Public Nuisance Vs. Animal Welfare: Can Co-Existence be the answer?
I being an Attorney-at-Law who appears on behalf of Animal SOS (ASOS) Lanka before the Court of Law in case of the said matter, it’s my duty to respond over the false allegations and misrepresentation of the facts made by some state authorities, as published by you in the above event.
Animal SOS Lanka commenced operations in 2009 where there were only a few neighbours in the vicinity and they were invited for the opening ceremony which was attended by the patron of the charity Venerable Athureliya Rathana Thero. So far the charity has rescued thousands of dying stray dogs and cats whilst providing them a shelter till the end of their lives.
In the legal perspective, The Weligama Police has reported facts to the Magistrate of Matara under public nuisance only on 4th December 2014, five years since it commenced operations. The Superintendent of Police Matara inquiring into the matter, called CEA for a report which was submitted on 25th November 2014, recommended several conditions which the Magistrate ordered ASOS to comply with.
On the 2nd of April 2015, The Weligama Police stated before the Magistrate’s Court of Matara that the respondent alias Animal SOS had managed to comply with the conditions as stipulated by the learned Magistrate on 11th December 2014, as per recent improvements or constructions done thereof.
When the matter was fixed for inquiry, the respondent took it up to the High Court and proceeded onto the court of Appeal, where it has now been fixed for arguments in January 2019.
When the matter was called before the court of Appeal, unfortunately, the so-called complainants/villagers disturbed and interrupted the proceedings of Animal SOS in contrary to the verdict by Magistrate Matara on 2nd April 2015 where they were ordered not to interrupt or to intervene under any circumstance.
The complainants and several other new villagers make serious disturbances threatening life, throwing firecrackers to terrorize the dogs, poisoning sanctuary animals, put up barriers preventing vital supplies to reach the sanctuary and caused criminal damage to property. They harass employees throughout and sabotage proposed renovations. The villagers accuse ASOS for dumping waste water to an outside land regularly and have damaged pipelines causing delays in constructions, which is critical in complying with the regulations of CEA. ASOS were then cleaning several tanks to be utilized for their waste water treatment project by using the pipe line which runs to their own cinnamon land. When it rains the run off matter is collected to the said tanks regularly. To facilitate final arrangements of the waste water treatment plant, it is necessary to clear the tanks to apply a layer of waterproof coating/concrete at the bottom.
"I represented Animal SOS whilst explaining the real situation of the controversy allowing the officials to understand the ground situation in response to mere allegations made by the villagers"
Though complaints are lodged at Weligama Police and subsequently at Midigama Police quite often, the police have not acted. The so called discussion was represented by Divisional Secretary – Weligama, HQI Weligama (Acting), CEA Southern Province, PHI Weligama and Midigama and some 23 villagers.
I represented Animal SOS whilst explaining the real situation of the controversy allowing the officials to understand the ground situation in response to mere allegations made by the villagers. The steps taken to improve the conditions and the renovations done with regards to the disposal system, improvements in case of the management of storm water and latest update on the waste water treatment plant thereof, upgrades to parapet wall in minimizing the noise etc. were also explained. These upgrades are done also complying with international standards since most of these works are being designed and supervised by foreign professionals and being funded fully by donors in the UK.
The boundary wall was renovated whilst increasing its height up to 9 feet, areas paved with interlocking blocks,an anaerobic digester unit was installed to collect dog feces and an incinerator to burn solid waste was also constructed costing the charity millions of rupees. The cascade sand filter was also constructed to clean storm water run-off and ASOS has spent LKR 6 Million for their waste water treatment plant, which is in its final phase of implementation. The animal waste collected in the anaerobic digester is taken out by gully browsers regularly,once a week mostly or when full, and every corner of the land is kept in a pleasant manner by the labourers, accordingly.
The complainants will never understand or accept the effective precautions taken by ASOS and keep lodging complaints at state authorities like Divisional Secretariat, PHI, CEA and the local Police station to simply to make the officials take action against ASOS.
The officials did not speak a word on behalf of the 38 employees, 1400 dogs and 80 cats and the vital service rendered by ASOS providing shelter, rabies control programmes and lifesaving care for so many strays.
Subsequently when these government officials were interviewed by media they repeated the same allegations made by the villagers.The Divisional Secretary has even stated in the interview with Daily Mirror that ASOS has neither a proper waste disposal system nor a waste water disposal mechanism where ASOS just disposes the waste water to nearby paddy fields and the streams irresponsibly.Surprisingly the Divisional Secretary or any of his officials never visited ASOS. These are only allegations made by villagers and not his own observations, at any cost.
Finally, all government officials are welcome to see the ground conditions, which is very much different than the verdict of villagers. There is no interruption by ASOS to residents other than conducting English classes for the village kids and the treatments given to their pets and cattle, free of charge.
Attorney-at-Law for ASOS