I will never forget the day in l992 when a little girl stood in front of us in tears, holding her puppy, who was frothing in the mouth and whimpering in pain. Nor will I forget the dogs who we saw, still semi-conscious, who had dug huge circles in the earth during their convulsions and writhing, after being poisoned with strychnine by the Jaipur Municipality to control dog population and the spread of rabies. And none of this terrible poisoning had any effect on the dog population of Jaipur, for dogs are very fecund, and breed rapidly to fill the empty biological niche.
Totally disillusioned, seeing the worst face of humanity, we all decided to find a way out to save our pooches from falling prey to this inhumane act. We had heard of the ABC (animal birth control) programmes, which shelters such as the Blue Cross in Chennai were implementing, and Animal Welfare Board of India and Maneka Gandhi were promoting throughout India as a humane and efficacious alternative to poisoning and electrocution of man’s best friend.
We decided to get to the core of the problem. No more orphaned puppies being dumped at the shelter, no more dogs convulsing from strychnine poisoning, and yes, a stabilized, rabies-free street dog population – all brought into being by the ABC programme, started by the Help In Suffering (HIS) and its sister funding body Animaux Secours (France).
The ABC programme focused on the sterilization and vaccination of the captured female and prepubescent male dogs. Neighborhood dogs are captured humanely from a given area, and exact location of each dog’s capture is recorded. The dogs are caught by hand holding the scruff, or by using Hessian sack with rope drawstring around the opening. After reaching the shelter, the health records are maintained first. And after a rest period of 15-30 hours, they are ready for the surgery. For identification, each dog is given a four-character tattoo on the right ear and semicircular notch on the left ear’s edge. After surgery, animals are kept under vet’s vigilance, usually for 3-5 days. And then they are returned back to their locality, from where they were picked.
At first the municipality was not very enthusiastic about co-operating with our new programme. We had to start a massive campaign, educating the people of Jaipur about the efficacy of the ABC programme. Soon they began to learn that our vehicle on the streets meant that the dogs would be safely returned, vaccinated and spayed. The Municipality, pleased with the results, gave HIS another facility in the north of the city, where we could begin a second ABC programme.
For the last five years there has been no incidence of human rabies in the area of Jaipur where our ABC programme is carried out. Most importantly the people of Jaipur learnt that their dogs are worthy of respect and affection. All our doubts as to whether the programme would work had been vindicated. HIS now conducts an ABC Extension programme funded by the Humane Society International. Suffice it to say that my heart still fills with joy when I touch a frightened little dog, and I know her life has been saved because of this programme. Yes, there are less dogs, and yes, there is less rabies, but mostly each little dog, each little experiencing subject of a life, is now free to live in peace, to fill the ancient biological niche which dogs have always shared with humans since time immemorial.
(Christine Townend is the Chair of Trustees, of Help in Suffering Animal shelter, Jaipur, Rajasthan. For more info log on to: www.his-india.org.au)
A noble beginning…
Since inception, HIS has been working for the benefit of the animals in India and has come a long way. Now they have two animal shelters, each comprising approximately two acres of land, one in Jaipur (Rajasthan) and the other in Kalimpong (West Bengal). HIS has also successfully accomplished several projects, which include Camel Project; Equine Project; Elephant Project; Animal Birth Control (ABC) Programme, ABC Extension Programme; Programme at Jaisinghpura Rescue, and Veterinary Clinic in Kalimpong.
A winning appreciation…
Jack Reece and Dr Sunil Chawla, two vets in charge of ABC programme at HIS, have had the first article ever published in the British Veterinary Record (a prestigious journal and the publication) about the success of programme. The British Veterinary Association also awarded Jack Reece a medal for his work in the same regard. Additionally the work of Help in Suffering has been recognized in a biography written by journalist John Little, entitled ‘Christine’s Ark’, published by Macmillan (Australia).