KARACHI: Animal care still a distant dream

22 Jul 2008

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KARACHI, July 21: In a city where the number of homeless people is fast rising and humans have a hard time procuring the basic necessities of life, a facility that caters to the needs of animals appears to be a distant dream.

And yet an animal shelter has been taking care of animals for the last 29 years.

Spread over four acres in a somewhat deserted place near the Toll Plaza, Bilquees Edhi Animal Shelter is currently home to around 75 animals including 36 cats, 6 kittens, 18 dogs, 13 puppies and 5 donkeys.

Most of these animals were brought to the shelter either suffering from some disease or were crippled in an accident.

According to a report prepared by the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society in 2005, around 50,000 dogs, countless cats and other animals are roaming in the city.

The animals present in the shelter home have not been given names and they live in what should be called cages in a particular area that has been marked for them with a boundary wall around it.

The cages are located in the middle of a ground, which also serves as a graveyard to many animals such as horses and camels.

In a recent visit to the place, this correspondent saw bones of buried animals strewn all over the place, which, according to the relevant staff, had been dug out by the dogs. Moreover, the upper part of a buried horse had also been unearthed and could be seen clearly.

Most of the animals at the shelter were found roaming around in the same area while dogs have captured some of the cemented cages with their walls missing or their doors left open for the animals to roam around freely. The shelter is also home to a blind cat and a blind falcon.

The facility’s veterinary doctor, Dr Mohammad Ali, said that he took care of the animals 12 hours daily from 8am to 8pm. “I have two gatekeepers with me who assist me in taking care of these animals as well,” he said.

He also told Dawn that two dog-bite cases had occurred on the premises of the centre. However, he added, the victims were given timely medical attention.

When asked about the feeding arrangements for the animals, he said that a vehicle of the Edhi Foundation supplied food and water to the occupants of the shelter twice a day. It is worth mentioning that piped water is not available at the shelter and it has to arrange for water on its own. Dr Ali said that around 15 to 20 kilos of meat, a huge quantity of milk and packed cat food were supplied twice a day.

With little more than a small table, two chairs and a medicine rack in the room, the doctor’s “clinic” does not look very promising. “In case we have to operate on these animals, we take them to the nearby Edhi Village, where there are all the necessary facilities to perform surgeries,” he said.

He told Dawn that people of the nearby village brought their cattle for a medical examination from time to time. “Moreover, some people who have animals that are of no use to them leave them at the centre,” Dr Ali said.

“We approximately receive 30 to 35 animals every month, including those that are brought in for check-ups,” he said.

Dr Ali said that most of the animals brought to the centre had either foot and mouth diseases or breathing disorders. Most of the dogs brought to the shelter either suffered from rabies or scabies, whereas among the cats one was blind from a very young age while others had scabies.

Apart from that, donkeys mainly had broken limbs. The compound meant for the animals also hosted a group of falcons that had broken or dysfunctional wings due to suffering from electric shots.

According to Faisal Edhi of the Edhi Foundation, from Rs15,000 to Rs20,000 was spent each day at the centre. “It is primarily spent on medicines which are quite expensive and then money is spent on food and maintenance,” he said.

Admitting that due to its remote location, people are not very much aware of the functions of the shelter. However, he said: “We have two vehicles that deliver animals to the shelter. As we do not have a direct telephone connection, the usual Edhi number 115 can be dialled if anyone wants to get rid of their pet or stray animals in the neighbourhood”.