How no-kill dog control came to Kolkata, India
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2003:
How no-kill dog control came to Kolkata, India
by Debasis Chakrabarti, founder, Compassionate Crusaders Trust
Kolkata (Calcutta) is the largest truly no-kill city in the
world. It grieves me beyond measure to think of the possibility of a
resumption of slaughter of street dogs. I would like to share our
experience with everyone involved in this work, because I believe
that the method we use is largely contributory to our success.
The first and perhaps most important precaution we took, was
to send letters to the municipal councillors, informing them that we
have taken up this program, explaining the benefits of it, and
seeking their cooperation in calling us when they see an injured or
troublesome stray dog. This won for us their instant approval and
smoothed the way considerably.
The next step was to impress upon all our people that the
calls of the councillors, other government departments, hospitals
and housing complexes, and other public places must get priority.
This enabled us to convince decision-makers that our program works.
Then we made it a practice to remove sick and injured dogs
from the roads, wherever our people saw them. A concentrated effort
made the roads free of badly diseased dogs, and silenced many of our
We also made it our practice to initially agree with dog
haters when they called us to remove dogs. Our people were tutored
to soothe people who had become indignant when dog lovers refused to
understand their fear or dislike for dogs threatening their children
or messing up the common areas in a residential complex. After the
irate person was calm, and confident of our cooperation, our people
gently began to ask with seeming casualness whether all the dogs in
the locality threatened them or whether it was just one?
Most often, people grow adamant due to a personal grudge
against a neighbour who refuses to admit that their grievance has
some validity. With some understanding and pampering, they begin to
agree that they have no wish to harm an animal, but it is just this
one dog who is a habitual nuisance. Then our people offer to
sterilize and return the rest, removing just this one villain, and
they usually agree.
Such an agreement angers people who are attached to that one
disputed dog. This is natural, but in the greater interest of all
dogs, it is the only way out. Unless we convince dog haters that
not all dogs are dangerous, they will join the killing brigade,
poisoning dogs, beating them or pouring boiling water or acid on
even small puppies. Dog lovers cannot guard stray dogs around the
clock, and it is the animals who become targets for the hatred of
We are extremely lucky that the management of the Kolkata dog
pound was handed over to us in March 1996. We have won the full
confidence and cooperation of the municipality with our quick
responses. The pound is very near the city dump. It is a vast area,
and we are able to release unwanted dogs there after sterilization
and vaccination, although it is our practice to euthanise badly
diseased dogs and accident victims who cannot be cured.
A major cause for confusion are the rules of the Animal Birth
Control program made by the Government of India.
The Notice states that “All dogs picked up for the humane
stray dog population control program are to be returned to their
respective localities, as soon as they are fit.”
Most dog lovers just read this part and blame us for not
returning unwanted dogs. It is tragic that they fail to accept the
fact that unwanted dogs will be brutally killed and ill treated, if
returned against the wish of local people. People who dislike dogs
are prejudiced against all dogs. The result of returning even one
unwanted dog brings suffering to many more dogs.
Exceptions in the law include Point 9, stating that
incurably ill and mortally wounded dogs shall be euthanised in a
humane manner, and point 10, stating that dogs having other
diseases (except rabies) are to be handed over to nonprofit humane
societies, who will take the necessary action to cure and
rehabilitate those dogs.
This exceptions need to be understood by dog lovers who
become aggressive about returning unwanted dogs, or refuse to
euthanise a dog who may suffer from an advanced case of mange.
However unpleasant it is to put down a dog, it is counterproductive
to avoid facing the facts. One mangy dog will infect many more,
giving all dogs a bad name and adding to their suffering.
This becomes a point of contention, but I plead for
rationality to supercede sentiment, in the greater interest of the
greater number of strays.
We have been recommending through talks at schools that their
nature clubs should raise funds to sponsor ABC for the dogs in their
We have succeeded in convincing the authorities of most
complexes that an unending stream of new dogs will enter if dogs are
removed en masse. When a letter explaining the matter rationally is
carried by a pleasant person who offers full cooperation, most people
see the rationale of the suggestion and accept it after a while. Of
course, this takes some time and patience, and maybe two or three
trips and letters back and forth. Yet, nothing comes cheap, and it
is worth the effort to make a success of this program.