The island-nation marks a policy that heralded a humane turn in its fight against rabies. A Presidential directive issued in May 2006 ended the cruel practice of seizing and killing dogs, which was introduced by the British colonial rulers in 1893, and remained in force for 58 years since independence.

The Postal Department of Sri Lanka made history in the issue of stamps, with its latest stamp issued on Thursday to mark the policy of using humane methods for rabies eradication and dog population control.

The policy, which replaced the earlier practice of seizing and killing of dogs for rabies control, was established following a directive by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in May 2006, that the killing of dogs be stopped, and modern, scientific and humane methods that are also in keeping with the traditional values of the country, be used for rabies eradication.

With this directive Sri Lanka stopped following the cruel practice of seizing and killing dogs, which was introduced by British colonial rulers in 1893,and remained in force for 58 years since independence.

It is now the first country is South Asia to follow such a humane policy for an important aspect of public health and disease eradication.

The President’s directive followed representations made to him by Sathva Mithra, and saw the realization of what animal welfare organizations had failed to achieve under previous administrations.

The first stamp was cancelled by G. L. Peiris, Acting Minister of Post and Minister for Export Development and International Trade, at a function here at the ceremonial issue of the stamp organised by Sathva Mithra.

Speaking at the stamp issue Sagarica Rajakarunanayake, President of Sathva Mithra, said: “We are here to celebrate the success of a bold initiative by His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa that has in one important area of activity, affecting public health and social consciousness, taken us back to the strength of our traditional values. This stamp is recognition of our leadership in an important area of humane activity in South Asia. Those of us who are active in working for the rights and welfare of animals know there is much more to be done, and much more to gain. We give our assurance to the rabies control authorities of support in carrying forward the humane eradication campaign which they are implementing wholeheartedly.”

The Chief Guest Prof. G. L. Peiris said the issue would help a breakthrough in thinking of the need for compassion and tolerance to all beings.

First stamp for a community dog

He said that Sri Lankan society had been brutalized by the long war against terror, and it was necessary to restore our belief in the values of compassion, kindness and tolerance in our society. Steps such as the issue of this stamp recognized the President’s opposition to cruelty to animals, and his interest in humane treatment of all beings and congratulated Sathva Mithra for its courageous work to protect the rights of animals and animal welfare.

He pledged to move to get the Animal Welfare Bill that is now before a Parliamentary Select Committee, enacted, at least in the sections that were not controversial and only dealt with the stopping of cruelty to animals and their welfare.

It is the first stamp issued that depicts a community dog, which lives among the people, although not fenced in, that was hunted down and killed for more than 150 years, under the colonial policy for rabies eradication, continued after 1948 too.

The current humane policy for rabies eradication is targeted at the large scale vaccination of dogs against rabies, and the use of sterilization and neutering for dog population control.

The policy is already showing positive results in arresting the spread of rabies and is in keeping the WHO Guidelines for rabies control, which states that killing is not an effective means of reducing dog population, particularly in societies showing a high tolerance of dogs.

According to postal authorities, the new stamp is expected to have great demand among stamp collectors, both for its unusual theme and its depiction of a community dog.