When the news broke that two dogs involved in an attack on a man in Karachi's DHA will be euthanised, it was met with mixed reactions. One side is glad, believing justice has been served, but the other asks why the animals are paying the price of their owner's neglect and lack of responsibility.
An agreement reached between the two parties — the victim, Mirza Akhtar Ali, and the dogs' owner, Humayun Ali Khan — has stipulated that the dogs will be put down. According to the compromise agreement dated July 6, Akhtar had agreed to forgive Khan "for the sake of Allah" on the following conditions:
The dogs' owner tenders an unconditional apology to Akhtar for the "hurt and injury caused to him".
Humayun Ali Khan and his family will not keep "any dangerous or ferocious dogs" at their home as pets. Any other dogs kept as pets will be registered with the Clifton Cantonment Board and will not be allowed to venture out on the streets without a properly trained handler and will be muzzled and leashed at all times when they are outside.
The two dogs involved in the attack on the lawyer will be euthanised/put down by a veterinarian "immediately". Khan will give away any other such dogs that he owns.
The dogs' owner will make a donation of Rs1 million to the Ayesha Chundrigar Foundation/ACF Animal Rescue.
News of this agreement and the condition that a donation must be made to the ACF has sparked what is in our opinion a rather needless debate. The ACF has now been made to bear the brunt of people's outrage. They're angry that the ACF accepted the donation and didn't rehabilitate the dogs but in a legal agreement between two parties, what role does the ACF have? Were they expected to swoop in and grab the dogs from the authorities or refuse the donation that could be used to help many other animals?
In a post on Instagram, the ACF announced it will be using the money for its ongoing trap/neuter/vaccinate/relocate-release programme. It also addressed the hate it has been receiving.
To be clear, the two dogs being put down is a tragedy. As the ACF said in its post, "no dog is born bad". They were products of their upbringing and lack of training and the blame for the attack falls squarely onto the shoulders of their owner.
But to those who are arguing that the ACF shouldn't take the "blood money", we say this: in a civilised society we wouldn’t need the ACF at all. In a civilised society, people would treat animals with respect and the government would have animal shelters to help injured animals. But this isn’t a civilised society and we don’t have that.
Instead, we have an organisation that has worked to help and rescue hundreds if not thousands of stray animals from horrendous situations that is now being bashed for accepting a donation stipulated in a legal agreement. It’s unfortunate that such a compromise was reached in the first place, that our legal system allows compromises of this nature to be made, that our state doesn’t have a mechanism to house and rehabilitate these dogs and that people have the ability to purchase and then neglect animals.
If things were different, there would be dozens of solutions other than euthanasia but this isn't a civilised society. This is one where humans barely have rights, let alone animals. It's one where we would rather kill stray dogs than neuter them, where calls for murder seems to be our instinctive go-to whenever something happens.
The burden of blame here falls on many players — the dogs' owner, the state, the legal system — but it doesn't fall on the ACF or the animals. The Rs1 million donation can be used by the organisation to save many other animals but it's not coming at the cost of two lives. The ACF not accepting that money wouldn't have saved those two dogs — the donation would have been given to another organisation instead.
In a perfect world, none of this would have happened — not the dogs' lack of training, the attack, the compromise nor the donation — but we don't live in a perfect world, we live in Pakistan and, unfortunately, we have to make the best of a truly bad situation.