Built by the colonial rulers for the purpose of displaying their industrial prowess, Lahore’s Tollinton, is infamous for filth, stench, and ill-treatment of animals. New revelations, adding to oldest market’s infamy, are the unabated trade of stolen animals and birds with the involvement of lower-ranking employees of various government departments.
An 11-member committee headed by Commissioner Lahore has been constituted to create bylaws for the market and bring forth much needed law and order.
Aniza Khan, head of the animal rights NGO Give Us Life Animal Welfare, a member of the committee, talking to The Express Tribune said that there were many mafias operating in the Tollinton rialto. She said the staffs of various government departments leak information regarding routine checking in advance and often the checking teams are threatened.
According to Khan, after consultations with various stakeholders, 21-point rules and regulations have been prepared for the vendors of Tollinton Market. Under these SOPs, vendors are not to exceed the occupancy limit for animals and birds in a cage; dogs, cats and birds will be housed separately; larger dogs will be tied up with neck ropes so they have free movement instead of being kept in cages; the trade of domesticated animals under the age of two and a half months will be banned.
All animals and birds, especially dogs and cats, will be vaccinated and recorded. Records will also be maintained of people who visit the shops to sell animals and birds. Furthermore, animals and birds must be provided with food and fresh water thrice a day, and a proper air circulation system in the shops.
Deputy Director Wildlife, Tanveer Ahmad Janjua, said that the department would work to curb the trade of those protected under the Wildlife Act and included in Schedule III. He stressed that it is illegal to sell animals and birds caught from the natural environment. He further added that vendors buying and selling wildlife must get a license from Punjab Wildlife.
Dr Talha Sajjad, a veterinary officer of the department, who is also a member of the 11-member committee, said that during a recent inspection in the market, outside a closed shop, hidden under the covers in cages, a dead cat and dead birds were found. Sajjad said, “The biggest issue is shopkeepers who treat animals and birds cruelly only incur nominal fines, under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act 1890, which need to be increased immediately.”
Tariq Javed, president of the Tollinton Market Vendors’ Association, opined that the biggest problem for him was sanitation and sewerage. He said that Commissioner Lahore had assured them of repairing the market’s roads and sewerage system.
In response to a question regarding the new SOPs implementation, Javed said that the Europe and the United States SOPs proposed by the NGOs for the market could not be implemented. However, the implementation of SOPs set up in collaboration with the Anti-Cruelty Animals Department would be ensured.