A year ago, city dwellers had to witness a horrendous form of brutality unleashed on two female dogs and 14 puppies.
On October 25 of last year, Md Siddique, 45, a security guard of a local youth engagement club in Rampura beat the dogs mercilessly with sticks, stuffed them, along with their puppies, into plastic bags and sacks and buried them alive.
The incident triggered a firestorm of protests among the animal welfare activists who dug the bodies out in presence of police. A post-mortem was conducted and a case was filed with Rampura Police Station on November 1 for animal cruelty.
Killing stray dogs was common in Bangladesh, but yesterday the country saw the first ever jail sentence of a perpetrator of animal cruelty as a Dhaka court sentenced Siddique to six months' jail under the Cruelty to Animals Act, 1920.
Metropolitan Magistrate in Dhaka, Md Ahsan Habib, also fined him Tk 200, in default, to suffer seven more days in jail.
"Such punishment is a message to the offender that nobody can show courage by killing urban wildlife, like dogs," said the magistrate.
Siddique has been on the run since the argument of the case was placed against him.
His punishment will be effective from the day of his arrest or surrender.
The magistrate said the prosecution has proved the charges against the convict beyond doubt and he was given the highest form of punishment mentioned in the Cruelty to Animals Act, 1920.
Earlier on May 11 last year, Dhaka Chief Judicial Magistrate Jesmin Ara Begum delivered the first-ever judgment under the act, fining Md Mamun of Savar Tk 300 in a case filed with Savar Police Station for killing two dogs.
In the case filed with Rampura Police Station, it was said that the security guard of Bagichartek Welfare Association, a local youth engagement club in Rampura, beat the two dogs and buried them and their puppies alive on October 25, 2017.
After receiving information, Rakibul Haq Emil, founder and chairman of People for Animal Welfare (PAW) Foundation, along with police went to the spot and recovered the bodies. Police then made inquest reports in which they found injury marks on the bodies.
Later on November 11, Emil filed a case against Siddique with Rampura Police Station under the Cruelty to Animals Act, 1920. On November 30, SI Nasiruddin and the investigation officer of the case pressed charges against Siddique.
Emil, along with other members of the organisation who were present at the court, expressed his satisfaction over the verdict.
"It is a milestone in the history of animal welfare in Bangladesh. This is the first time the highest punishment has been given. We are happy," said Emil, demanding raising social awareness and updating the hundred year old act and making it stringent.
"A new draft had received cabinet's nod recently and we hope it will have stricter provisions to stop cruelty towards animals," he added.
Nandita Das, country director of Humane Society International, works on animal protection issues around the world, also hailed the verdict, terming it a landmark judgment.
"There is a correlation between animal cruelty and human cruelty," she said, adding that studies show that those who commit such animal cruelty early in their lives, indulge in human violence.
She demanded that the government makes the new law stricter so that no one can get away with brutality against animals.
Stressing on raising social awareness, she said, this is the high time to raise awareness about the fact that the lives of animals are not worthless and they have also the right to live.
THE FIRST CASE
In July 2015, Bangladesh made the first arrest in an animal cruelty case. Police arrested three people for beating a dog on the streets of Rampura. Obhoyaronno, an animal welfare group, filed the case with Rampura Police Station.
The case is now under trial.
THE ANIMAL WELFARE BILL
The new draft, termed the Animal Welfare Bill, worked on by Maya Barolo Rizvi, country head of Humane Society International (HIS) Bangladesh, and Jayasimha Nuggehalli, managing director of HSI India who had visited Bangladesh a year ago to create the new draft, will include stray animals, whereas the 1920 Act defines 'animal' as either domesticated or captured.
The bill will first and foremost focus on changing the name from “The Cruelty to Animals Act” to the “Animal Welfare Act”. “The word cruelty is what we will focus on in this regard, because when you are ensuring that an animal is not facing cruelty, we're not necessarily concerned about its 'welfare' and well-being,” said Nuggehalli when he spoke to The Daily Star last year.
The need for these changes was recognised by the government and on February 20, 2017, the Animal Welfare Bill received a go-ahead from the cabinet.