In a country where so many are homeless, ask a random person about animal rights and chances are they'll laugh in your face. The fact that animals are living, breathing creatures who need to be loved and cared for does not seem 'logical' to them, and that is why, even until just a couple of years ago, they would support culling free roaming animals in the cities, no matter how inhumane that was. The city corporation did it, people supported it and as a result, almost 20,000 dogs were killed. Every year.
To most people in the country, cats and dogs that we see on the streets are just an inconvenience that needs to be taken care of. Unfortunately, a number of vets also share this mindset, making even home-bred pets extremely vulnerable.
Nothing happens over here unless someone steps up and does it, and that is exactly what Rubaiya Ahmed, Founder and Chairman of Obhoyaronno -- Bangladesh Animal Welfare Society did.
“I had volunteered for a cat rescue programme in the United States as well as for the Indiana Zoo and that experience there motivated me to do something about animal welfare in the country. Even though the dream had always been there, other priorities took over until in 2009, when my dog was killed by Dhaka City Corporation. That gave me the final push to do something about it,” said Rubaiya.
The small initiative in 2009 has become a voice for those who cannot speak, an organisation called Obhoyaronno Bangladesh Animal Welfare Society, which braves the bureaucracy and scepticism in the country to do things differently for our furry friends. It envisions a country where people are compassionate about the animals around us, and act respectfully.
Obhoyaronno focuses on one of the most neglected animals of the country, the stray and free roaming dogs, who are not only under the constant threat of rabies and other infectious diseases, but often come under unimaginable cruelty from people. The organisation advocates putting an end to the mass killing of dogs, and after repeated efforts, the government ended dog-culling in the capital, declaring it as a 'No-Cull City'.
The organisation themselves have been working on sterilising dogs and raising awareness among both the general public and pet owners about the benefits of sterilising. In the past four years, through their continuous efforts, they have spayed and neutered 3500 dogs, not counting the pet animals that come to their veterinary clinic every weekend. Theirs is the country's first CNVR clinic, and their vets are trained from both home and abroad.
All their efforts cumulated to becoming the winner of the HSUS "Animal Advocate of the Year 2012" Award, for doing exceptional work for Bangladesh's animal welfare.
While coming this far was not easy, Rubaiya looks at a more promising future. While staying true to their original mission of dog population management, they aim to expand to at least three locations and help as many pets as possible, since the state private and public veterinary care system is terrible. But there is hope, because people do care.
As Rubaiya recalls, “During the past four years, when the going got tough, we received help, support and kind words from the movers and shakers of the society, we got moral support from our Facebook page, and from the young people who regularly volunteered.”
One surprisingly cooperative party was the government, she adds, “Even though we initially feared the government to be the most challenging party to deal with, to our surprise, the policymakers in government were very supportive to the cause because they realised what animals rights would ensure.”
Through their activities, Obhoyaronno has earned some avid followers as well. One of them is Ashiful, who after seeing the service offered by other vets and hearing stories, had taken his cat all the way to Obhoyaronno's clinic in Boshila.
“I didn't care that it was far or the fact that maybe other vets would have sufficed. It seemed like Obhoyaronno actually cared. I was as afraid as my cat after seeing the dogs outside the clinic, but I am still glad that I decided to come here. They do care for the animals, and a little caring and respect is what every animal deserves.”
Photos from Obhoyaronno's Official Facebook page.
Obhoyaronno's clinic is open to pets on Saturdays, at 780/24 Boshila Road (right before Boshila bridge). Mohammadpur, Dhaka.
Call Rubaiya Ahmed # 0171 864 3497.