By Deskit Angmo Gangjore, Stawa 11-19
A dog or cow crushed by an over-speeding vehicle, a skin-and-bones horse walking uphill with trembling legs, a donkey, bull or dog rummaging through dustbins for food, a bull-calf abandoned by its owners right after birth... there is no dearth of such sights nowadays. Their condition is worse in the winter due to extreme cold and scarce food resources. Our inability or unwillingness to improve the lives of suffering animals around us reflects a total lack of compassion that is preached by holy texts of all religions. It also reveals the stark truth of modern society that is largely self-centred and alienated.
Thankfully for all those who think stray animals are a low-priority for charity, there are a few people who believe that a little care and compassion can help improve someone's life, be it a stray animal or a human. We must also accept the fact that we have collectively contributed to the prevailing situation, especially the menace of feral dogs. We cannot deal with the issue of feral dogs by reducing our reaction to fear or hatred. This situation is the result of rapid urbanisation and poor waste management. The solution can only emerge from collective action: Adoption of an effective waste management system and efforts to sterilise stray animals.
A group of animal lovers in Leh has been trying to change the situation. They started the Leh chapter of Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in 2018. The society has been working in collaboration with Animal Husbandry Department, Leh, Municipal Committee, Leh and Live to Rescue, a humanitarian initiative of the Live to Love International headed by HH the Gyalwang Drukpa. The Animal Husbandry Department provides health services, the Municipal Committee provides transportation and other logistical support and Live to Rescue provides animal care facilities at their shelter in Nang village. These agencies have been working tirelessly for the last five years to sterilise dogs and treat sick and injured dogs.
The problem of stray dogs started in the early 2000s. There is a need to create a safer environment for everyone, which cannot be achieved by poisoning and killing stray animals. Instead, we need to create a society where humans and stray animals coexist peacefully. Animals are also born into society and the land belongs as much to them as to us. It is thus unethical to consider our life as being more important than theirs.
As a society, we need to deal with the current crisis with patience and clarity as stray control programmes take time to show results. We must also recognise the fact that the infrastructure at the Animal Husbandry Department is out-performing its capacity. The devoted veterinary doctors at the department conduct sterilisation surgeries in addition to their other duties. The programme faces a shortage of dog-catchers and Live to Rescue provides two people who work for 12 hours each day, seven days-a-week. Unfortunately, their selfless contribution is not enough when compared to the reproduction rate of stray dogs. The need of the hour is 'mass sterilisation' with outsourcing to additional sterilisation teams and equipment. If not, the current efforts to control stray populations will be ineffective. The total population of stray dogs is estimated to be around 10,000 in the district and in the last five years we have managed to sterilise about 3,500 dogs. These efforts require the support of our society and each of us needs to do our part. Such interventions require funding as each sterilisation costs about Rs 1,500. We intend to sterilise around 6,500 dogs and require funding support of around one crore (Rs 10 million) to make this programme a success.
We need to replace cruel treatment of animals with more humane approaches. Often the condition of stray animals is the result of the owner's greed. We need to create more awareness and better implemen¬tation of laws relating to abandonment and cruelty towards animals. Adopting a more humane approach towards animals is the moral duty of each individual. Parents, teachers and elders play an important role in inculcating children with such humane values till it becomes a way of life.