Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

Tag: animal welfare

Animal Welfare in Sri Lanka

This article was published in Ceylon Today on July 30 2020

https://uploads.ceylontoday.lk/epapers/files/2020-07-30-%20Ceylon%20Today.pdf

A lady reported that a household near her home had a pedigree dog locked up in a kennel for two years. The animal was severely emaciated and living in its own excrement. Upon investigation, it was discovered that the dog had, in fact, been locked up for six years. It was not a pedigree dog. The family considered it as such because it was not a street dog and money had been paid for it. The son of the household had been determined to own the dog even though the previous owner had not wanted to part with it. He forced money on the man and took the dog. The son then moved out of the household and left the dog behind. He is now living elsewhere and has another dog. The womenfolk of the household were afraid the dog would run away so they kept her locked up. They were afraid she would get pregnant and could not afford or did not think of sterilisation. They did not want her defecating all over the place so they did not feed her much.

When concerned citizens reported the case, Embark (a charity which is part of the Otara Foundation. Otara Del Gunawardene is a successful businesswoman who founded the Odel chain of shops and now devotes her time to charitable causes) sent one of their vans to rescue the dog which is called Lassie. She was very weak but the women said, “Be careful. She will bite”. She did not bite but licked her rescuers. The women were shocked that Lassie responded with affection when shown kindness. They had obviously never tried it themselves.

The case has attracted a lot of attention on social media. The last time I looked there were over 7,000 views on Instagram. Otara wrote: “make a difference and help to awaken those who don’t understand how horrendous such acts of cruelty are for innocent animals.” People were quite naturally horrified at Lassie’s suffering. One comment was, “Karma will give them crippled children or grandchildren.  Sickening evil humans”.

This is what Embark reported: “Hi, Lassie is doing well. We visited the hospital yesterday. She is a lovely dog, very friendly and always wants a pat on the head. She has no major issues at the moment, they suspect some eye condition, a cataract most probably. We will have to wait a few more days to actually know what other issues she has. But all in all, she is happy and free.”

It was strange to observe that the people responsible for Lassie’s prolonged suffering did not seem to be evil people even though over a period of six years they had been doing evil things. I have noted a tendency for Sri Lankans to join with foreigners to condemn Sri Lankans as particularly cruel to animals. Generally speaking, Sri Lankans seem to me to be guilty of negligence and ignorance rather than active cruelty. It is not too different from what we encountered in Ireland. I could write reams about examples of cruelty to animals in the UK and Ireland. Dog-fighting has become a spectator sport in England. There are puppy farms in Ireland. I was once involved in a case where a man in Sussex reacted to his neighbours’ complaints about his barking dog by cutting off the dog’s testicles and nailing them to the neighbours’ front door. I have not the space here to indulge in too much whataboutery concerning cruelty to animals in other countries. More detail can be found here.

https://pcolman.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/a-puppy-is-not-just-for-christmas/

 

Despite the large numbers of dogs roaming the streets in Sri Lanka, one rarely sees dogs that have been run over, even by our notoriously maniacal hopped-up bus drivers. The road from Midleton to Cork was littered with dead foxes, indicating that Irish drivers were not interested in avoiding them and might even have been aiming at them. There are so many good people in Sri Lanka campaigning for animal welfare and so many people working hard at the practical tasks of feeding and sterilizing and rehoming abandoned dogs.

 

There are many aspects of animal welfare in Sri Lanka that are in need of improvement. Perhaps the most important is for the media to help create a culture of responsible pet ownership. My tutor at Manchester University, Louis Kushnick, taught me something that I have never forgotten. Some people argue that you cannot use the law to stop people being racists. You can use the law to modify their behaviour. Their attitude does not really matter. Rules and regulations are important because even if you cannot stop people hating animals you can stop them causing animals to suffer. You may not change attitudes but you might change behaviour. The Sri Lankan Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance enacted by the colonial government in 1907 is ineffective mainly because its sanctions have never been updated. The maximum fine is only Rs100 (41p or 53 cents). The authorities have tended to think it not worthwhile to pursue even cases involving heinous cruelty to animals.

On January 14 2020, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said he had informed the relevant authorities to take any necessary action to put an end to animal cruelty. He said he was shocked to hear of incidents reported from around Sri Lanka of horrific displays of cruelty to animals. In June 2006, the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s website proudly carried a letter from Monika Kostner in Germany: “Mr President, let me congratulate you on the path that you have chosen. Please continue pursuing it. I greatly welcome your pledge to bring stringent laws against cruelty to animals. Do not give way to those political forces and vested interests, which are keen to continue the outdated, cruel treatment of animals. After all, they are living and feeling creatures.” Despite resistance from some of his underlings, President Rajapaksa continued to insist that street dogs should not be killed. Former President Sirisena, when he was Minister of Health, made a statement in Kalutara on January 6, 2012, that he had decided to revive the policy of killing street dogs “in the traditional way”. The “traditional way” is a very painful process. Dogs undergo immense suffering after the poison is injected, sometimes writhing in agony for hours, jerking with muscle spasms and frothing at the mouth. Mahinda Rajapaksa has stood firm against the slaughter of street dogs.

As long ago as December 2007, I wrote: “another encouraging development is that an Animal Welfare Bill has been gazetted as a Private Member’s Bill by the Venerable Athureliye Ratana Thero MP. This Bill could enable Sri Lanka to provide a model for other Asian countries to incorporate in their legislation modern standards for the way humans co-exist with other sentient beings.” One of the objectives of the bill was to raise community awareness about animal welfare and to foster kindness, compassion, and responsible behaviour towards animals.

My optimism was unfounded. The Animal Welfare Bill, fourteen years later, has still not become law. Mahinda Rajapaksa is now prime minister and is clearly still interested in dealing with cruelty to animals; Gotabaya Rajapaksa is now president with a good deal of authority and support (last November he won the presidential election with a majority of 52.5% on a turnout of 81.52% – the highest ever); eldest brother Chamal Rajapaksa is now minister with responsibility for animal welfare. Let us hope that after the parliamentary elections, there will be no further obstacles to making the Animal Welfare Bill the law of the land and the brothers will achieve justice for animals in Sri Lanka. May I be optimistic again?

Community awareness is the most important aspect. It is the moral duty of every citizen to report examples of cruelty to animals that come to notice. This is not snooping or being a busybody. It is vigilance, awareness, what in today’s parlance is called ‘wokeness’. It is empathy and living an ethical life.

 

 

 

 

 

Animal Welfare Bill

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on July 2 2014

 

Some years ago, Sri Lankan newspapers interviewed an English animal welfare activist. They allowed her to voice her view that as a nation Sri Lanka is particularly cruel to animals because of the number of and condition of street dogs. The Sunday Leader quoted her: ‘”We were overcome by the quiet despair, misery and silent suffering of thousands of strays, pets, wildlife and livestock alike.” The journalist writing the piece did not put forward any counter arguments or ask any incisive questions. This seemed to me an example of a kind of masochism prevalent among some Sri Lankans. There is a kind of pride in claiming that Sri Lankan politicians are the most corrupt. Now it seems a matter of pride that Sri Lanka is the cruellest nation on earth to animals.

I wrote in these pages on May 21 about a particularly horrific example of cruelty to animals in Sri Lanka. The widespread disgust that that case caused indicated that cruelty was not the norm in this country. Driving around Sri Lanka, I have noticed that one rarely sees dead animals on the roads. Even the most maniacal bus drivers seem to avoid running over dogs, however wayward the behaviour of the dogs – or snakes, or lizards. In England, the roads are carpeted with squashed hedgehogs. In Ireland, the major roads are littered with the corpses of foxes. Drivers do not try to avoid them and possibly deliberately aim to kill them.

It seems that, in reality, the UK is not the animal-loving nation that it was thought to be or that it thinks itself to be. I was once involved in a case where a man in Sussex reacted to his neighbours’ complaints about his dog by cutting off the dog’s testicles and nailing them to the neighbours’ front door. In 2012, 4,168 people in England and Wales were convicted of cruelty to animals. There are some horrific stories in the annual report of the RSPCA:

http://www.rspca.org.uk/webContent/staticImages/Flipbooks/prosecutions_review_2012/index.html

We are not talking about negligence here. This is vicious torture and sadistic violence. Operation Gazpacho, conducted by the RSPCA, revealed a sickening increase in organised dogfights in the UK. In 2008, following a BBC documentary on the horrific genetic disabilities of pedigree dogs, the RSPCA withdrew its support from Crufts Dog Show.

The European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals has been signed and ratified by 18 European countries, but not by the UK. Among the many interest groups opposed to the Convention is the Council of Docked Breeds. The organisation’s name is a misnomer as its members are not dogs with their tails cut off but humans who cut tails off dogs. They are against the Convention because “many of our most loved breeds would be placed at risk, and some could disappear altogether.” The Convention may be OK for Johnny Foreigner but Britain does not need it. “While animal welfare in some Council of Europe member states certainly requires improvement, we in this country have a comprehensive body of legislation which ensures extremely high standards of welfare among companion animals. We also have a host of Governmental and non Governmental bodies to see that the law is properly enforced.”

Many aspects of animal welfare in Sri Lanka need improvement. Perhaps the most important thing is for the media to help create a culture of responsible pet ownership.

Former colleagues of the professor who mutilated three shelter dogs for no purpose were confident that the law would take its course. The former colleague now in Australia said: “If he is as flagrantly in breach of these laws as claimed, then his detractors in Sri Lanka have a clear legal avenue for punishing him.” The colleague eventually realised that he was mistaken. “I didn’t believe it at first, but it does seem to be the case that there are no laws in Sri Lanka about animal welfare.”A former colleague in the UK, said: “Any such action in the UK would be dealt with under criminal law with serious consequences for those involved; moreover, such actions damage the reputation of legitimate scientists and bring discredit to the profession.”

The Veterinary Surgeons and Practitioners Act No 46 of 1956 established the Veterinary Council of Sri Lanka in order to regulate the conduct of veterinary practitioners in Sri Lanka. The Act states, ‘”The Council may order the name of any Veterinary Surgeon or Veterinary Practitioner to be expunged from the register if he –after an inquiry by the Council, is found guilty of infamous conduct.” The Council apparently found the two veterinarians guilty of “unethical and inhumane veterinary practices” but chose not to issue a public statement or to punish the two miscreants in any meaningful way. The unlicensed mutilation of three healthy dogs would count as ‘infamous conduct’ to most veterinary governing bodies. Professional codes of conduct and ethics committees are all very well but what is needed is a strong law that is enforced.

Rules and regulations are important because even if you cannot change the attitude of everyone, you can change behaviour. The Sri Lankan Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance enacted by the colonial government in 1907 is ineffective mainly because its sanctions have never been updated. The maximum fine is only Rs100. The authorities have tended to think it not worthwhile to pursue even cases involving heinous cruelty to animals. There is no reported case of an offender being given a sentence of imprisonment for causing cruelty to an animal. There is no lead agency to enforce the law and the police are too busy and have inadequate powers.

As long ago as December 2007, I wrote: “another encouraging development is that an Animal Welfare Bill has been gazetted as a Private Member’s Bill by Ven. Athureliye Ratana Thero, MP. This Bill could enable Sri Lanka to provide a model for other Asian countries to incorporate in their legislation modern standards for the way humans co-exist with other sentient beings.” One of the objectives of the bill is to raise community awareness about animal welfare and to foster kindness, compassion, and responsible behaviour towards animals.

The Law Commission of Sri Lanka prepared the new legislation was by after extensive consultations with the public and examination of other jurisdictions. It adopts a proactive approach to animal welfare, covering all animals, which are no longer to be regarded as the chattels of humans, with obligations and prohibitions emanating from recognition of a duty of care. A new National Animal Welfare Authority will administer the legislation, develop policies, and strengthen and expand the existing enforcement machinery.

On May 21 2014, I wrote: “An Animal Welfare Bill also based on the Law Commission draft has been finalised by the authorities and will be submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers on 29th May. Let us pray!”

Our prayers did not work. Cabinet consideration was postponed yet again. I do not know why, but it may be that communal differences are getting in the way. Many foreign observers perceived a disjunction between Buddhist principles of compassion and the way Sri Lankans treat animals in reality. The bill was promoted by a Buddhist cleric who has gone into politics. One of the drafters is a lawyer whose commitment to Buddhism leads him to oppose Hindu animal sacrifices and Muslim slaughtering. I heard dark rumours about a Tamil politician being the cause of this latest delay in moving the Animal Welfare Bill forward. Writing in the pages of Ceylon Today on March 11 2013, Ashoo Amarasinghe brought religion into it and accused Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem of dragging his feet because he is a Muslim. “Part (VI) Clause 22 of the Animal Welfare Bill that seeks to ‘prevent the infliction upon such animal of unnecessary fear or pain,’ runs contrary to the halal method of animal slaughter owing to your religious belief?”

 

It is very sad that, in these days of tribal tensions, compassion for animals can be a political issue and a potential cause of communal strife.

Impunity

This article was published in Ceylon Today on May 21 2014, where it was given the title: “Savagery in a Surgery. Hitlerian Experimentation.

 

Colman's Column3

Names have been withheld to protect the guilty – you know who you are!

May 23, 2014 marks the seventh anniversary of the death of Polly.

Polly

I enjoy reading crime novels. The older ones, like Agatha Christie’s, give the satisfaction of solving a puzzle and finding resolution in the end. Even the less cosy modern novels, like Nordic Noir, give the reader a sense of closure. Although the detective may be flawed, the crime is solved, the perpetrator caught and punished. Justice is seen to be done.

Real life is not always like that.

Three Dogs

Three dogs were removed from an animal shelter on May 22 2007 by a professor who said he wanted to give them a home. That was his first lie. He did not give them a home. They were taken to a government veterinary hospital where extensive and savage surgery was performed. Someone at the hospitalreported that the three dogs were “all cut up and mauled and killed”.

Polly had her adrenal glands removed. She died the next morning and was buried at the hospital. The body was exhumed on 28 May 2007 and a post mortem showed no trace of her kidneys. The inference is that the kidneys were removed during surgery. A piece of cotton wool wrapped up in a large piece of gauze was inside her sutured abdominal cavity. It seems that a chemical substance was inside her dissolving her organs as she lived. She died a slow and agonising death. She had been wagging her tail when she was taken for surgery.

Polly3

Perry had both vertical and horizontal incisions on her abdomen with nearly 30 sutures. Six days after this butchery, pus and blood were still oozing from the incision.

Perry

Wussie had her pancreas removed and had a huge incision down her abdomen. Blood tests showed high blood-sugar levels resulting from the absence of the pancreas. Her front legs were so bruised she was given a drip intravenously from a hind leg. She was restless and totally traumatised. Her incision was infected. She had not eaten and could hardly stand up, as she was very weak. Her fur was shaved almost up to the spine from both sides of her body and there were many lacerations and small shaving wounds.

Wussy stitch

Butchery

This butchery was conducted by the head of a government veterinary hospital. He refused to tell Dean of the Veterinary Faculty on 29 May 2007 the nature of the surgery he had done on the two surviving dogs. This information was crucial to the clinicians of the veterinary faculty of the university who were primarily concerned with treating the sick dogs.

Wussie

Wussie in the care of more humane humans. Despite their best efforts she died six months later.

The matter was referred to the police and the SLVC (Sri Lanka Veterinary Council). I wrote to the SLVC on 24 September 2007 to inquire about the progress of their investigation. They replied on 19 October, informing me that my letter had been submitted to the inquiring panel.

“I am pleased to inform you that the Council is seriously thinking about formulating a set of regulations which will clarify the Veterinary professional ethics and responsibilities of Registered Veterinarians in this regard. Please be informed that your letter will be tabled at the next council meeting to be held in November 2007. I have the honour of thanking you for your constructive ideas and comments”.

The SLVC stonewalled innumerable queries. It seems that the SLVC did eventually rule that the actions of the two vets was “unethical and inhumane” but refused to say so publicly. They would not say what punishment they meted out.

The University was also evasive. They claimed that an Inquiry would be carried out but have kept quiet about it ever since. The Provincial Governor is a decent man who has done good work in the cause of animal welfare. The Provincial Governor wrote to me on July 1 2007: “I wish to state that an inquiry has been conducted by the University … subsequent to my request and necessary action will be taken against the perpetrators.” The Deputy Vice Chancellor responded to an enquiry from the Hon. Provincial Governor on December 4 2007 by saying that a Committee of Inquiry was “in the process” of finalising a report. No report has yet appeared. This shows great disrespect to the Hon Governor.

International Outcry

There was an international outcry, which shamed the Sri Lankan veterinary profession and shamed the nation itself. Foreign academics who had worked with the professor refused to believe he had done this. An Australian professor wrote to me: “If he is as flagrantly in breach of these laws as claimed, then his detractors in Sri Lanka have a clear legal avenue for punishing him.” The Australian professor eventually realised that he was mistaken in assuming that unethical veterinary behaviour will automatically find remedy in legal systems or with the Sri Lankan authorities. “I didn’t believe it at first, but it does seem to be the case that there are no laws in Sri Lanka about animal welfare.  So maybe the time has come to develop a lobby group to push for that.”

An English academic also started from an assumption of civilised behaviour and reasonable institutional procedures. He said, “an issue as serious as this needs to be dealt with by established protocols in which everyone concerned has an opportunity to put forward their case in a free and fair way.” He continued: “I certainly would not condone any scientist engaging in experimental work on animals and acting on a freelance basis without a licence or institutional monitoring. Any such action in the United Kingdom would be dealt with under criminal law with serious consequences for those involved; moreover, such actions damage the reputation of legitimate scientists and bring discredit to the profession.”

Ethical Protocols

I studied the ethical protocols of over thirty countries and it became obvious that the professor’s actions would not be condoned in any jurisdiction. No-one could act as a freelance in this way, without a licence, without a research plan, without a stated objective, without arrangements for after-care, without monitoring and supervision. In most countries, it is specifically stated that it is not acceptable to use animals from pounds or the streets.

I have just finished reading an Ian Rankin novel. By the end, I know who committed the crime and what the motive was. The villain is captured and locked up. Seven years on, I do not know why these two people behaved with such barbaric savagery to three innocent animals. In a grovelling letter, the professor tried to justify himself to animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi: “First of all I would like to briefly explain the experimentation we planned to perform with these three dogs. I was doing a trial on ‘Therapy for Diabetes Mellitus with medicines of Plant origin and Gene Therapy’. This will bring out great implications and benefits to the Veterinary as well Medical fields.”

 

She was not impressed and published an article condemning his lies. In a letter to him, she wrote: “You have not done research on these dogs – you have simply killed and killed and killed. Such is the way of the world that you have been repeatedly rewarded for doing what we look down on in slaughterhouses. Please do not believe that you have ‘brought grace’ to Sri Lanka. This is a land of supreme grace and dignity and you have merely shamed her by your actions”.

An Argentinean animal welfare campaigner wanted the culprits castrated. My hope was that the three dogs’ suffering might have some point if steps were taken to ensure that such atrocities could not be repeated. Even if the perpetrators were allowed to go free and prosper, we hoped that such brutality and insensitivity would not be possible in the future.

Animal Welfare Legislation

Sri Lanka’s Constitution casts a duty on citizens to protect nature and conserve its riches. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance enacted by the colonial government in 1907 makes it a criminal offence by any act or omission to cause unnecessary pain or suffering to any animal. It is an offence to kill any animal in an unnecessarily cruel manner. Anyone who ill-treats, starves or mutilates an animal commits an offence.

The main reason why this Ordinance is not effective is that the penalties, which stand at an incredibly low Rs.100 ($0.93) and/or three to six months imprisonment (rarely or never meted out by the courts), have no deterrence value. The authorities have therefore tended to think it not worthwhile to pursue even cases involving extreme or heinous cruelty to animals.

In 2006, the Law Commission prepared a draft Animal Welfare Act (AWA), based on an exhaustive study of relevant legislation elsewhere and the views of the public. It took the Law Commission over six years to finalize the draft Animal Welfare Act, after reviewing many drafts. The project to replace the obsolete Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, No. 13 of 1907 was steered by the lawyer, writer and animal welfare activist Senaka Weeraratna. Mr Weeraratna was appointed as the Honorary Legal Consultant to the Law Commission on Animal Welfare legislation and many eminent lawyers worked on the drafts before the final version was approved in May 2006.

An Animal Welfare Bill based on that Law Commission draft was gazetted as a Private Member’s Bill tabled by Ven. Athureliye Rathana Thero, MP, in October 2010. This Bill could enable Sri Lanka to provide a model for other Asian countries to incorporate in their legislation modern standards in the way humans co-exist with other sentient beings.

An Animal Welfare Bill also based on the Law Commission draft has been finalised by the authorities and will be submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers on 29th May.

Let us pray!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections on Stray Dogs

This article was published in the Sunday Island on January 15, 2011

I was saddened to read in the Sunday Island of fears that the President’s no-kill policy might be falling into abeyance as street dogs at Galle Face were being rounded up for who knows what fate. I am going to make a confession here and admit that I was once guilty of dog-napping. More of that later. First, some personal observations about different cultural norms about animals. In urban England dogs are generally on a lead and accompanied by an “owner”. This is euphemistically referred to as “exercise” but the main purpose is for the dog to defecate a reasonable distance away from the owner’s domicile. I admonished a neighbour as he watched his dog downloading on my front lawn. His basic argument was that the dog had to do it somewhere and my garden was not as neat as his.

 

In rural Ireland, dogs might be owned but they wandered around having an independent existence. Every day we saw a Jack Russell trotting purposefully along for quite a large distance from one house to another to get its breakfast.

 
In Sri Lanka, it is unusual to see a dog on a lead. Many dogs would appear to be strays or feral but they are actually community dogs. They may not have a warm bed, but they do indeed belong to a house or section of a village. In some villages, the dogs roaming the post-tsunami wreckage were still at “their house” even though the sea had taken away the house.

 
A couple of years back, several Sri Lankan newspapers gave prominence to an English animal welfare campaigner who was planning to set up a shelter for Sri Lankan street dogs. The Sunday Leader quoted her: “We were overcome by the quiet despair, misery and silent suffering of thousands of strays, pets, wildlife and livestock alike…The attitude of a majority of locals who prefer to turn a blind eye to the suffering of an innocent stray and instead pay thousands for a purebred that they take care of like their own children has also contributed towards the suffering of these animals.”

 
She was shocked to see advertisements for pedigree pups. “Dogs are bred whilst thousands of unwanted strays roam the streets looking for love and compassion from humans. Suffering of owned animals is often equal to the suffering of the strays.”

 
“Ireland is synonymous with puppy farming. It is the most, vile despicable trade in misery,” says one reputable dog breeder in Northern Ireland. Breeding bitches are kept in filthy conditions to produce pups to sell at premium prices just below what reputable breeders charge. A puppy farmer in Australia wrote to me to express his outrage at being victimised: “similar to what happened to Jews in the beginning of Hitler’s rein [sic] of terror.” Peter Singer and JM Coetzee have been criticised for comparing intensive animal rearing to Nazi behaviour. It is a new twist to hear a puppy farmer comparing himself to victims of the holocaust.

 
Ireland also has the highest per capita rate of stray dog euthanasia in the EU, with 23,000 dogs put down annually.

 
I have heard the argument that sterilisation is contrary to Buddhist precepts. I do not know how true this is but surely Buddhist precepts would be against dumping unwanted puppies on the roadside.

 
We noticed a resistance to sterilisation among the Catholic population in rural Ireland and wondered if, in some bizarre way, this was related to the Church’s doctrine on abortion. Certainly, one of the Christian precepts is “Thou shalt not kill”.

 
It seems that in reality the UK is not the animal loving nation that it was once thought to be. In the UK in 2007, there was a 42% rise in the number of custodial sentences for cruelty to dogs. Operation Gazpacho, conducted by the RSPCA, revealed a sickening increase in organised dog fights. In 2008, following a BBC documentary on the horrific genetic disabilities of pedigree dogs, the RSPCA withdrew its support from Crufts Dog Show.

 
The Christian festival of Christmas in the UK is the traditional season for abandoning pet dogs. Dog dumping has got earlier every year since the early 2000s and now starts well before Christmas. Barking (no pun intended) and Dagenham Council covers a borough in Essex which is thought to have the highest dog ownership in the UK. ‘Essex man’ and ‘Essex girls’ are stereotypical figures of fun in England. Perhaps in America, rednecks might be a rough equivalent. A pit bull terrier would be the dog of choice for this stereotype. Because pit bulls are a very popular breed and can be sold for between £250 and £750, many Barking residents have decided to breed them. Litters are typically between six and ten puppies. Many are dumped when they are past the cute puppy stage and become expensive to feed.

 
Sri Lankans seem to me to be guilty of negligence and ignorance rather than active cruelty. It is not too different from what we encountered in Ireland. Everyday, three dogs came a quarter of a mile up the road from an elderly neighbour’s house to take us for a walk. One of the dogs was a female that our neighbour had purchased as a pet. The other two were skanky, abandoned creatures that had wandered to her house and been allowed to stay. One was a Scottish terrier with a distressing skin condition which had probably caused his ‘loving’ owners to dump him.

 
Our neighbour loved all three dogs equally. For some reason we were never able to fathom – but suspected might have something to do with religion – she never got any of the dogs sterilised. Every year the female produced a litter of puppies which our neighbour’s son drowned.

 
The lady died and the dogs were well-cared for by the son. Still the female was not sterilised. One day she came to us in great distress, covered in blood. It was clear that another litter had been drowned. After she had the chance to recover, we took her to a friend who ran boarding kennels. From there we took her to a vet who sterilised her. After a few days recuperation back at the kennels, we returned her home. No-one ever said anything about the fact that she had been missing. No-one remarked on the fact that she no longer had puppies. Don’t ask, don’t tell. As Seamus Heaney wrote: “Whatever you say, say nothing”.

 
There are many aspects of animal welfare in Sri Lanka that are in need of improvement. Perhaps the most important is for the media to help create a culture of responsible pet ownership.

 
Rules and regulations are important because even if you cannot change the attitude of everyone, you can change behaviour. The Sri Lankan Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance enacted by the colonial government in 1907 is ineffective mainly because its sanctions have never been updated. The maximum fine is only Rs100. The authorities have tended to think it not worthwhile to pursue even cases involving heinous cruelty to animals.

 
An Animal Welfare Bill was gazetted long ago as a Private Member’s Bill by the Venerable Athureliye Ratana Thero, MP. It still languishes in legislative limbo. A petition is being circulated to get it passed.

 
http://www.petitiononline.com/SLAWB/petition.html

 

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