Compassionate Crusaders conquer Calcutta dog problem

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1998:

CALCUTTA––Calcutta, India, human population
11 million, is as little as $10,000 away from becoming the fifth
major Indian city to achieve no-kill dog control, following
Bombay, Delhi, Madras, and Jaipur.
Just a few years ago some Calcutta leaders suggested
shipping stray dogs to other Asian nations for meat. The city
pound was overwhelmed, with a budget of just five cents per
day per dog received. But the citizenry wouldn’t hear of it.
Instead, on March 2, 1996, Calcutta turned dog control
over to seven activist groups, among them Compassionate
Crusaders Trust, founded in 1993 by Purnima Toolsidass,
Ratna Ganguli, and dog psychologist Debasis Chakrabarti.
Chakrabarti, involved in Calcutta humane work since
he gave up medical studies in 1976 to work for kindness toward
dogs, also heads the Calcutta chapter of People For Animals,
the national animal advocacy organization led by Member of
Parliament and syndicated columnist Maneka Gandhi.

The other groups soon quit, but CCT and PFA
picked up 40 homeless dogs their first day on the job, and kept
on trucking––albeit critically short of trucks.
“The Calcutta Municipal Corporation is considering a
total handover of the stray dog population to us from April
1999 on, provided we can build the infrastructure to handle it,”
explains Toolsidass.
Mainly, she says, CCT needs another van, to “transport
small animals and double as an emergency mobile clinic,”
augmenting the two mobile clinics CCT now fields. One, the
current CCT van, is a conventional animal ambulance donated
by the Royal SPCA. The other is a three-wheeled cycle cab
used to treat large animals where they are.
Toolsidass can get the van CCT needs for $8,700 if
she settles for a three-door model, like the one it already has,
or $9,400 if she is able to get a five-door model with a diesel
engine, “equipment and fittings extra.”
For barely $18,000, CCT could have two new vans.
But that’s a lot of money for an organization with gross annual
revenues of $44,000––even if the total payroll is just $5,000.
On that budget, CCT has been neutering 2,000
female street dogs per year and hopes to neuter 3,000 in 1998.
That’s only half as many animals as the American SPCA
neuters per year in New York City, but the ASPCA has an
annual budget of $19 million, of which $3.9 million is spent on
hospital operations, and it doesn’t fix many animals for free.
CCT also recently started the first cat shelter in the
Calcutta area––one of the first for cats anywhere in Asia––on
land donated by Ms. Majeda Islam at Bibirhat village, a
Calcutta suburb. It feeds and waters the often severely abused
riding ponies and carriage horses at Victoria Park, the Calcutta
equivalent of New York’s Central Park. It sponsors youth
activities, which emphasize vegetarianism, as Toolsidass and
partners believe a vegetarian diet is the foundation of creating
“an ethically aware and compassionate society.”
In addition, an 8-member CCT veterinary team organizes
livestock clinics in villages anywhere within 60 miles of
Calcutta. Much of that work, too, is educational, directed at
improving animal care and combatting illegal exports of cattle
to slaughter in nearby Bangladesh.
But the camps do plenty of hands-on healing, too.
“One such cattle camp, sponsored by Sri Utsav
Parekh, and coordinated by Ram Krishna Mission, treated 952
head of cattle, 560 goats, and 347 poultry,” said a recently
published program descriptions.
On the back was an itemized wish list. Donors may
host a cattle camp for $533. Vaccinating 100 stray dogs against
rabies would cost $67. For $13,333, the appeal promised,
“The CCT clinic will be named after you for life.”
Collecting a $27,960 personal expense account on top
of his annual salary of $183,694, American SPCA president
Roger Caras may spend $13,333 just on lunch.
Money is scarce at the CCT, but in any conflict
between price and principle, Toolsidass et al stand firm.
A leading local newspaper in late 1996 published an
item about how Tokyo efficiently kills stray dogs.
Responded Toolsidass, “Mr. Debasis Chakrabarti
started [our effort in Calcutta] by giving shelter to abandoned
dogs. Reports [of the CCT work] brought a representative of
the Royal SPCA in September 1993. The RSPCA hesitated to
recognize us [as a member society] because Debasis refused to
accept a clause [of their membership agreement] which called
for euthanizing unwanted but healthy dogs. His stand was that
to accept such a policy was both unethical and dangerous. He
feared it would open a floodgate of callous and rampant slaughter.
Your news item vindicated this stand. Reading that three
quarters of a million unwanted pets are killed in Tokyo each
year, I am not surprised that Japan also has the doubtful distinction
of having the world’s highest rates of suicide, hypertension,
and juvenile diabetes. While it is good to have money
and the things money can buy it is also good to check once in a
while lest we lose the things money can’t buy.”
Meanwhile, Toolsidass must raise the money to buy
the van.
[Address the Compassionate Crusaders Trust at
1/13-A, Olai Chandi Road, Calcutta 700 037, India.]

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