not limited to my locality or Pune alone. It is an ever-growing problem plaguing every community settlement, even a slum for example. There are ways of scientifically curbing the population and I got a deep insight into it during my interactions with the animal rights volunteers.

An environment company in my locality, along with the help of animal lovers have taken a census of the dogs in the locality. They spent weekend mornings for about four months, walking each street, photographing the dogs and taking basic information such as height, colour, status of limbs, injuries, etc. The purpose of doing this was to ensure that like the 7 pups from my complex were re-located, no one should be able to re-locate dogs to our locality.

So, for example, if there are 8 dogs in one street, if the regular volunteer feeders find a new one loitering the area, they can go back to census and check whether he has moved n from another street. If not, it does not belong to the locality and the dog van from the municipal corporation can be called to take him away. This practise ensures that the population doesn't grow.

The other most crucial factor in curbing the population is to ensure that the existing 140 dogs in the locality stop littering. This means sterilisation of these dogs, which is meant to be done by the municipal corporation. But like all government bodies, the corporation is inept at handling the stray animal menace to the extent that they are virtually ineffective.

Many animal rights and lovers, volunteers have taken the task of sterilising these dogs upon themselves. They collect funds, get the dog squad to collect a few dogs that are taken to Blue Cross Society where they are neutered and recuperated for a day and brought back to the same locality. Once sterilised, they will not add to the population, and with the passage of time, the existing population will grow old and die, while new strays will not be added ending the menace for good.

It is also imperative that strays remain healthy. Feeding a couple of strays in your own area (or sharing the burden with a friend or neighbour who is equally enthusiastic and dedicated) once a day will ensure they don't scavenge, or die from diseases.

All this requires time, effort, dedication and commitment (and money as well).

Due to the two incidents I've quoted above I came in touch with an animal lover who feeds the dogs in my locality every morning. She spends that money from her own pocket. She also collects money to sterilise these dogs. For this, she goes shop to shop requesting for any contribution, as humble as it may be. She has also tried to collect money through residents of the area but has met with little success.

When I met her again, watching her feed the dogs I came up with an idea that would help me fulfill the conditions of the Joy of Giving card for week 19 as well as give her the helping hand she needs.

I have given her a small contribution to help her buy rice that should last about 2 months, and a little extra to sterilise atleast 5 dogs. I have promised to help her get funds (as soon as I am back from my brother's wedding) and begin an awareness drive to help people get involved.

It is not much, and as I mentioned earlier, not as good as feeding a stray with my own hands, but its a beginning.

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