More stray dogs are coming in search of food
Pics by Pradeep Dilrukshana
People are reluctant to use public spaces such as the Children’s Park at Crow Island and the beach stretch due to a large number of dogs living in the area
As a long-term solution the Mayoress agreed to refurbish the existing dog pound premises into a halfway house where dogs could be kept until they are taken for adoption
The stray dogs at Viharamaha Devi Park have been in the news from time to time. During the curfew period they once again made headlines as animal welfare organisations claimed that a few dogs were taken away by Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) officials. Following these observations, a few activists staged a protest in front of the Mayor’s residence and voiced their disapproval against the move. However, in a statement issued by Colombo Mayoress Rosy Senanayake, she said that only two dogs were taken away and that they were sent back on the request of the activists. Thereafter she met with a few Animal Welfare Organization (AWO) representatives to discuss how they could be involved to assist the CMC in finding a solution to the stray dog issue.
Outcomes of the meeting
Several CMC members representing wards at Maligawatte and Crow Island claimed that people are reluctant to use public spaces such as the Children’s Park at Crow Island and the beach stretch due to a large number of dogs living in the area. According to the Mayoress around 2000 dogs could be found in Crow Island alone. “I get complaints from people and since these two dogs were a bit aggressive I asked the officials to remove them. But some people say that five dogs were removed which isn’t true,” said Senanayake.
Speaking at the meeting, Dr. Mohamed Ijas, Veterinary surgeon at CMC’s rabies control programme and stationed at the dog pound said that capacity-wise there’s a problem in conducting sterilization programmes. “Only two veterinary surgeons are available and we need to follow certain procedures when purchasing medicine and other materials,” he added. Upon this observation the Mayoress directed Dr. Ijas to draw a comprehensive plan for sterilization of dogs within two weeks.
He further said that people too need to change their behaviours if the stray dog issue is to end. “In other countries there are no stray dogs in parks,” he added.
During an earlier instance, Dr. Ijas told the Daily Mirror that the government should act as a regulator while the private sector should be involved in maintaining a dog shelter.
As a long-term solution the Mayoress agreed to refurbish the existing dog pound premises into a halfway house where dogs could be kept until they are taken for adoption.
Policy framework presented
During the meeting the animal welfare organisation representatives presented a policy framework for the humane management of stray animals in the CMC area. Some of its highlights include :
n Removing of aggressive from public areas, neutered and rehomed in collaboration with animal welfare organizations.
- Training of dog catchers
- Importation of oral rabies tablets for dogs
- Modernisation/ Improvements for the CMC dog pound
- Rabies observation section
- Distemper isolation section
- Neutering and recuperation
- Rehoming section
- Housekeeping – food, water, cleaning, exercise, no overcrowding etc
- Dogs to be let out into fenced open areas for at least two hours a day
- CCTV cameras in kennels to be installed to detect any animal abuse by dog handlers
- Dogs should be exposed to sunlight
- Issuance of breeders license for non-neutered licensed dogs
- Grant permission for designated animal welfare organisations to visit dog pound
Complaints from people
Speaking at the meeting held at the Mayor’s office, Kusum Subasinghe, Director- Land Management and Environment Development at the CMC said that the workers at the Park complain of people who come in vehicles and use the premises as a dog feeding ground. “Therefore more stray dogs are coming in search of food. If this practice could be stopped it would be easier to reduce the dog population at the park. At the same time there are complaints from people who come to the park for their workouts and families that come to spend time with their children,” said Subasinghe.
More than two dogs removed
In response to the Mayor’s statement that only two dogs were taken away from the park, Anusha David, Trustee, Rescue Animals Sri Lanka confirms that more than two dogs had been taken away. “In the afternoon of May 29, being an Animal Welfare Activist for the last 40 years, while out feeding the dogs at the Vihara Maha Devi Park, I noticed a significant decrease in their numbers; in fact a decrease of almost 99%. On inquiring as to why this was so from the park officials, I was told they had been taken away by the CMC. On inquiring as to the purpose of the dogs being taken they replied saying they did not know. I then proceeded to do four rounds of the park and discovered that only three adult dogs and three puppies remained. A minimum of eight to ten adult dogs whom I was familiar with were missing. I then immediately contacted a senior official at the CMC who told me that the Mayor had ordered that the dogs be taken away. As for the purpose, he said he wasn’t aware. In fact a CMC official said that they disliked incarcerating innocent animals, and had no choice, but to comply with orders. I then proceeded to send the Mayor a WhatsApp message pertaining to this on a WhatsApp group that both the Mayor and myself are members, pleading with her as to why this had been done and why when Ms Senanayake the Mayor is very well acquainted with both myself and Ms Otara Goonewardene, they had not been consulted by her or the Mayor’s office in this regard. In fact Ven. Sobitha Thera too tried to contact the Mayor, but there was no response. When there was no response, I contacted Ms Lakshika De Silva who is a close friend of the Mayor’s and asked her to inquire into why these incidents had taken place. The Mayor had told Ms Lakshika De Silva, who in turn conveyed her message to me, that the dogs had been taken to the dog pound and were well taken care of and that Thisakya Senanayake was personally supervising the feeding rounds at the pound. Otara Goonewardene, Iraki Kodituwakku, Shilpa Samaratunge, Panchali Panapitiya, myself and many others were left out of the Mayor’s meeting. When I am the one who feeds the dogs at the park and know each and every one of them, why was I not asked to be present along with the above mentioned and many many others ?” queried David.
The Daily Mirror visited a quiet Viharamaha Devi Park and saw several dogs loitering around. Even during that time one person was feeding dogs just outside the park. We asked a few people who visit the Park regularly for their daily workouts about the dogs and here’s what they said.
Sriyani Chandralatha has been frequenting the Park for the past three years. “Sometimes these dogs pounce on us and it’s a nuisance. So it would be better if they are removed,” said Chandralatha.
N. Rajanathan also echoed similar sentiments. “Stray dogs are everywhere, but removing them isn’t good. People come here to feed them and now the dogs are used to it,” said Rajanathan.
“It’s better to remove street dogs as they could be a nuisance,” said Kaveesha Vilathgamuwa. “If they are not vaccinated the victim would be in danger,” said Vilathgamuwa.
“I haven’t had any issues with dogs and therefore they aren’t a nuisance,” said Sithika Niduwara while continuing his walk.