Stray dogs have always been a part and parcel of Dhaka. However, in a controversial move, Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) has, of late, started relocating strays from different parts of the metropolis under its jurisdiction to the Matuail landfill on the outskirts.
While animal welfare associations and canine lovers have opposed the relocation strategy, claiming it is tantamount to abetting animal cruelty, the city's civic body says that the nearly 60,000 stray dogs are a menace to Dhaka.
The move has also triggered a heated debate between animal lovers and those who consider the street dogs a nuisance, on social media platform Facebook, with the former suggesting that the civic authorities undertake sterilisation drives instead to control stray population.
Maruf, a student of Dhaka University, told UNB that dogs are an essential part of urban life. "Stray dogs rarely attack people unless provoked. Strays in residential localities also keep a close watch on intruders. Instead of going after the mute animals, the corporation should focus on sterilising dogs."
Maruf’s concerns could not be more justified at a time when the relocation of dogs from DU’s TSC area and Dhanmondi has escalated the controversy.
A private university student, Samiha Islam, also argued that if relocating dogs for "scaring people" be allowed, then why not the criminals roaming freely in the streets of Dhaka?
The other group is, however, wary about health issues such as rabies and the possibility of dog bites. But instead of suggesting a more humane approach of dealing with the so-called menace, they demand culling of dogs — a step further. Both the groups held back-to-back human-chain programmes in Dhaka this month.
But how does the ‘relocation’ work?
Stray dogs around a designated spot are first caught with a special net trap and tranqualised. They are then ferried to the Matuail sanitary landfill on pick-up vans and released.
What does the law say?
Under the Animal Welfare Act, stray animal removal is an offense. But this law applies to areas other than the city corporation. As per the Local Government (City Corporation) Act 2009, the city corporation authority can relocate and even euthanise stray animals.
DNCC’s step towards a different direction
In stark contrast, Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) has decided to aggressively carry out vaccination and sterilisation programmes to control the population of stray dogs.
DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam on Wednesday reiterated on his Facebook page that the city corporation will not take any lethal or inhumane action against strays.
“Not a single dog in Dhaka North will be relocated elsewhere ... DNCC has decided to sterilise stray dogs ensuring environmental balance, safety of citizens and respecting animal welfare laws," he wrote.
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According to DNCC sources, the sterilisation programme will be conducted in collaboration with Obhayaronno, an animal welfare foundation.
A vet from Obhoyaronno, seeking anonymity, told UNB that they're in talks with DNCC to start the sterilisation project soon. "But we could not get any such confirmation from DSCC on this," he said.
Earlier, both the city corporations had teamed up with Obhoyaronno for sterilising stray dogs. The initiative kicked off in 2012, but stopped in southern Dhaka in 2014. In DNCC, the project continued till December 2019.
On September 17, actress Jaya Ahsan, Obhoyaronno, and People for Animal Welfare filed a writ petition in the High Court, seeking a stay on the relocation of stray dogs to Matuail.