The disappearance of neighbourhood strays after being picked up by civic or NGO staff for “sterilisation” may finally be over. To protect the much-loved pooches from displacement, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) and leading animal rights NGOs have joined forces for improved care and accountability.
A meeting, involving the CMC and five NGOs that look after stray animals across the city, has opened the doors for implementation of Union government guidelines protecting the rights of strays.
The regulations include the prohibition of animal welfare organisations from picking up strays and then leaving them to fend for themselves in unknown terrain.
At the recently-held meeting, CMC health department officials and representatives of the five NGOs — Calcutta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (CSPCA), Friends of Dogs, Mother of Stray Dogs and Cats, Love ‘N’ Care for Animals and People for Animals — discussed options to stop the unaccounted “disappearance” of animals.
It was decided that, henceforth, the picking up, treatment and rehabilitation of a stray from any area of the city would have to involve at least one local witness, who would vouch for the rehabilitation and removal of the animal in writing.
“We were being flooded with complaints about stray dogs that just vanished after an NGO took them away for sterilisation,” explained a senior animal resources development official. “The inclusion of this particular clause will, hopefully, put an end to these allegations,” he added.
There were other issues on the agenda of the meeting, held after several years. “We can now hope for a systematic approach to all the issues that cover the gamut of animal-welfare activities,” said I.B. De, secretary-superintendent of the CSPCA, the largest of the NGOs. “Some grey areas remain, like the problem of funding for NGOs that do not have cash-rich donors. But this was a start,” he added.
Animal care has been divided into zones, with each of the five NGOs being assigned to the care of strays in the 141 city wards.
The CSPCA has been given responsibility for the largest number of wards (1 to 50 in north and central Calcutta), followed by Love ‘N’ Care for Animals (wards 101 to 141), People for Animals (wards 51 to 59 and 71 to 90), Friends of Dogs (wards 61 to 70) and Mother of Stray Dogs and Cats (wards 91 to 100).
The CMC, however, can enlist the help of any NGO during an emergency, irrespective of the area in which it occurs, the new rules clarify.
A review of the performance of the CMC and the NGOs will be held every three months, with an assessment of the problems faced. Such reviews have been rare under the Trinamul-led civic board.
A few issues of jurisdiction still remain, with some discrepancy and overlap between the areas allocated to the NGOs and their geographical locations. Such logistics will be worked out at following meetings, officials explained.