Rubina Jhuboo Animal lover and rescuer
The catch and kill methods towards controlling the stray population of the Mauritius Society of Animal Welfare (MSAW), a government funded organization, formerly known as the MSPCA, has, over decades, created controversy, spurring international media outrage, actions by local and international animal activists and led the Minister of Agro Industry into announcing, last year in Parliament, that the catch and kill of strays will be put to an end. It was also announced that shelters will be built across the island to house the homeless animals. You will remember that a footage showing dog handlers brutally stabbing dogs in the MSAW compound – a clear violation of the Animal Welfare Act – shocked the whole world; and animal lovers across the globe called to boycott the Mauritius destination. Despite all these past events and the announcement made by the Minister of Agro Industry, it is regrettable to note that catch and kill is still being practiced by the MSAW and we are witnessing, on a daily basis, the catching of strays and owned dogs. The announcement made remained an announcement and we have till date no indication whether the ill practices of the MSAW have been changed. We have witnessed several instances where the animals caught were treated with utmost cruelty by MSAW employees. Worse even, innocent puppies and kittens surrendered to the MSAW for adoption are put to sleep if not adopted!
The stray population is getting out of hand every year, perpetrated by uneducated Mauritians and a total mismanagement of the problem by the MSAW and the concerned Ministry over the past decades. A baby step towards the right direction has been taken with the announcement of a pilot sterilization campaign in the East. The solution to the stray issue is simple. It boils down to mass sterilization and education. Both are the mandate of the MSAW and despite having access to public funds, very little has been done so far. In fact, as a rescuer and animal lover, I have witnessed private NGOs and individuals involved in saving strays doing a much better job with minimal funds and their meagre salaries. The MSAW has easy access to the National radio and television, yet so little is done to promote responsible pet ownership, advertise the benefits of sterilization and generally educate the mass on Animal Welfare issues. Free sterilisations have been run but these have been erratic and not sustained. Every single day we witness people dumping litters of puppies and kittens because they did not bother to sterilize their pets. All these call for tougher laws and a better application of the existing laws against animal cruelty and pet abandonment.
Worse even is the problem of breeding. There is not enough control on how licensed breeders conduct their activities. Litters and litters are being produced by greedy, money-minded breeders, breed dogs are being imported, whilst, every single week, hundreds of perfectly healthy cross breed dogs are being put to sleep by the MSAW. So many illegal breeders, that is people who do not have a breeding license and should not legally be engaged in breeding, have mushroomed, greatly assisted by Facebook, where their ‘products’ are sold without any control and restriction. Where is the responsibility of the ICTA and Animal Welfare Unit in that?
Catch and kill is not the solution to the stray issue and has, over the forty years in which it has been practiced, not resolved the stray problem on the island. Why? Research has demonstrated that animal control solutions that work in developed countries do not work in underdeveloped countries. Strays caught and killed are very quickly replaced as the environment that sustains the stray population remains the same and this practice in Mauritius is not backed by a sustained education and mass sterilization campaign. The most humane solution to the stray problem is to create shelters for the strays and the catch-neuter-and-release program whereby strays are caught, sterilized and released. This initiative must be supported by a nationwide sterilization and education campaign. The MSAW should enlist the assistance of both the local and international NGOs in this process.
The existing laws concerning Animal Welfare should be revised in consultation with NGOs. It costs Rs 3000 to release an animal which has been caught by the MSAW. Hence, instead of encouraging people to save a stray from the streets, the existing laws make it more difficult. Where is the logic in killing so many of our Mauritian dogs every week and allowing money making machines to produce legally and illegally, without any control, breed dogs? This country has turned into a Nazi system for dogs.
Above all, the functioning of this Mauritius Society for Animal Torture must be revised once and for all and it should really be doing what it purports to, that is, promoting Animal Welfare!
No doubt this country has more pressing social and political issues to overcome. However, Mahatma Gandhi, in his great wisdom, was of the view that the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. As matters currently stand, there is nothing great or moral with our nation and the way our fellow countrymen are treating animals. My plea to you, Honourable Prime Minister, is to hear the calls of these innocent animals and citizens of this country and engage yourself to change the fate of the animals of this island, something so far, no Prime Minister has ever done. The cruelest animals are us… not them…