The Forsaken Ones

By Sonya Rehman

The authorities’ solution for getting rid of the strays might be simple but a killing spree, is hardly compassionate.

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In any third-world country where crime is endemic, where the words ‘law and order’ are looked upon with a contemptuous snicker and where corruption lays nestled deep within the grassroots, it is no wonder that animals (primarily strays) are considered a nuisance. But doesn’t it make you wonder, when you drive/stroll past a street littered with bags of rotting filth, or perhaps when you open the paper in the morning and the first headline that catches your eye is: ‘Girl falls prey to honour killing on Women’s Day’ as to who the ‘animal’ really is?

A few months ago on one of the city’s main roads, I happened to spot a stray with her legs bashed (perhaps by an aimless driver who delights in road kill) crawl feebly to a garbage bin. It made my stomach churn. Not being able to find her the next day (as I purposely drove through that very area to feed her), I was miserable. Examples such as this are common; almost every individual in the city has been witness to an act of cruelty to an animal or the plight of the stray.

And at moments like this it makes you wonder how many have suffered or are suffering at that very minute. How long would it take before death arrives to put these animals to eternal tranquil sleep? How much does it really take to stop and help them in a situation such as this one? Having lived in the third world and seeing inequality, poverty and corruption so ripe and apparent, has it transformed our empathy into senseless apathy? Have we really become this anesthetised to animals, this insensitive?

And so, what ‘solution’ do the authorities find with regard to getting these strays off the road? Simple: they assign a few men to go on an extensive and brutal killing spree. But that hasn’t solved the ‘problem’ now has it? Instead, why aren’t small veterinary teams assigned to certain areas to neuter male dogs and surgically sterilise the female ones? Also, it’s not as if each district has strays in each and every nook and corner — dogs either move in small packs or are spread out. Proper medical treatment, although longer and much more empathetic (in comparison to brutally exterminating), is bound to bring about desired results.

What’s the point of hunting and killing strays when their rate of reproduction is three-fold? With regard to dogs plagued with rabies and other maladies, many would argue the fact that people are at a serious risk, which they no doubt are, but those strays that are beyond the stage of cure and treatment, can be put to sleep (via injections) without having to be terrorised and shot at point-blank.

With regard to working animals (primarily donkeys, horses and mules), the Brooke Animal Hospital in Lahore, the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), the Edhi Foundation’s animal shelter and pockets of others spread over the country, do what they know best but perhaps it just isn’t good enough. Perhaps what is now needed is something bigger and better — something on a mass scale that is continuous and not simply one-off.

With enough local and foreign funding, community efforts and joint collaborations, treating the strays for rabies and other diseases can be achieved. It’s all perfectly doable because even if local aid falls flat, foreign support and relief is particularly generous. With effective collaborative measures, determination and plenty of compassion, no stray will ever have to suffer another day.

Shehr, The News

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