On a normal day in April 2021, Sneha Dhakal, a social influencer as well as animal lover, saw a TikTok video in which a dog of a cocker spaniel breed was chained up on the roof of a home.
“That woman has posted that video looking for some help to rescue the dog. I then immediately contacted her as I could not watch the dog like that.”
Dhakal then reached Sitapaila of Kathmandu along with the woman who posted the video in a bid to rescue the animal. “We went to the family who owned that dog and talked, however, they were not cooperative.”
Side by side, the duo also talked to the neighbours, police and organisations working for animal welfare. “After talking to the family and neighbours, I found out that the person who brought the dog in that family was no more. After his death, the dog had been kept in a tin kennel on the roof, chained up all days of the year, notwithstanding whatever weather it was,” shares Dhakal.
Despite their continuous efforts, the dog’s host did not change a bit. Whenever they or the police or any official from any organisation used to visit the dog, they used to pretend they were taking good care of the pet, but the reality was different. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t change their mindset and behaviours towards that dog. With a heavy heart, I had to return to Bhairahawa, my home, after the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic started,” says Dhakal.
In the past few months, various such cases have been shared on social media and mainstream media platforms with photos and videos. In some cases, a dog is being chained to an electric pole and beaten till death and in others, a cat inside a cattery is burnt alive.
Though social media platforms are inundated with rage against such cruelty at different points of time, the issue has cooled down as of now and very rare discussions have been taking place regarding animal rights. However, the cases of cruelty against animals have been rampant in past years, inform animal lovers and animal welfare activists, adding the Nepali society has to be more conscious to speak against the ill-treatment of animals.
Increase in cruelty or reporting?
Shristi Singh Shrestha, the vice-president of Animal Nepal, says her organisation has seen an increased number of cases of animal cruelty in the past few months although it is not sure if the violence is on the rise or the trend of reporting such cases.
“There used to be many cases of cruelty against animals in the past as well. But, with the extensive use of social media and the increasing awareness about animal rights, there is a high possibility that its reporting has increased more significantly than the cases.”
Plus, after the new Penal Code was adopted in 2017, many people became aware that there is a law related to animals and birds, she opines.
But, Dhakal, who takes care of around 12 street dogs by providing them shelter, food and necessary medical help on her own, thinks many people are not sensitive towards the animals even today.
Dhakal, who lives in Bhairahawa, shares, “On my way to my office, every day, I see a dog wounded. Almost every day, a dog is hit by a bike or any vehicle and its legs and other body parts are fractured. And, nobody really cares about them.”
The responsibility of the breeding industry
Whereas street dogs and other animals still live in problems, the trend of keeping breed dogs for business purposes or as a status symbol is also increasing day by day, adding up to the cruelty of the animals.
According to Shrestha, whenever someone brings a pet home, they also need to treat the pets as a part of their family and recognise they need as much care, love and attention as other family members do. They should not have the feeling like they are the masters.
But, that is not what is actually happening. Shrestha shares, “They love keeping dogs, but they don’t really love pets or dogs. They just love them for themselves, just for a status symbol.”
Here, she clarifies that the breeding industry of Nepal is also responsible for the problem. “They bring and sell a dog or any other pet as per the demand. But, whoever buys the pet needs to acknowledge what kind of dog or cat it is and their characteristics, in which climatic condition they are habituated and many more.”
“As per our research, as of now, there is a huge demand for Siberian huskies in Kathmandu. This breed is habituated to cold places as it has a thickly furred double coat,” she continues, “However, without acknowledging this, the breeding industry is selling huskies in Kathmandu, which of course is not a cold or snowy place.”
According to her, when there is a demand for these breeds, the breeders will bring the dogs notwithstanding the breeds’ requirements. “The way they keep them is beyond our comprehension. Even big breeders keep hundreds of dogs in the worst conditions as there is no monitoring and guidelines in the breeding industries. Nor is there the provision of a licence in this industry. Anyone can grow pets, mainly dogs, and sell them,” according to Shrestha.
On the other hand, Suresh Shah, the managing director of Mount Everest Kennel Club, feels Nepal is “naturally blessed” for all kinds of breeds and breeding as well. Yet, he accepts the industry has some problems, “Yes, there are neither guidelines nor any monitoring authority set by the government for the breeding industry, but that does not mean that this industry is contributing to the cruelty against animals.”
In addition, he claims breeders keep the dogs or any other pets with much care and attention as they are the source of their incomes. Yet. he also mentions that some of the few breeders may not give proper care to the animals due to a lack of knowledge.
But, Shrestha complains many bred dogs are later abandoned when they are not sold or when they become old or come across some health issues. And, about 70 per cent of them die after being abandoned as they are very much dependent on humans. They do not even know to cross the streets; finding food is a far-fetched thing for them, she adds.
Many pet owners do not have the idea of responsible pet ownership. Some keep the pets as a status symbol while some do for business purposes. But, they do not care for them properly, share both Shrestha and Dhakal.
Dealing with the difficulty
In order to put a full stop to the brutality against animals, Shrestha suggests laws should be made stricter first. The cruelty against animals should be taken as a serious offence. Secondly, all police officials should be made aware of animal laws.
Further, she adds, “Even if they are well-aware of the laws, some of them hesitate to register the case because the level of awareness and seriousness towards this law is generally not seen in many of them.”
Until and unless police officials register and investigate the cases seriously, the cruelty will not stop as they think they would easily get away with it, as per Dhakal and Shrestha.
The third is awareness, shares Shrestha. “More people need to speak up. If you are seeing a dog or any other animal being tortured, you should not wait for any other organisation to help, you need to speak up against that and try to stop that.”
Because animal welfare organisations also have limited resources and time and are already overwhelmed with many such cases, the public needs to handle many cases on a daily basis, they say.