KARACHI: Might is right may be the law of the jungle but the administration of the largest urban setting of Pakistan has resorted to blatant violation of the rights of animals. As many as 800 street dogs were poisoned by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) as a measure of controlling the canine population — and, hence, earning the ire of animal rights activists.
“You cannot stop the dogs’ population by poisoning them in masses as the government did recently,” said the head of rescue of Home Four Paw and Claw, Syed Mustafa Ahmed. According to him, this was the most inhumane way of wiping out the stray population since killing them is against the natural process. Controlling stray dog population is not a two-day project and the government will miserably fail with such brutal campaigns, he said. “Our organisation has given several alternatives to the government such as animal birth control or traps, neuter and release options but that’s of no use,” he said.
Dog bites likely to increase as reaction
Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) joint executive director and emergency ward in-charge Dr Seemin Jamali explained that when animals see other animals dying in such a painful condition, they get ferocious and violent and incident of dog bites increase in the area. “Culling is never the answer and we need to ensure humane change that last,” she said.
She talked about how brutal the process of culling actually is. “Strychnine poisoning to kill stray animals is not the solution since it creates opisthotonus,” she said, explaining that opisthotonus is the backward arching of the head, neck and spine.
Veterinarian Dr Rashid Pirzada was of the view that we do not treat dogs as living beings and the campaign in which hundreds of dogs were killed points out that we are a failed state. “To eliminate stray dogs and cats, it takes time and needs proper planning,” he said.
Talking about the hazard of rabies, he stressed that dogs must be vaccinated and neutered as is done in any civilised society.
Dr Pirzada said that the state should be answerable about why stray animals are on our streets and how killing a living being will solve their problems.
Adoption will save them
Akhtar Mirza, a teacher at a private school who is a pet lover, has adopted a stray dog that is currently eight months old. He believes that people should adopt stray dogs to save them from getting killed. He added that if we can’t adopt all the stray dogs, maybe we can get them registered, vaccinated or neutered so that the stray dogs can at least live their lives even while failing to reproduce. This, he said, will help control their population in some years.
“One of my friends rescued four puppies some eight or nine months ago and she was looking for people to adopt them,” he said. “So, I adopted one of them and I love to play with it.” He shared that street dogs have attacked him and his pet but killing them is still cruel and heartless.
The nerve to justify the slaughter
According to South district municipal corporation administrator Muhammad Naeem, who conducted the recent culling campaign, they had received a number of complaints from residents regarding stray dogs.
“The increasing population of stray dogs in District South became intolerable and we killed them in response,” he added. Naeem said that such exercises are conducted by the government throughout the country. He justified the act, saying that who would be responsible if a dog bites the residents.
Awareness: Learn about rabies post-exposure treatment
After the hospital watchman died of rabies 26 years ago, the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) founded its first-ever Dog Bite Centre in the accident and emergency ward.
According to JPMC joint executive director and emergency ward in-charge Dr Seemin Jamali, the number of dog bite cases reported at JPMC in the first six months was around 4,077. According to her, around 30 new patients are being registered at the dog bite clinic every day and they are given free vaccines.
The total victims of such cases in 2015 were nearly 6,500, which are increasing every year. Dr Jamali explained that there are three types of contact with a suspected or confirmed rabid domestic or wild animal, adding that vaccines are provided to all the patients.
She said that rabies spreads through bites of rabid dogs, cats, donkeys and camels in Pakistan. It causes delirious change of voice, aerophobia, hydrophobia, fits, confusion, delirium and uncoordinated bodily movements, explained Dr Jamali.
If someone is bitten by a dog, they should immediately wash the area with soap and water and then apply ethanol, tincture or aqueous solution of iodine or povidone-iodine. The World Health Organization’s recommendations on intradermal immunisation against rabies are necessary since the disease itself is incurable. It can only be avoided through vaccination after the rabid animal’s bite, she said, adding that if rabies develops in a victim, it can cause death within a few days. The four-dosage regimen are provided free of charge at JPMC, Indus and Civil hospitals, whereas it can cost up to more than Rs50,000 in other hospitals.