Neighbours don't care for couple's puppy love

Lamat Ayub and her husband have 16 cats and two dogs as pets

Lamat Ayub, a writer, faces total isolation from people in her housing society in east Delhi and by those living nearby. The reason: she feeds and takes care of stray dogs in the locality.

“After I started living here, I realised if you fed stray dogs, you will pick up fights easily. People are so paranoid about me all the time. After a while, my husband and I just decided to ignore them and even told them they can file a police complaint against us,” she says.

Ayub and her husband have 16 cats and two dogs as pets and she has also been taking care of the strays for eight years now.

“According to directions by the Delhi High Court, street dogs can come inside societies and there is no law that prohibits feeding them. It said that not only street dogs will be fed, but they will be fed in order to confine them to the localities and areas that they belong to,” she says.

The High Court in its order in 2009 and 2010 had ordered Delhi Police to protect people who feed and care for street dogs, and who are often exposed to the ire of “ill-informed”, “ill-advised” residents and administrators of those areas.

It said that no municipal authority can successfully carry out anti-rabies vaccination and sterilisation without them.

“But there is a lot of emotional harassment. There was a signature campaign against me. The street vendor from whom I used to buy biscuits was told to take his cart away.

People take offence if I brought my own dogs through lifts as I live on the seventh floor and can’t make them walk till there,” she says.

“There was total isolation. Even two of our pet dogs are the ones we have rescued, so they are not those fancy looking-dogs with which people like to play. I really have to counsel people that these dogs won’t do any harm,” she says.

Ayub says that in an ideal environment, the animals become friendly if people fed them and then they can be vaccinated easily. “People should understand that dogs fear humans and they only bite out of fear, unless they are rabid. So people should be encouraged to feed them,” she says.

She blames the civic agencies and other authorities for their lax attitude in dealing with strays and controlling their population in the city.

“The workers of East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) come and catch pups for sterilisation and vaccination because they are easy targets. But what about the big, ferocious dogs? The workers have no guts to catch them and are not even trained to handle them. There were 16 pups near my area but the number is decreasing day by day. They catch these pups and add them in the statistics of the number of dogs they have caught,” Ayub says.

The condition of the shelters where they are taken is so bad that half the times the pups die there, she adds. She narrates an incident where she had to vaccinate a rabid dog alone as all the authorities refused to help her.

“It was a rabid dog that already had bitten five-six people at the market and four of its own puppies. I called Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) but they refused to come as they were in Noida and our society was in east Delhi. Even the then local MLA Vinod Kumar Binny didn’t help. Everyone was just standing there and not ready to come forward. I had to vaccinate it on my own. It is a very thankless job,” she says.

Comparing the treatment of dogs in VIP areas, Ayub says there is a controlled population in Golf Link, south Delhi and areas under the jurisdiction of New Delhi Municipal Council as there are better facilities for vaccination and sterilisation. The authorities there have more funds for this purpose and even people are more aware.

“Sufficient funds are not set aside for managing the strays in other parts of Delhi. Plus, there is no infrastructure. The authorities should pump in money and make sure stray dogs are sterilised,” she says.

She says a Ministry for Animal Welfare should be set up like it was done years ago for a short while under the then BJP-led government. The Animal Welfare Department now comes under the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

“The dogs are actually very helpful at night. Sometimes, when I walk through a lonely stretch, they follow me like bodyguards till the gate. It feels like a blessing in disguise,” she says.

Talking about her expenditure on feeding the animals including 18 of her own, the journalist says, “It’s around Rs 7,000 per month. Around Rs 6,000 goes into feeding my pets. Plus, a vaccination costs me Rs 500 and if I took a dog for sterilisation, it is Rs 7,000. I have an arrangement with a doctor who charges me less comparatively. But how many dogs can I take to him? If the EDMC does the vaccination, it will be very cheap for them”.

She laughs and says, “I could have saved a lot, if only for the dogs. But at the end of the day, it feels nice to take care of them and gives me satisfaction and happiness in the long run.”

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