For decades, Nepal hasn’t treated its tens of thousands of homeless, roaming dogs in a way that reflects the kind teachings of Buddhism and Hinduism, the religions predominantly practiced there. The main strategy of national and local authorities has involved public culls as a way to address the threat of rabies, by beating, shooting, or poisoning these poor creatures.
Last week, we saw the latest evidence of the extraordinary penetration of our broader initiatives on humane management of dog populations. In a very consequential victory, the Nepalese Supreme Court banned all such public dog killings, and directed the Nepalese government to introduce a nationwide humane management plan for homeless animals.
Kudos to the Jane Goodall Institute’s Nepal chapter, which was instrumental in getting this landmark order adjudicated. Our Humane Society International/India team has been working with JGI on a street dog management project in Nepal that works to keep dog populations under control humanely and sustainably.
Last year, HSI worked with JGI and local officials in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu to launch the ‘One Health’ Dog Management Program to humanely address the city’s homeless dog population. During this three-year program, HSI is providing technical and partial financial support with the goal of sterilizing and vaccinating at least 80 percent of street dogs. The effort also includes a comprehensive awareness program for communities, including the creation of a Dog Managed Zone, where all dogs will be sterilized, vaccinated, collared, microchipped, and groomed.
Our HSI/India team has been carrying out humane population management control for street dogs for many years in Asia but it expanded its work to protect all animals in Asia in 2011, with our India offices now acting as the center for Asia with active street dog programs, including numerous anti-rabies drives across South Asia (India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal) and the Philippines.
We have also worked with countries, including Bangladesh, on issues ranging from stricter penalties for animal abusers to a fortified legal infrastructure for animal protection. We are working to get a new anti-cruelty law in Sri Lanka and in Pakistan we have challenged a law that allows dogfighting and bear baiting. In Bhutan, which has declared itself a cage-free country for farm animals, we are helping draft new anti-cruelty legislation.
Two years ago, HSI/India won another huge victory for animals in India and Nepal when they helped end the world’s largest animal sacrifice at the Gadhimai festival.
When it comes to progress in Asia, it’s also worth noting that we worked with the Indian government to prohibit eye irritation tests on rabbits, and secured a ban on the imports of exotic skins and furs into India. In Bangladesh, we are working to amend a 1920 law on animal cruelty. This comes close on the heels of the Animal Welfare Bill that received a go-ahead from the cabinet in February 2017.
The Asian region as a whole is now taking material steps to advance animal welfare. You’ve read about our series of rescues of dogs from meat farms in South Korea as well as the campaign against the dog meat trade in China, and we recently launched an anti-dog-meat campaign in Indonesia to end the exploitation of stolen pets and street dogs there. We’ve also seen China start shuttering its ivory carving operations, and Animals Asia has met with success in shutting down horrendous bear bile farms, where bears are imprisoned and “milked” for their bile in a horribly cruel and invasive manner.
The movement for animal protection is global and expanding (more than 500 people from 45 countries attended the 10th Asia for Animals conference in Nepal this month), and HSI is driving change in more than 50 nations. We are excited to work with organizational partners across the region, including JGI Nepal, to advance these goals and to take deliberate steps forward to create a truly humane society in this and every part of the world.