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April 6, 2020

Concerned Pakistanis demand end to culling of stray dogs

Karachi

April 6, 2020

In view of the Sindh government’s renewal of its campaign to cull stray dogs across the province this past Wednesday, a group of concerned citizens on Sunday demanded that the federal and provincial governments end all actions that violate the law against animal cruelty.

A letter signed by students, corporate and independent professionals, academics, educationists, journalists, lawyers, political workers, actors, singers, development and human rights activists, community leaders from all provinces and overseas Pakistanis drew the attention of the authorities to the continuous practice of dog culling in the country.

The letter has been written against the allegedly ambiguous policies of the federal, provincial and local governments with regard to the stray dog population, and the rising cases of cruelty against animals being widely shared on social media.

The letter states that these actions against stray dogs are being carried out by the local and provincial governments, different housing authorities as well as private citizens.

Moreover, in the wake of the COVID-19 emergency, there is a general misconception that stray animals are responsible for spreading the virus. However, reads the letter, there is enough scientific evidence to suggest that stray animals are not linked to the spread of the coronavirus.

The letter also challenges the myths related to rabies and stray dogs. “Scientific research emphasises that not all dogs carry the rabies virus. Rabies affects only those dogs that acquire the infection from other dogs. Dogs have a greater likelihood of getting the disease transferred through animals such as foxes, raccoons, skunks and bats. These species are not common in Pakistan...”

The letter stresses that according to the World Health Organisation, there is no evidence that the removal of dogs alone has ever had a significant impact on dog population densities or the spread of rabies.

“Section 3 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1890 makes cruelty to animals punishable with imprisonment and fine. Additionally, Section 429 of the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 makes it a criminal offense to kill, maim or render useless any animal. What does it say about a system where the government agencies are themselves flouting the law?”

The letter reminds the government that since 1947, Pakistan has been a member of the World Organisation for Animal Health, which has clear guidelines on animal health standards that recommend that an advisory group analyse the problem, identify the causes, obtain public opinion on dogs and propose the most effective approaches to use.

The guidelines very clearly outline the processes of reproductive control, environmental control (trash disposal) and rehoming as means to addressing the overpopulation of stray dogs as well as eliminating rabies threats, reads the letter.

“Animal welfare organisations and committed individuals are ready to come forward to collaborate with the government on effective strategies to address dogs’ overpopulation. Let us be a more humane society that follows their fundamental values of compassion and care for the environment.”