I’m a stray dog in Bangalore and I’ve had learn to live with
“The Lesser of Two Evils”
25 million stray dogs were reportedly killed in Bangalore from 1934 – 1999 by the municipal corporation of Bangalore as a measure of stray dog population control. It is a moot point that that did nothing for actually controlling the population. One does however meet old Bangaloreans who talk of the ‘good old times’ when one only had to complain and the dogs in the street would be ‘taken away’. One also meets those who remember that time in horror. What escapes both is the horror of what was happening till it came to light in April 1999.
These dogs were ‘taken’ away to be electrocuted in a dog pound run by the Bangalore Municipal Corporation. That may have been the norm from British times but there is a difference in a humane killing and perpetrating cruelty. However, as happens in a country where children don’t have any decent healthcare these, the pound ‘chambers’, were medieval and really nothing more than metal kennels to pass the current flowing through a dog’s body. A crying dog would be dragged in, a worker would put a naked wire around its neck, and throw on a switch – the dog would die of the current passing through its neck and going through its body. But not before it completely burnt its neck and it bled from its orifices. If there were a litter of puppies then they all were stringed together with the same wire. Born together, they’d die together as well. And this happened in the plain view of the other dogs waiting their turn. Later, all the bodies would be piled and ‘disposed off’ – which means thrown away as garbage. BBMP (the present municipal corporation of Bangalore still ‘disposes off’ dogs like that – by just throwing them in refuse. They become mulch or landfill depending on who picked them up that day.
The place that they were taken away to was the dog pound in what is now Viveknagar. The ghastly situation becomes more interesting when you consider that the dog pound in question was being managed and run by Bangalore’s best known Non–Government (NGO) Animal Welfare Organization (AWO) called Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA). To our understanding, sometime after 1994 the then SPCA (now called Karuna) and CUPA started doing Animal Birth Control surgeries. However, these surgeries formed only a part of the population control measure.
A few weeks ago we got into our possession a video film (originally VHS) that had documented the electrocutions and we did not have the entire background. This article was not originally about CUPA or another AWO at all. It was, if it were going to be released at all, was about stating a historical fact about electrocutions in 1999. But two things happened as we started putting together the picture which had led to these unabated electrocutions with the full awareness of CUPA and SPCA (1) We’d released the video on our Facebook page (since it is a closed community) with a small backgrounder on what this was – it did not get too much notice but of some people determined to pursue the line that we were singling out CUPA. For the record the video was uploaded on the same day on our YouTube channel but kept private and not released publicly pending ‘this’ article of which it would be a part & (2) We started getting a barrage on ‘why were we targeting CUPA’ – which we were not. But that outrage on an event that had not happened caused us to look a little deeper.
For the record we did inform CUPA about this article and that we were looking for information but will not take a position on an AWO – CUPA refused to comment.
This is what we found. This article is in two parts.
- The 1st was the release of the 1999 electrocution video and its circumstance in 1999 showing that CUPA was indeed complicit in BMC action. There may be nothing ‘wrong’ with it except a ‘moral’ question of whether this was what CUPA was designed to be. But like I said its a moral question and can be explained either way.
- The 2nd is of the years that followed which was when the ABC program took hold in Bangalore from 2000 onwards – but now when euthanasia was not allowed with the ABC rules in place,
- CUPA’s euthanasia numbers are so in excess of its peers that it was killing 60% of all the dogs that were euthanized in Bangalore from between 2000 & 20007* and
- 4 of 10 dogs that entered CUPA never made it out in that same period
showing that CUPA was, at best, passive in the face of BMC action, which may raise an inference of complicity.
Background of the 1999 Electrocution Video
The video in question was made by Poornima Harish (Founder Trustee of ARF) and Sai Sanjay and Savitha Nagabhushan (of CUPA) on 9th and 10th of April 1999.
CUPA reportedly was in the pound since 1994 under an MOU signed between the then BMC (now BBMP) and CUPA. Several witness accounts confirm that they were indeed in the pound through 1999 and 2000 (and have had the pound thereafter for ABC programs to this day). While it is known that the MOU(s) were effective under which SPCA and CUPA were running the ABC and Euthanasia programs it is not known what were the terms of the BMC MOU. Reports from that time suggest that only rabid & ‘furious’ (a term that BBMP continues to use till this day) dogs were to be euthanised but published reports quoting CUPA management clearly agrees that other dogs including small pups were being euthanized.
The video was sent to Menaka Gandhi. She reportedly came down within 48 hrs. Before Ms Gandhi came down to Bangalore, eyewiteness accounts say, that the other NGOs who had witnessed the film did little to confront the BMC. The mainstream media at the time, was also shown the videos, but showed no interest in carrying the story. In Bangalore Ms Gandhi had a meeting of all the NGOs/ AWOs and BMC in the presence of Mr Jairaj (the then Commissioner of BMC) and the decision was taken by BMC to discontinue electrocution. However, witness accounts clearly show that electrocution continued till in 2000. Ms Savitha Nagabhushan prevailed on the Karnataka Electricty Board (KEB) to disallow the use of the electricity supply from the grid to eventually stop electrocution.
Part I: Why was CUPA passive in the face of BMC’s electrocution policy?
It is not known why CUPA which is the pioneer in animal advocacy and welfare in Bangalore, did not make this issue public or fight it out in Court if they were being made to do something against their grain. A municipality, or those advocating the destruction of strays, may well say Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act seems to allow the killing of stray dogs. We’d have expected an AWO, however, to look beyond that. After all, the law doesn’t say that a ‘lethal chamber’ has to be an electrocution hell hole. Moreover, if killing in the “manner prescribed” is what was intended to be allowed, was it indeed the “manner prescribed” to kill / allow the horrible, chillingly cruel killing of strays through electrocution?
According to information available with us from eyewitness, the video and newspapers from the time at least 30-40 dogs per day were electrocuted and this was in 1 shift everyday (on video). In 1999, there were at least 3 dog-catching vans (bearing registration numbers 893, 894 and 895) each catching at least 15-20 dogs each, 25 days in a month. The total catch would be approximately 1000. Of these 200-250 dogs were done ABC on, the rest were electrocuted.
Dr Sreenivasan, IPS, then Director General of Police (DGP) was then the President of CUPA even as a serving officer. He still serves on CUPA’s board. Even if CUPA didn’t realize that in their President, the then DGP, they perhaps had the means to make a difference to the startling cruel electrocution method of population control, in our view there was a clear conflict of interest between their mandate as an animal welfare organization, and the electrocutions that went on so smoothly at the premises under their occupation.
Eyewitness accounts are that in several volunteer meetings at the Fire & Home Guards office of DGP Sreenivasan (near Ulsoor Lake) CUPA agreed that electrocutions were happening but it was BMC that was doing so. So, it was not as if CUPA did not know about it. The newspaper report also points that out clearly.
Further information available with us shows that electrocution was the popular mode of killing not because it was the ‘prescribed method’ perhaps by BMC but because it was ‘cheaper’. Newspaper reports from the period suggest that electrocution was adopted because the cost of killing a dog was Rs 1 and required no skill at the dog pound as against Rs 15 and skill required by the employees of the dog pound. Again, CUPA is on record that they were using electricity and MagSulf to kill dogs. The Times of India article from the period clearly quoted SPCA saying that such killing is cruel but CUPA continued the killing with electrocution because it was cheaper and did not require any skills unlike using IV.
After the electrocutions stopped, some of the animal welfare volunteers spent a lot of time in BMC hoping for some official action. The then DC Mr Vasant Rao was shocked to see electrocution photos. He immediately arranged for the volunteers to meet the Joint Commissioner Mr Ashok Dalwai. Mr Dalwai called for a meeting of all AWOs. Even in the absence of ABC Rules, Dalwai was convinced of ABC and asked AWOs to start ABC.
That was the beginning of ABC in Bangalore. In 2000 ‘packages’ were allocated to AWOs for the ABC program. Thereafter in 2003 a new tender was issued.
Part II: CUPA and other AWO’s performance since 2000*
*This part of the report is based on the ABC performance audit report made by KIMS in 2007 (henceforth called the Sudarshan Committee report and that can be read in full here, an earlier analysis of the efficacy of the ABC program using the same report can be seen here ) which had audited by the records and performance of all Animal Welfare Organizations (AWO’s) operational from 2001 to YTD 2007*
The AWOs audited by the Sudarshan Committee report include:
- Karuna Animal Welfare Association (formerly SPCA)
- Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA)
- Animal Rights Fund (ARF)
- Krupa Loving Animals
- Department of Animal Health & Vetenirary Sciences (AH & VS)
Strangely from 2003 BBMP gave out ABC contracts with built in euthanasia targets. This was illegal and completely against the ABC rules already in place. But to our knowledge only ARF took the MOU with objections and all including CUPA executed on the MOU. Whereas they either should not have taken the euthanasia targets or raised this issue legally or at least raised objections. Nothing of the sort was done.
The set targets (per month) were
- Karuna – ABC 600, Euthanise 200 : Euthanization of 25% of capture
- CUPA – ABC 600, Euthanise 200 : Euthanization of 25% of capture
- ARF – ABC 600, Euthanise 200 : Euthanization of 25% of capture
- Krupa – ABC 300, Euthanise 100 : Euthanization of 25% of capture
- AH & VS – ABC 3000 pa, Euthanise 750 : Euthanization of 20% of capture
Here’s a brief of analysis of the AWOs audited by Sudarsham Committee:
>>> Here’s a brief of analysis of the AWOs audited by Sudarsham Committee:
What is more CUPA’s total kill % (total euthanized as % of total dogs captured) from 2000-2007* was 35% i.e it put down almost 4 of every 10 dogs that are picked up from the streets of Bangalore when doing ABC (post the excesses of electrocution). It also put down 60% of all dogs in Bangalore from 2000-2007*
In the same period CUPA was by far the largest recipient from BBMP for its services rendered towards Animal Welfare in Bangalore. Just that somehow the previous statistics of animal welfare don’t necessarily ad up.
I am a stray dog in Bangalore and I’ve had to learn to live with the lesser of the 2 evils. Live is actually the wrong word. Die is appropriate.
- Be it the ‘humane’ killings of 1999 and before, or the Sodium Pentothol ones later.
- The world without ABC programs before 2000, or the world with ABC program where little changed to diminish the kill rate.
- A world where no-one cared for me and municipalities declared me a pest, and in one where animal welfare organizations failed me.
I’ve never had a chance. I really wish I did not have this Hobson’s choice. I really wish I had that 500 sq feet of the filthy street-corner to myself and it could be home.
Achievements of targets from 2000 to 2007 (Jan) were:
- Karuna: 2000-2002: captured 9932 dogs, euthanized 1891 that is had a kill % of 19%; 2003-2007: captured 22281, euthanized 7835, that is had a kill percentage of 35%; Overall achievement of euthanization target: 89%; Overall % of dogs euthanized in Bangalore (2000-2007*): 19.1%
- CUPA: 2000-2002: captured 14642 dogs, euthanized 2854 that is had a kill % of 19.5%; 2003-2007: captured 43643, euthanized 22048, that is had a kill percentage of 50.5%; Overall achievement of euthanization target: 149%; Overall % of dogs euthanized in Bangalore (2000-2007*): 60%; CUPA total kill 35% that they have killed at least 3 out of every 10 dogs they have caught!
- ARF: 2000-2002: captured 19190 dogs, euthanized 3872 that is had a kill % of 20%; 2003-2007: captured 28137, euthanized 3572, that is had a kill percentage of 12.7%; Overall achievement of euthanization target: 48%; Overall % of dogs euthanized in Bangalore (2000-2007*): 14.6%
- Krupa: 2000-2002: NA:2003-2007: captured 13421, euthanized 2161, that is had a kill percentage of 16.1%; Overall achievement of euthanization target: 46%; Overall % of dogs euthanized in Bangalore (2000-2007*): 4.2%
- AH & VS: 2000-2002: NA; 2003-2007: captured 8928, euthanized 1261, that is had a kill percentage of 14.1%; Overall achievement of euthanization target: 43%; Overall % of dogs euthanized in Bangalore (2000-2007*): 2.4%
Percentage of total spend by BBMP: Karuna 21%; CUPA 34%; ARF 29%; KRUPA 10.6%; AH & VS 3.2%
Cumulative ABC target acheivement: Karuna 88%; CUPA 97%; ARF 113%; KRUPA 95%; AH & VS 76%