Stray Dogs of Islamabad

Stray dogs in the Diplomatic Enclave were vaccinated against rabies in May 2018. Wives of diplomats paid for the campaign and also made sure all dogs are administered the vaccines. It is sad as it is the responsibility of the citizens of Pakistan to look after the plight of all animals in the country which is not being done and instead undertaken by foreigners who are here for a short time.

Speaking to media persons, Marietjie Nicholson, a South African national said: “I have adopted two dogs and call them Margalla breed. We need more funds to vaccinate dogs. Luckily, the Australian defence attaché contributed funds with which we could vaccinate all the dogs in the Diplomatic Enclave. Dogs should be sterilised to ensure they do not reproduce instead of poisoning them,” she said.

“Dogs are territorial and will not allow other dogs to come to their area. Therefore, all the dogs in the Diplomatic Enclave are safe and have been vaccinated. People feed them due to which all the dogs here are healthy. People should know that dogs bite due to self-protection, as people beat and throw stones at stray dogs,” she said.

Ms Nicholson said she is considering extending the campaign to other parts of the capital as well. “Once a dog is vaccinated, it will be rabies-free for the rest of its life,” she said.

Rabies is a deadly virus spread to people via the saliva of infected animals and is usually transmitted through a bite. Linda Purke, an Australian who has been living in Pakistan for the last three years said there was a lack of awareness in people about stray dogs and also urged people not to poison dogs.

Poisoning dogs makes death painful for the animals and also affects the environment.

Poisoned dogs will try to get to water as they get very thirsty and will sometimes die in the water, affecting marine life as well.

Veterinary doctor Sajid Hussain said many foreigners are cooperating in the campaign and are providing funds for the cause.

He said a Facebook page titled Islamabad PAWS has been made and a website will also soon be launched.

The Islamabad High Court had asked the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) to formulate a comprehensive policy to control their population in a humane manner but nothing is being done in this regard.

The gradual increase in the number of stray dogs are scaring off the pedestrians. When contacted, Capital Development Authority (CDA) Director-General Sanitation Sarwar Sandhu said: “We cannot take any action against stray dogs as our hands are bound after the high court has empowered the IWMB to formulate a policy in this regard. At the moment, it is not our responsibility. We will only be participating once the policy comes out.”

According to an IWMB official, a dog population control program has been recommended in its policy aimed at reducing their growth in Islamabad without causing unnecessary and avoidable suffering. The program suggested castration of dogs, the establishment of dedicated sanctuaries and other measures with the help of relevant government and NGOs.

In Oct 2021, the Comprehensive Disaster Response Service (CDRS) started the first shelter home for stray dogs, cats and donkeys in Gulberg Green on the Expressway in Islamabad.

Special arrangements have been made for the training of injured animals in the shelter home. Under the CDRS’s Benji project, stray dogs will be vaccinated instead of being shot and poisoned, which will reduce their breeding ability and make them more humane.

In the first phase, more than 100 stray dogs, cats and donkeys will be provided facilities under this project. The inaugural ceremony of the CDRS Benji project was held in Islamabad.

Speaking at the event, CDRS founder Todd Shea said that during his visit to Turkey, he learned that dogs and cats were well cared for in Turkey. “Work has begun to care for 100 dogs, donkeys and cats. The scope of the program will be extended to the whole of Islamabad and then to the whole country. Shooting one dog with a bullet marker makes other dogs more aggressive and more bloodthirsty than before. The vaccine will lose the ability to breed,” he said, adding that these animals will live their natural life and die their natural death.

Todd said that not all dogs behave aggressively. Dogs are bullied and many dogs die in tragic conditions due to lack of medical facilities. A platform has also been built to commemorate the tragic deaths of animals.

Senior journalist Katrina Hosain, who is working on CDSR’s animal safety project, said that the project would rescue stray dogs and vaccinate them instead of killing them with poison and bullets. “Vaccines will destroy the ability of such dogs to breed and they will become human friendly. Donkeys that have been used to lifting weights all their lives will also be protected from dying in bad conditions. Dogs and cats will be rescued from the streets. Dogs have been killed for the last 40 to 50 years, but their population has not diminished,” she said.

She said that over 100 dogs would be provided facilities in the center. An ambulance will be used to shift the injured animals. A dog that is found to have the rabies virus will be killed without delay. Injured sick and emaciated dogs will be treated.

Under the project, the dog will be given bread instead of stoning.

A Critical View by Hassan Shehzad (Sept 25, 2022)

Tasawar Kazmi’s son, 11, is no more. Kazmi used to run a dairy shop in an upscale area in Islamabad. In 2021, a stray dog bit his son. Kazmi claims that he took his son to a hospital where anti-rabies vaccine was not available. Some neighbors say that he took his son to a faith healer. His son, they say, died in about a week.

No case was lodged with the Loi Bher police. The dog bite was mostly forgotten.

But Kazmi did not get over it; his grief was obvious and his interest in his shop faded with time. One day, he decided to shut up shop and left the area, never to be seen again.

No one has been held responsible for the death of his son.

In 2020, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had ordered in 2020 that stray dogs should be sheltered and vaccinated instead of being killed. In the following year, 2021, the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration and the Capital Development Authority (CDA) devised a policy to act upon the IHC order. As a first step, they abolished the Sanitation Department squad that used to cull stray dogs. It had been a routine for the squad to shoot around 15 dogs a day.

The second phase of the policy dealt with creating shelters and vaccination facilities for stray dogs. That has not been done yet. Basically, no action has been taken on this policy.

In August 2022, the Federal Ombudsman’s Secretariat called a meeting of the ICT administration, the CDA, Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) and the Ministry of Climate Change to seek a report on the implementation of the court order.

The Ombudsman’s Secretariat Secretary Ejaz Ahmed Khan expressed concern that two years had passed but appropriate action on sheltering and vaccinating stray dogs in Islamabad had not yet been taken.

No one was able to put up a satisfactory reply in that meeting. An attempt was made to shift the blame to the cabinet by stating that its approval for the policy was awaited. The secretary reportedly said that the city bodies needed to do the needful. Finally, the buck stopped with the Municipal Corporation of Islamabad (MCI) which had to initiate the process in this regard.

The MCI was put under the mayor in 2015 – the same year when the IWMB was made functional. Both these bodies are headless and, considered by many, directionless.

In a couple of years, the Mayor was waist-deep in allegations of corruption. For this he was eventually removed from office following which the MCI was taken over by the CDA.

Some universities in Islamabad and Rawalpindi offer degrees in wildlife and conservation. Research is being done in some of these departments in collaboration with international organisations on themes of wildlife and conservation, including on the subject of stray dogs.

Of the 300 million stray dogs in the world, 300,000 are in Pakistan as per unofficial estimates. There is no official and authentic data on the population of dogs in Islamabad. However, according to media reports, their number is highest in Sindh, followed by the Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Islamabad and Balochistan.

It has been reported that Sindh registered 200,000 of the 300,000 dog bite cases in recent years.

There are no substantial reports regarding the lack of anti-rabies vaccines in hospitals in Islamabad. But availability of vaccine does not stop dog bites. Due to a gap created by the unchecked growth in the number of stray dogs over two years, many experts on various subjects have started pitching projects to international donors for dog shelters in the city.

Atif Sahi, former administrator of Soan Garden Housing Society, said that he did not like culling dogs. “So I invited a dog rights activist to our housing society. She was eager to give us a presentation. We agreed with her on protecting dogs by vaccinating them.” But when Sahi gave her a go-ahead, “she presented another plan”. Sahi says the wish list included prominent placement of the name of donor organisation in awareness material put up around the streets and arrangements for lodging of their teams visiting from Karachi.

“When we looked at the wish list, we told her we were happy to live with dogs,” Sahi says. “Protecting dogs is good. But when it comes to choosing between your life and that of the dog’s, you will definitely choose yours,” he adds.

Kazmi’s son is no more. Most victims of dog bites are children. There is hardly any street in Islamabad where children do not play outdoors in the evening. At the same time, no street in Islamabad is free from stray dogs. This is a dangerous situation.

The writer teaches development support communication at the International Islamic University Islamabad. He tweets @HassanShehzadZand can be reached at Hassan.shehzad @iiui.edu.pk

0 thoughts on “Stray Dogs of Islamabad

  1. I witnessed an usual scene today in Islamabad. I saw that there were gunmen shooting stray dogs in G-8 markaz, Islamabad, which is a busy public place. I immediately rushed to them asked as under who’s direction this action is being done. The gunmen informed me that they have direction from the office of Sardar Khan Zimri, Director Sanitation.
    I urge the environment lovers to please condemn this ruthless and cruel act against animals.
    Hope some conscious group member may take up the matter at appropriate forum/ office.
    I am forwarding this message to I. G ( Forest), MOCC for taking cognizence.

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