[The title of this report is not meant to hurt the sentiments of anyone wrt to the reference of Auschwitz. The author is a student of modern Jewish history and the Holocaust. The moniker is used to illustrate the plight of those who entered a Nazi concentration camp not from their choice, and not having any escape till death rid them of malnutrition and disease. The clear difference here is that dogs are not put down – so they necessarily have to go down through medical neglect, disease and malnutrition.
By way of background about some of my observations – I’m the Founder of The Voice of Stray Dogs (VoSD) and we run perhaps the only credible stray dog rescue service in Bangalore and its entirely privately run. But more importantly 55 dogs (as of writing this) share their lives with me at my home(s). All except the 1st are rescued dogs and most have/had critical/chronic health conditions when they came to me. I could claim to know a thing or two about bringing a dog to health and giving it a quality of life].
On 17th Dec 2012 I got a dog – a GSD that was obviously malnourished and an advance stage of medical neglect. He came from a dog shelter run by Animal Rights Fund (ARF). He was in a critical condition and he was admitted the same day after a barrage of tests. His name was Raju. Raju’s journey was documented in my personal Facebook page and is given here. Parts of the conversation that occurred on this story are referred to Raju’s story. Since it is possible that some of these comments are removed on Facebook I have made a local copy available here to prevent this (possible) removal and resulting distortion of facts.
When Raju’s story came out there were primarily 2 reactions (other than the ARF’s founders). The first was one of pity and disbelief and genuine angst of what happened to Raju when clearly all of it was avoidable. The other was a strong reaction from ‘vegans’ on how their fair name was being tarnished with the title of the story and references in the story to ‘veganism’. Most of the latter did not reckon the fact that:
- What I had put out was a personal account of a specific dog in my personal care – it was his unfortunate and pitiful journey to hell. And this was NOT an investigative VoSD story.
- The purpose of Raju’s story was not to comment or highlight veganism as a choice. Indeed as I said in one of my later comments – it is a noble choice, a difficult one, and people who can make it need to be commended for it.
The thrust of story was Raju’s plight even as this choice was thrust on him. For choices to be credible you need to make them – he did not.
However the subsequent furor that Raju’s story generated made me think of this not as an isolated incident but a larger phenomenon related to this particular shelter. And the information and comments coming in showed that mal-nourishment was not the only problem at ARF.
The 1st surprise about the ARF Shelter is that few people know they have one! In the time that I have visited, investigated and reported on various stray dog issues throughout Bangalore, that ARF has a ‘shelter’ was not known to me. I could have attributed it to my lack of knowledge or oversight but funnily enough my colleagues in VoSD do not know this place and a large part of the activist community in Bangalore does not know this place. What is more surprising that this is so when ARF has been operation since 2000 and has had one of the largest Animal Birth Control (ABC) operations in Bangalore, till they stopped late in 2012.
As Raju’s story came out I learnt that since the last week of Nov 2012 a team of volunteers has been formed by a well respected dog activist to feed and take care of the dogs in the face of glaring irregularities and mismanagement. Reportedly these volunteers or the activist also did not know about the location or existence of the shelter! A disturbing fact since some of them has been associated with ARF since inception.
Did Raju die only of multiple organ failure due to severe mal-nourishment? Was that a result of a vegan diet as I had believed? Or was there more to it? If one looks at the comments on Raju’s story here by Dilip Bafna (who runs ARF) it does point to multiple other issues, but most of all a deep-seated dogmatic belief that this is the best that can be done for the dogs and in some ways since we made a choice for them this is their Karma. He repeatedly negates the specific condition of the dog by addressing this as an issue of choices that have been made by him and ARF and his full knowledge of the operations of the place. He says:
- On diet:
- “For your kind information we are following lacto veg diet and they have given eggs… It is all there about the care that we take… Last week when I came to know about it I have stopped it…”
- On this is the most that can be done: “You can come to our shelter and take care of animals….we have done our best…”
- “… we cannot take individual care for the animals. We would accept the animals in good faith and with a conditions that we cannot guarantee that this animals will recover, we do our best and more….”
- “….I am most straight forward I care two hoots about you….
- “…I have much better jobs to follow up right now I am fight for the right of the birds.. “
- “….No one will come forward to donate in kind or cash… If I wish I can close the shelter. It is purely my wish….”
- On pet/owned dogs:
- “We not give any shelter to pet dogs. We are there exclusive for street animals which are sick and injured…”
In the same conversation some of the volunteers make these assertions:
- “…But the fact is your staff are collecting abandoned pet dogs, on request whenever a owner wants to wash of his hands by paying some amount.and for this dog …. (Raju’s owner) paid Rs 10,000 (US$ 200) to overcome his guilt..”
- “… Don’t say that eggs were given to dogs in are because I have visited 2-3 times and I was not permitted to feed the dogs eggs… even the dogs which were very sick also had to eat only rice with dal and some milk…”
The flow of the conversation clearly showed that there was indeed:
- A clear case of a belief system being imposed on the dogs, but that this is the lesser evil
- There is a case being made that there is little money available to ARF so this is the best ARF can do
- That this shelter which is being run on public funds is something like a personal asset and can the closed or run on the wishes of 1 person.
Would it be right for a trust that has run on public funds for more than a decade to assert that if you don’t like it we will close even the little ‘service’ we provide? Is there no accountability for all those who have contributed in different ways primarily financially?
Importantly the background facts of ARF do not bear out this paucity of fund story. Consider this:
- ARF has been running an ABC program in Bangalore from 2000 through 2012. They stopped only a couple of months ago.
- By most accounts available in Bangalore it is well known that ARF always will address a trauma/accident pickup for a payment of between Rs 2,000 – Rs 5,000 (upto US 100, not for free) from the person reporting the dog. In this conversation it is is alleged and remained uncontested by Dilip that money is accepted for the pick up of pet animals as well.
- ARF has always been known to be an organization with a deep resource base based on its founders networking skills with the Jain community.
Having access to funds or even collecting money for a trauma case can be debated on ‘moral’ grounds but has no relevance provided there is an employment of these funds for the benefit of the animal it was collected for. Dilip’s assertions that there is no capital and yet he provides the service is contrary to all that is known about ARF.
It is with this background that I and my colleagues at VoSD visited ARF on 3 separate occasions on 1st, 2nd and 4th of Jan 2013. This, combined with the visits of volunteers over the previous month, form the backdrop of this report.
A personal visit – as against all the testimonies – is telling. Some things that were learnt from the visit to the ARF shelter at Kengeri and talking to the vets on duty (in person), Mr Narsima Murthy (manager of the shelter), the workers and Mr Dilip Bafna (on phone from location) stand out:
- The ‘vegan’ diet which seemed to the real issue before we saw the place is actually the least of the dogs’ problems. The sheer neglect and apathy of the place and the treatment of dogs is telling.
- Every decision of the management of the place is controlled by Mr Dilip Bafna so there is no recourse for the ailibi that he did not know what is/was going on.
- The shelter & maintenance:
- ARF has no permanent structures other than a few well made kennels at one end of the shelter. All the structures are bamboo or iron poles lashed together with falling tin roofs for cover. For a shelter as old as this – this is hardly the testimony of development.
- Private dogs:
- There are a few ‘premium’ of private shelters which are for dogs belonging to specific people – these are small enclosures within the large enclosure but only marginally better.
- There are private/ pet dogs here – some for brought here by owners and left and some are here for ‘treatment’. We met one owner as well who had come to check their dog.
- Minimal or non existent veterinary treatment:
- There was candid admission by the vet on duty that no aggressive treatment is given to any dogs – so there are dogs with broken bones, severe skin infections, maggot wounds and other critical injuries and they are left to live out their lives with no medical treatment.
- The primary mode and the 1st line of treatment for all injuries/ conditions is homeopathic/ ayurvedic. Strange since most cases come with severe and life threatening conditions.
- There are no diagnostics done here – no blood work, biopsies x-rays, no diagnostics for parasites or skin infections. No topical treatment can effectively be given to parasitic skin infections. Maggots treatment is given primarily as an ‘ayurvedic’ spray – since religious belief prevents maggots from being killed.
- The vet on duty could not tell me the case history or treatment schedule of even ONE dog.
- When questioned about at least 2 dogs walking with broken and dangling gets the vet maintainted that they are equipped to do amputation or tumor surgeries only and that the legs would heal by themselves. About ARF’s answer to most situations as amputation – you can see the quality of amputations – there were at least 5 dogs with legs freshly amputated – there were no skin covers, stiches of even bandaging on this dogs open wounds!
- There IS no regular vaccination program for dogs in ARF’s ‘care’ (if one can call it that).
- There is no isolation for dogs with distemper or an attempt made to keep them isolated – and at least 2 distemper ‘survivors’ twitching uncontrollably were in the main dog shelter and in another enclosure a pup shared a room with an adult (mom?) in the throes of distemper fits.
- 2 cases of pet dogs stand out.
- 1 St Bernard was kept in appalling conditions in a small kennel – with matted hair and mal-nourishment setting in. He’d been there at least 10 days – with what was originally a maggot wound on the hind paw – a wound like that would heal in 1-2 days with an Ivermectin based treatment since maggot wounds heal very fast. But since this dog was given only a topical ayurvedic spray – the wound was festering. The basis is that maggots should not be killed! The owner came to see the dog in our presence and we asked the dog to be taken to a professional vet.
- A Labrador retriever was lying covered with flies (on 4th of January) – absolutley immobile and clearly failing. The vet said he’s not eaten anything for 3-4 days. His diagnosis was ‘perhaps respiratory infection’. His only treatment and diet was ‘drips’ and some volunteers trying to feed him milk (according to the vet and the manager). No aggressive clear line of medication was available as not even a clear diagnosis was available. Inspite of my asking – I spoke to Dilip Bafna on the phone from location – to release the dog since it perhaps could be saved with aggressive treatment – he and his managers refused release. He said if there are any dogs that need help he’d call us in the future. As per the update available with me at the time I write this line (afternoon of 8 January 2013) this dog has died.
- Minimal or no record keeping:
- The vet on duty maintained there were about 60 dogs, the manager maintained there were about 90. I reckoned somewhere close to 40-50. When questioned we were told – the other dogs must have died.
- No records are kept of the dogs on the premises and medical schedules of long terms wards.
- On 15th December 2012 about 30 cats were photographed living in an unused BBMP van. All have dissappeared! The vet says some were adopted and the others died. Some volunteers say all were released ‘near bakeries’ after the Raju story came out. As of now there is not a single cat at ARF.
- There are several puppies in a ‘puppy enclosure’ malnourished with without any vaccinations. They get the same food as the other dogs.
- The present ‘lacto’ diet that is supposed to be a step forward from the vegan diet of a few weeks back – this is supposed to have come into effect with the food being administered in the presence of volunteers – this food is 10kg’s of rice + 0.5kgs of Raagi (red millet) + 1 (or 2?) kg of dal (lentil) + some milk.
- The day that I saw the food at the shelter the only thing that was eating that food were the flies. At past 2 PM in the afternoon in the hot sun, the food given at 10AM was still lying untouched. I’ve not seen 2 month old puppies leave any nutrition if they can get it or any adult dog that’s not sick.
Does this apathy to the plight of the dogs in ARF’s care come from ‘no funds’ available for dogs as Dilip claims? There are also 2 significant and related larger questions here – is animal welfare squarely about doing welfare with money that you collect from the larger public or the government? Is there no personal engagement or responsibility even a moral one that comes into plan when you personally have access to funds but the animals in your care are starved for it?
It is hard to believe these ‘hard times’ such that there are no medical facilities and there is such paucity of food that a team of volunteers is trying to make both these available if you look at the ARF office in the middle of town. This office is on Kumara Krupa Road one of the poshest areas of Bangalore and only 100 mts away from the CM’s office in a building called Comfort Manor. The office is laid in granite as can be seen in the picture and those who have been in – and there are several since a lot of Mr Bafna’s ‘vegan’ pot luck’s are held at this location – talk about the fit and finish of the office on the lines of a corporate office.
So while the dogs have no money for food or medicine ARF sends out a well laid out and regular newsletter asking for donations for the dogs’ cause. While there is no upkeep for dogs at the shelter there is enough money and staff for the maintenance of a corporate office.
What does the law say about keeping animals in the conditions they are at present?
The law mandates that any person having the care or charge of any animal, has to take all reasonable measures to ensure the well-being of that animal.
Section 3 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act specifically states that:
3. Duties of persons having charge of animals : It shall be the duty of every person having the care or charge of any animal to take all reasonable measures to ensure the well-being of such animal and to prevent the infliction upon such animal of unnecessary pain or suffering.
Ensuring adequate wholesome diet suitable for an animal under one’s care or charge is the sort of ‘reasonable measure’ that Section 3 requires every person or organization in possession or custody of any animal, to take. Moreover, and needless to state, adequate medical care and necessary medical intervention in the case of sick, ailing, and injured, infirm, disabled and/or aged animals has to be provided by all persons and entities, and especially animal welfare organizations, that obtain or accept these animals.
Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act makes it an offense to treat animals cruelly. Failing to provide an animal with sufficient food is treating an animal cruelly, and is therefore an offense per Clause (h) of Section 11:
11. Treating animals cruelly:
(h) being the owner of (any animal) fails to provide such animal with sufficient food, drink or shelter;
Likewise, having in his/its possession, an animal that is suffering pain by reason of mutilation, starvation, thirst, or other ill-treatment, such as but not limited to lack of adequate medical care, and pressing and urgent medical intervention in cases which warrant the same, is also treating animals cruelly, and an offense per Clause (k) of Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act :-
11. Treating animals cruelly:
(k) offers for sale or, without reasonable cause, has in his possession any animal which is suffering pain by reason of mutilation, starvation, thirst, overcrowding or other ill-treatment;
[ Though Clause (h) mentions ‘owner’, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act defines owner as follows:
2. Definitions : In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,
(f) “owner”, used with reference to an animal, includes not only the owner but also any other person for the time being in possession or custody of the animal, whether with or without the consent of the owner. ]
Therefore any person, or any organization, such as an animal shelter, or an animal welfare organisation, is mandated by law to provide adequate and wholesome diet for the animals under it care or charge that is suitable for, and within the nature of those animals to consume. For instance, providing huge quantities of green fodder for the dogs and cats that may be under one’s care or charge, will NOT amount to providing ‘adequate and wholesome diet suitable for the animals’. Failing to do so, will of course be an offense under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Likewise, it is also incumbent upon persons, organizations, animal shelters, or animal welfare organisations to provide adequate medical care and necessary medical intervention to the sick, ailing, injured, infirm, disabled and/or aged animals in their possession and under their care.
Failing over a long period of time to provide adequate and wholesome diet for an animal that is suitable for it, and within its nature to consume, and in that manner starving it slowly, and leading eventually to its collapse and death through sustained starvation, is equivalent to killing the animal. Similarly, having an animal in one’s possession, or accepting an animal under one’s care or charge, and then neglecting or failing to provide necessary and adequate medical care and intervention, leading eventually to the death of the animal, is also equivalent to killing the animal.
Killing an animal in such a manner will be an offense not only under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, but also under the Indian Penal Code. Sections 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code read as under:
428. Mischief by killing or maiming animal of the value of ten rupees.– Whoever commits mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless any animals or animal of the value of the ten rupees or upwards, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
429. Mischief by killing or maiming cattle, etc., of any value or any animal of the value of fifty rupees.–Whoever commits mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless, any elephant, camel, horse, mule, buffalo, bull, cow or ox, whatever may be the value thereof, of any other animal of the value of fifty rupees or upwards, shall be punished with imprisonment or either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both.
The office bearers of animal “welfare” organizations and animal “shelters” that are indifferent to the sort of diet or medical care and intervention that they provide for the animals forced to be under their care, and that are so consistently and wilfully neglectful as to lead to the collapse and death of one or more animals, either by slow and steady starvation, or by inadequate medical care, intervention and attention for sick, ailing, injured, infirm, disabled and/or aged animals, are guilty of commission of the offenses under Sections 428, and 429 of the Indian Penal Code, punishable with simple or rigorous imprisonment, or with fine, or with both.
There has also lately been considerable debate about ‘EUTHANASIA’, and ARF and at least one of ARFs principal ‘volunteers’ frequently confirming that they “don’t believe in euthanasia”! Belief cannot however supplant the Law of the Land; and the Law of the Land says this [vide Rule 9 of the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules] regarding euthanasia of street dogs – when and which have mandatorily to be euthanized rather than allowed or forced to suffer, and how they have to be euthanized :
9. Euthanasia of Street Dogs : Incurably ill and mortally wounded dogs as diagnosed by a qualified veterinarian appointed by the committee shall be euthanised during specified hours in a humane manner by administering sodium pentathol for adult dogs and Thiopental Introperitoneal for puppies by a qualified veterinarian or euthanised in any other humane manner approved by Animal Welfare Board of India. No dog shall be euthanised in the presence of another dog. The person responsible for euthanizing shall make sure that the animal is dead, before disposal.
Therefore persons or entities, such as the office bearers of an animal welfare organizations, mandated by law to adhere to Rule 9 of the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001, but failing to do so, and allowing or forcing incurably ill or mortally wounded animals to undergo prolonged suffering, are guilty of the commission of offenses under both, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, and the Indian Penal Code.
It would also not be incorrect to state that causing pain, suffering and death by starvation, and little or no medical care, by an animal welfare organization, of the animals entrusted to its care, is tantamount to criminal breach of entrustment.
Does ARF not then look frighteningly like a Nazi camp where unsuspecting and unwilling people were brought in to live a short terrifying life in subhuman conditions with no escape from the location, the malnutrition, the treatment and without any recourse to change their future? Do the dogs really understand that they live a painful life and wait to eventually die so that a hollow promise of a great deed and a great afterlife is kept by the trust and its trustees to each other? Can they make a meal of the beliefs of veganism and ahimsa even with maggots ravaging them because someone thinks that that’s the right thing to do? What could be more right than for the ARF management to be fighting for the best quality of life for the dogs under ARF’s care? If it is commonsense why then it is so difficult?
Who’d be the Auschwitz Relief Front to rid the dogs of the ARF incarceration?