Ayesha Chundrigar and her soldiers at ACF have taken to Karachi’s streets yet again, fighting their next battle, waving a banner reading “Save the Dogs”. The battle promises to be a tough one.
The effort here is twofold. On one hand, ACF’s challenge is the common man, who is unaware, poverty-ridden and eccentric — a product of the generational trauma and aggression we know but too well here in the third world. The solution here is education. And on the other hand, they tackle the lazy, inefficient, and neglectful authorities who see no money or power in protecting stray animals, and hence no motivation. The solution here is…well, they're still looking for one.
What we’re left with then, is a small team of devotees, stretched thin on the streets and along the nullahs of Karachi, making efforts they’re not sure will change the fate of stray dogs, but deeply motivated by the immediate impact they create.
Images sat down with Chundrigar to discuss her latest campaign in which she neuters and vaccinates stray dogs.
The fundamental philosophy here, as Chundrigar explained, is the idea that violence — which arises internally from the very human experiences of dissatisfaction, neglect, exploitation, and trauma — is passed on, human to human, generation to generation; by perpetuating the same aggression that breeds one’s own violence.
Psychology today has presented us with conclusive evidence that those who are subjected to harsh aggression are likelier to be aggressive themselves, with their frustrations often mounting up to expression in physical, sexual or emotional assault. Chunridgar, a student of psychology herself, understands this, and is dedicated to proceed with the caution that her effort requires.
“Most of our work is going around talking to people, trying to help them understand that these dogs aren’t enemies. They’re just scared and threatened themselves. If you treat them with love and respect, you will see that they’re so playful and loving,” she said.
In many cases, Chundrigar said these people are just grossly unaware. When she and her team enter neighborhoods to help dogs, the locals are often very co-operative. Seeing this group of dedicated men and women provides them with reason and motivation to help. And in several cases, stray dogs had been adopted by entire neighborhoods as pets.
In some ways, just by being on the streets saving dogs, the people at ACF are humanising the population. One can only imagine how the changes such efforts are bringing in their hearts reflect positively in their personal lives.
“When they see all these women in a group walking through the streets, chasing dogs, and our team members getting dirty going down in nullahs or wastelands, the locals come in and help us. They see us working, and want to contribute. They sometime bring us drinks and refreshments.”
However, that is not to say that dogs (or any animal for that matter) are particularly safe and loved in our society. It’s a positive anecdote, but it doesn’t explain why the vast majority of our dogs are either malnourished and dying, or dead already.
“I have, with my own eyes, seen someone kick a sleeping dog while passing by on their motorbike. I’ve seen people throw stones at them, hurting them brutally.”
Chundrigar puts the problem down to the perception of dogs in our culture, urging the need to change this.
“These are stray dogs, their homes are the streets. Sure we must neuter and vaccinate them, but then we should send them back,” she emphasised, finishing with “They will live their lives on the streets, it’s where they belong.”
Under Save The Dogs, the ACF team visits a neighborhood where their "reporters" have already told them about the presence of a pack of dogs. They have some idea before going down there, like a general estimate of their number, health conditions and possible threats. The real work though, begins once they reach the site. They must then observe the pack and learn about them to tackle the problem effectively.
“In most cases it is the alpha dog that is violent and creating problems. We have, in our experience, learnt that extracting the alpha from the pack always helps. We have a special facility where we take them, but it’s not a permanent solution. The solution is neutering and vaccinating these dogs, so that they can go back on the streets” she explained.
They also collect females and healthy puppies from neighborhoods and bring them temporarily into their facility provided by a generous donor to protect them. Under the same Save The Dogs campaign, they have also been vaccinating dogs and tagging them with neon green collars provided by the Indus Hospital. These dogs are then let back on the streets.
Culling, or slaughter as it should rightfully be called, does strike a chord with Chundrigar. I could sense a genuine change in her voice when we got to this stage of the conversation.
“We are seeing that they’re poisoning our vaccinated dogs. Why would anyone do this? Why would they kill an animal?”
Chundrigar continually pressed on the urgency to initiate dialogue, to help bring about awareness among people. “They aren’t bad people. In many cases, they just don’t know any better,” she said of ordinary people who hurt animals on the streets.
She believes we must initiate a conversation with these people humbly, by understanding other people and tailoring our points to them therefore humanising them in the process. There is no moral high ground in knowing better as a result of privilege, we agree, and assuming one only to put someone down is an act of great cowardice.
If you want to help Ayesha Chundrigar and her friends at ACF, four-legged or otherwise, you can share their social media content. “We put in great effort into our content. We try not to make it too preachy or self-righteous, and instead try to make them jolly and full of smiles. It does get ugly at times, but we must raise awareness. It’s our job.”
Their work is tedious, laboursome and capital intensive. You can always help them financially, though if you can’t make such a contribution, but still wish to contribute, volunteer! They’re continuing their work into Ramazan, and will be active after iftar, so you can reach out!