Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dog shelter proposal fails to find favour with animal rights activists

TNN | Mar 15, 2012, 04.34AM IST

CHENNAI: The Corporation of Chennai's proposal to set up a shelter to take stray dogs off the streets has drawn criticism from animal welfare activists as it is against the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules of 2001. "Stray dogs have to be sterilised and released in the same area according to the Animal Birth Control (ABC) rules, drawn up under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960," said Chinny Krishna, vice chairman, Animal Welfare Board of India. 

"So they cannot be removed from the street and put in shelters." But officials say a shelter is the best way to curb the stray dog population. "We plan to set up a shelter that will house a minimum of 2,000 dogs. The aim is to remove stray dogs from streets and give them a home," said corporation commissioner P W C Davidar. "We have just made the announcement. The next step is to plan the shelter and identify the location."

Funds have not yet been allocated for the project, but it will not be capital intensive, he said. However, animal welfare activists said that setting up a shelter will not curb the stray dog population. According to official estimates, there are about 30,000 stray dogs within the old corporation limits. The number of stray dogs in any area is directly proportional to the availability of food, said Sathya Radhakrishnan, honorary joint secretary of Blue Cross. 

"If you remove dogs from one area, other dogs will come in," he said, adding that the only solution is strengthening the ABC programme. Such shelters have not been a success in other countries. "Similar projects have been tried out unsuccessfully in Taiwan, the US and many parts of eastern Europe," said Krishna. Shelters cannot house large numbers of dogs. "If the animals are kept in single kennels, they become unfriendly to human beings," he said. 

"If more than 15 or 20 dogs are kept together in open areas, they begin to display pack behaviour and attack each other." However, corporation officials say they have a viable plan. "We will put the animals in separate pens in numbers that are easy to handle," said Davidar, adding that they plan to implement the proposal before the next budget. "We have received positive feedback for our proposal from people living in areas that face stray dog menace." Animal activists do feel the shelter would be useful for pets that are abandoned. "The owners can instead leave them at the shelter," said Krishna. "The shelter can also rescue pups from streets and re-home them."