Kill stray dogs or cats and tourism may take a hit, warns animal lover Manfred Klaus.

Tourist advisories from Germany and other parts of Europe have hinted at blackballing the State, if reports on systematic killing of stray dogs are verified true. Authorities have not really woken up to this fact, which if it happens can have a huge impact on tourist arrivals this season. Stray dogs and cats, if not properly neutered, left to suffer, are bound to ruin vacation plans of many, negatively impacting profits for the industry.

A recent study has revealed that more than 40 per cent of people will not return to places where they have seen suffering stray dogs or cats or heard of reports about this. And a growing number of people have sworn they would not visit these places at all.

Manfred Klaus, a German medical consultant and CEO/MD of a German medical company, who operates out of the city and is a passionate dog lover feels that authorities need to take urgent steps to prevent an ‘imminent disaster.’ “I got a message from NTV, one of the leading television networks in Europe about killing of stray dogs in Kerala. They wanted first-hand information before they actually went on air with the news. This is serious because it is bound to affect tourist arrivals from Europe, Germany especially, to Kerala. And in future it can also lead to cuts in funding of other activities,” feels Manfred, who has been caring for stray dogs in Vypeen for some time now.

Our relationships with animals are complex and paradoxical. We allow dogs and cats to breed, let them out on the streets to be mercilessly killed. “In the last two years at least 400 dogs have been killed in Kochi alone. Yes, there is fear when these dogs move about menacingly on the streets. There has been the odd case when they have attacked people. But then instead of isolating the aggressive ones, all the animals are killed. This includes even those which have been vaccinated and have undergone Animal Birth Control (ABC) methods. The animal welfare groups working in the city feel that there is a tacit understanding between the communities engaged in the killing and the civil authorities. I’m not sure whether people realise that killing animals is punishable under sections 428 and 429 of the IPC,” feels B. Pradip Kumar, of KARMMA (Kerala Animal Rescue Ministering & Management Association).

Making an attempt

The Cochin Corporation does not buy this. “In 2012, with the help of Rotary Club and some animal welfare groups, we initiated the ABC programme in the city. For four days we put them in shelters, fed them and looked after them. But we were not allowed to take them back to the places from where they were picked up. There were protests from residents and finally we had to abandon them. We will make another attempt this year too,” says T.K. Ashraf, chairman, Standing Committee (Health), Cochin Corporation.

Absence of animal shelters in the city makes it difficult for the authorities to rehabilitate the ABC dogs. “Why Kochi? The State has not thought of animal shelters, which are common in our neighbouring States. Perhaps the Corporation should think of leasing out land on a short term basis to animal welfare groups to set up shelters. The only way of not killing dogs is to work towards a no-birth situation. This might take three or four years if done systematically. The old animals will die and there will be no puppies too,” feels Pradip Kumar.

Manfred is surprised by the claims of a section of the media, and the authorities in general, about foreign tourists being worried about stray dogs in India. “It’s the other way round. The Taj Mahal, elephants, streets even the dogs there are on their must-see list while visiting the country. Seeing animals suffer and being treated brutally is what puts them off. I know of a province in China that has been blacklisted by European tourists for its dog meat festival.”

Manfred offers some suggestions that may help in addressing this issue. “There are some basic things that can help. Pet lovers should consider adopting street dogs rather than buying pedigreed ones. Shelters should be created and ABC practised systematically, starting with male dogs. If residents have a problem they should contact the various animal welfare organisations instead of hiring people to kill the dogs,” he says.

There is a need for awareness regarding this pressing problem among resident associations, colonies and even children. “A lot can be done voluntarily,” feels Manfred. “Spay and neuter your companion animal(s) and also encourage others to do the same. In association with KARMMA and other groups I intend going to schools, colonies and educating them on how to deal with stray dogs. People need to volunteer in this campaign. Most importantly become a foster parent to a dog or cat and help find them a home. I think it is still not too late for this lovely state, this lovely city,” he signs off.

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