- She has gone further than most animal welfare activists, dedicating her life to look after 120 dogs. This is an ambitious task even in normal times. These days, it’s nothing short of Herculean.
- There are many who responded to a recent appeal on Face Book. But it’s becoming increasingly hard to keep going as cost of living keeps going up.
- She will most likely have to vacate the premises. She will have to relocate to distant Polonnaruwa unless someone is willing to donate a piece of land in this area to create an animal shelter.
It’s getting harder for everybody. People were reeling from the last lockdown, barely a month ago, when we have to go through another.
Millions of people who eke out a living from daily labour are hugely affected. Hunger is widespread. While this is the pathetic condition of millions of Lankans, it’s not hard to imagine the plight of thousands of stray animals who depend one hundred per cent on the charity of humans to survive.
While there are now many individuals and a number of organizations and groups, big and small, dedicated to animal welfare, this is only a drop in the ocean. With each successive lockdown and skyrocketing cost of living, such people are increasingly squeezed and torn between their own needs and the heartfelt desire to feed a hungry animal.
One can always find stray dogs and cats waiting expectantly outside small restaurants, waiting for handouts. Owners and workers usually oblige. But now, with all such places shut down, these animals are starving. Most households are too squeezed to spare much food for hungry strays. Many have trouble feeding their own pets.
Outside Colombo, the picture is even bleaker. The animal welfare network is very thin in small towns and rural areas, and people who feed and help strays often get stigmatized. If the recurring Covid-19 waves don’t subside and the lockdowns don’t stop, many animals could starve to death in the coming months.
While the plight of those Lankans in sheer economic distress is not forgotten here, one should remember that there is a government to look after them. I suggested in a recent article that there are still enough wealthy Lankans who can spare some money to feed those in need even once a week. Stray animals only have those dedicated individuals who are increasingly struggling.
Chandrani Dematagoda is one such individual. But her problems are peculiar because she has gone further than most animal welfare activists, dedicating her life to look after 120 dogs. This is an ambitious task even in normal times. These days, it’s nothing short of Herculean.
She has forty dogs in her house in Dodangoda in the Kalutara area, and feeds eighty more in the outlying areas. She has gotten them sterilized as much as possible, but she says people keep dumping pups outside her gate, knowing that she would never chase them away.
People in the area are not sympathetic, she is facing a court case and will most likely have to vacate the premises in September. She will have to relocate to distant Polonnaruwa unless someone is willing to donate a piece of land in this area to create an animal shelter.
Alternately, the dogs will have to be transported to Polonnaruwa, and she is making a plea hereby for a generous well wisher willing to arrange this.
There are a number of people helping her. But the day to day existence has become precarious. She mentions Eve Ruppel and Monika Zimmermann of Tikiri Trust in particular, and there are many others who responded to a recent appeal on Face Book. But it’s becoming increasingly hard to keep going as cost of living keeps going up.
“Some days there’s nothing to give them. I wake up at 3 am and walk 3 km to the beach and wait for the fishing boats to return. I plead with them to give me some fish. Some fishermen get angry and chase me away. Once I collect enough fish, I walk back home, resting from time to time as the load hurts my arms,” says Chandrani.
Sometimes, people like her are criticized for taking on too much. But this can happen in many spheres, not just animal welfare. People like her are necessary in a country where only a very small minority of people actively engage in helping stray animals. Rather than criticizing her, one should try and help.