In 2006, during the 2,500th Sambuddhatva Jayanthi, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared a “no kill” policy for dogs. The official method to reduce the stray dog population is now through sterilisation and vaccination, instead of the “capture and kill” policy that has repeatedly failed over the past 100 years.
To incompetent and inefficient bureaucrats, it’s easier to round up dogs and either kill or relocate them to achieve a short-term goal like a beautification programme, than it is to develop a multi-stakeholder approach to solving the problem.
The stray dog problem in Sri Lanka can be solved in just five years – the life of one parliament.
The average life of a dog is 12 years, but a stray dog’s lifespan is just four to six years.
If the Government sterilises 400,000 females in two years, and then manages or maintains the dog population for a further three years, they will finally eradicate the problem.
The Government can never solve the problem until it changes the way bureaucrats in the ministries concerned act/think. If they actually did their part in 2006 with a comprehensive sterilisation programme, we would have achieved zero growth of stray dogs by now.
A partnership between the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC), the animal welfare organisation Blue Paw Trust, and the NGO (non-governmental organisation) WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals), piloted a project in 2007 which successfully sterilised 80% of the female dog population in Colombo.
At the end of the five years, the dog population that was increasing at a rate of 18% in 2007 was decreasing at a rate of 9% in 2012.
The Ministry of Health and Department of Animal Production and Health don’t seem to have a serious and planned approach to the problem, perhaps because they don’t have an understanding of and awareness on the issues involved.
Between 2006 and 2019, they couldn’t even agree between themselves who was to do what.
In fact, a lot of NGOs and animal welfare organisations have supplemented the failed efforts of the government agencies.
The NGO Dogstar Foundation sterilised 11,199 animals and vaccinated another 10,999 for rabies in 2019. Their budget was around Rs. 67 million.
Animal SOS allocates Rs. 120-122 million a year.
Embark approximately Rs. 45 million a year.
Organisations like this bear all the costs associated with their sterilisation programmes with no help from the Government.
Smaller organisations like Tails of Freedom, Rescue Animals Sri Lanka, AWPA (Animal Welfare and Protection Association), Baw Baw, Rear For Animals, Justice for Animals, and many others work tirelessly, year round, sterilising and vaccinating community animals with their own resources.
When there is an annual budgetary allocation for sterilising and vaccinating community animals, why is this not properly utilised and managed? Had this been the case, there would be no community animals on our streets. Why is there no accountability for their actions or rather non-action? Where have the allocated funds gone? Why do public servants continue to display gross callousness towards their duties, merely collecting their salaries at the end of the month? Why are people who are so obviously not animal lovers or have not an ounce of humanity in them – on the contrary they take pleasure in brutalising animals – used to staff the dog pound?
We pride ourselves on our compassion and devoutness and adherence to Buddhist practices and precepts, yet animal abuse even inside temples is rampant.
Not a single government has passed the Animal Welfare Bill. Maneka Gandhi found this to be abhorrent in a country that strives to be developed and prides itself on its adherence to Buddhism.
We call on the Government to act now and walk the talk.