Shocked Townend halts
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1998:
VISAKHAPATNAM, MUMBAI, BANGALORE––
Dogs must no longer be electrocuted in Visakhapatam, India,
the Andhra Pradesh High Court ruled on November 4––just as
ANIMAL PEOPLE prepared to publish excerpts from an
expose of the practice by Help In Suffering managing trustee
Christine Townend, documented by photographs far too gruesome
“Yesterday, late night, I received the news that the
High Court has passed the order that the Municipal Corporation
of Visakhapatnam must immediately stop the killing of stray
dogs,” Visakha SPCA secretary Pradeep Kumar Nath faxed to
Townend. “The petitioner,” Nath on behalf of the Visakha
SPCA, “has been given three months’ time, with an extended
grace period of two months, to start an Animal Birth Control
Program,” modeled after those in effect in Mumbai,
Hyderabad, Jaipur, Delhi, and other Indian cities with a nokill
animal control policy.
“Meanwhile,” Nath continued, “only the terminally
sick and dangerous dogs may be put to sleep, by means of
Nath said he was arranging for the Visakha SPCA to
supervise enforcement of the High Court order.
“I’m totally over the moon,” said Townend.
Townend visited Visakhapatnam on October 21 at
Nath’s request, after his lawsuit against the dog electrocutions
hadn’t advanced in 18 months. Townend recorded in detail a
30-minute procedure by one Mr. Bangarayya, the municipal
dogcatcher, which included packing a two-day collection of 40
dogs into a single wire cage, drenching them with the help of
“several young children” whom the dogcatcher hired “for a few
rupees per day,” jolting them repeatedly with household current,
stabbing the survivors, and burying some alive who were
unconscious but still breathing.
Mr. Bangarayya was paid 10 rupees per dog
killed––about $1.75 for each day’s work.
“The dogs were almost all young, verifying that massive
killing of dogs does not eliminate the dog population, but
only encourages it to breed rapidly to fill the available space,”
“After taking photos and witnessing the procedure,”
she added, “I determined that this must be stopped at once.”
She had already complained to the Viskhapatnam city
veterinarian, a Dr. Reddy, to no avail. She had also solicited
use of surgical facilities for the ABC program from “the deputy
director of the Visakhapatnam Polyclinic,” who promised
cooperation, but “suggested that he would like curtains put on
the window of the room at the Polyclinic where he lives.”
Then Townend was frustrated. Now she was furious.
“I again visited Dr. Reddy, with Mr. Nath,” she
wrote, “and told him that if he did not stop this method of
killing, which is contrary to the 1960 Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals Act, I would go straight to Delhi to Mrs. Maneka
Gandhi and to the media, and that Visakhapatnam’s name
would be blackened around the world. After this, his attitude
changed,” at least to the extent of agreeing to make the electrocutions
That wasn’t good enough. Townend dispatched
copies of her documentation to Maneka Gandhi, the Indian
cabinet minister for social justice and empowerment, and––still
on October 21, en route back to the Help In Suffering sanctuary
in Jaipur––met in Mumbai with D.R. Mehta, chair of the
Securities and Exchange Board of India.
Author of a recent pamphlet entitled The New Allies:
Science & Non-Violence, Mehta is also a dedicated Jain advocate
for both animals and human rights.
“D.R. Mehta immediately donated 15,000 rupees to
Mr. Nath,” to help start the Visakhapatnam ABC program,
Townend recounted, “and took me to meet other wealthy Jains
who might also help. One of his contacts agreed to donate
another 100,000 rupees from a charitable fund,” and agreed to
help expedite the court case.
It was an extraordinary day for Nath, who founded
the Visakha SPCA with little but hope in 1995. According to
Townend, who confirmed her account with independent witnesses,
Nath rises each morning at 4:30 a.m. “to patrol the
nearby beaches to ensure no olive ridley turtles are on the sand,
where they face the risk of killing by dogs, rats, or humans.
He then purchases food with his own money and feeds various
colonies of dogs and cats. After this, he returns to his house
where he feeds 11 rescued animals, whom he has nowhere else
to keep. He works as a clerk at the State Bank of India,”
Townsend continued, “and has refused promotion because he
does not wish to be transferred to another city where he cannot
watch over the street dogs and the turtles. He sleeps about four
hours a night.”
Before D.R. Mehta’s gift, the largest contribution the
Visakha SPCA had received in 1998 was $100 from ANIMAL
PEOPLE in payment for photographs.
[The Visakha SPCA is located at 26-15-200, Main
Road, Visakhapatnam 530 001, India.]
D.R. Mehta was earlier instrumental in obtaining an
October 5 ruling from the Bombay High Court that Mumbai
may not kill stray dogs.
The court directed Mumbai to adhere to Animal
Welfare Board of India guidelines, which require that dogs
suspected of being ill, rabid, or vicious be quarantined. The
decision to kill any dog is to be made by a veterinarian.
Mumbai adopted a no-kill animal control policy in
1994, after spending 10 million rupees to catch and electrocute
stray dogs during the preceding year. Under the no-kill agreement,
Mumbai animal welfare organizations were to sterilize at
least 5,000 stray dogs per year. Among them, they actually
sterilized 7,500 to 8,000 dogs per year.
Successfully emulated elsewhere in India, the
Mumbai program was recommended as national policy in
In mid-1998, however, a stray dog bit the son of
Kirit Somaiya, president of the Mumbai chapter of the
Bharatiya Janata Party––and the BJP had just formed a new
national government. At Somaiya’s demand, the BMC
announced it would kill all “nuisance” dogs––which it claimed
would be only dogs who were sick or bite.
Remembering that “sick” had been quite broadly
defined before 1994, the animal welfare organizations Ahimsa
and the Viniyog Parivar Trust immediately challenged the
killing policy, and won a temporary stay on it in late August.
The High Court ruling––pending further appeal or legislative
amendment––makes the stay permanent.
Earlier, Hyderabad opted for an escalated ABC program
instead of wholesale dog-killing, after Swapna Devi, age
4, was reportedly dragged from her family’s shack in June and
eaten by a pack of as many as 30 dogs. Andhra Pradesh High
Court Justice B. Sudarshan Reddy on November 5 found the
city and state jointly responsible for Devi’s death, and awarded
her mother Padma Devi compensation of $3,700, with which
“to better the life of her two sisters.”
Bangalore is reportedly still electrocuting about 1,300
dogs a year, at a pound The Times of India recently described
as “a throwback to the Nazis.”
As in Visakhapatnam, the electrocutions result from
public fear of dogbites, and especially from fear of rabies.
Human deaths from rabies in Bangalore alone through the first
two-thirds of 1998 were coming at a pace likely to top 100, up
from 73 in 1997––which is more than the total number of
human rabies deaths in the U.S. since 1960.
“Only the Animal Birth Control program is the
longterm humane answer,” Compassion Unlimited Plus Action
honorary secretary Suparna Baksi-Ganguly told ANIMAL
PEOPLE. CUPA, the major Bangalore humane society,
recovers, sterilizes, and vaccinates about 200 dogs per year
from the city pound: enough to demonstrate the efficacy of the
approach, but far short of a full-scale ABC program. BaksiGanguly
has written to ANIMAL PEOPLE at least three times
since July 1996, seeking updated information on possible
sources of funding for full-scale ABC, to replace the dog electrocutions,
but has not so far attracted notice from any major
U.S. animal welfare foundations.
[CUPA is located at 257 1st Cross, HAL II Stage,
Indiranagar, Bangalore 560 038, India.]