Social media backlash forces ACF to return Rs1m donation to be used to vaccinate stray dogs

Published 12 Jul, 2021 02:09pm

Images Staff

The foundation came under fire for accepting the money given as part of a compromise agreement after a dog attack in Karachi.

A compromise was recently reached between the victim of a dog attack in Karachi and the dogs' owners which included, amongst other conditions, that the dogs be put down and a Rs1 million donation be made to the Ayesha Chundrigar Foundation (ACF). When the news became public, the ACF was flooded with hate for accepting the donation and has now decided to return the money.

An agreement reached between the two parties — the victim, Mirza Akhtar Ali, and the dogs' owner, Humayun Ali Khan — had stipulated that the dogs will be put down. According to the compromise agreement dated July 6, Akhtar had agreed to forgive Khan if some conditions were met, including the Rs1 million donation and that both dogs were euthanised.

After being bombarded with hate from people who baselessly believed that the ACF had some role in the decision to put the dogs down, the ACF announced on Monday that it would be returning the Rs1 million.

It also said legal action will be taken for the defamation and harassment of Ayesha Chundrigar and staff members.

Earlier, the foundation had shared a letter from Taimur Ali Mirza, the son of the victim, explaining that the ACF was not privy to the details of the donation.

"There are always two stances towards dog attacks all over the world-try to retrain or euthanise. These are international ethical practices. Kindly research yourselves," the foundation wrote in its caption.

"As you are aware, my father Mirza Akhtar Ali was mauled and attacked by two dogs belonging to Mr Humayun Khan on the morning of 16th June 2021," read the letter, adding that the "attack was brutal and my father suffered serious life-threatening injuries. It was by the grace of Allah that he survived the vicious attack".

The victim underwent five hours of emergency surgery at Ziauddin Hospital and the incident has taken a "serious toll on his mental and physical wellbeing".

"The above is not the only suffering we face. While there has been an outpouring of love, we have received and continue to receive abuse and trolling online on social media. People have written vile things about my father on social media and shown sadistic pleasure on him being attacked and suffering the injuries he has. Death has been wished upon him. We have, however, now responded to any abuse or hate directed towards him nor have we spoken ill about Mr Humayun Khan or his family," wrote Mirza.

He went on to explain that they found little help building a case against the dog owner. "However, during my investigation, it was discovered that the dogs that had mauled my father had previously attacked and mauled a number of other people. The attack on my father was thus not a one-off attack but a pre-existing behavioural issue of the dogs," he said.

Despite receiving little help from the neighbourhood where his father was attacked, Mirza said they found out later that the residents of the street where the dogs were kept had signed a petition asking the CBC to remove the dogs from the neighbourhood.

He also said that his father decided to forgive the dogs' owner who had "approached me through a number of people asking [for] my father’s forgiveness and had shown remorse for what had happened. He had repeatedly offered to euthanise the dogs in a bid to ensure that what happened to my father did not happen to anyone else."

A number of people offered to adopt the dogs but were unable to give an assurance that they would be able to prevent the dogs from harming anyone else in the future, read the letter. "There are some who feel euthanising the dogs is unreasonable, however, the dogs being a risk to the lives of others was a risk no one should have to or was willing to bear. It was a risk too great to be left unmitigated. It is a tragic situation and unfortunately, there are no winners here. Taking a simplistic view of the entire circumstances is an easy thing to do but it is unfair," he said.

"I would also like to clear any ambiguity as regards to what gave rise to the donation of Rs1,000,000 to ACF Animal Rescue. The donation was decided to be given to ACF Animal Rescue without consulting or informing you," Mirza said. "The first time you came to know of the donation was when I messaged you to inform you that such a donation had been made to your organisation. The simple reason for the donation is to help those animals which are in need and distressed. It is something which felt right to do in the present circumstances."

He addressed the fact that the ACF had been receiving a lot of hate and that people were incorrectly blaming the organisation for having recommended euthanising the dogs and the donation being blood money. "For the pain and trouble that has been caused to you and your organisation, I truly and humbly apologise. It was never my intention to hinder the good work that your organisation is doing nor tarnish its reputation," Mirza said.

"I understand that you would be in the right to return the donation and I cannot stop you from doing so. However, I implore you to reconsider and use the donation to help distressed and in need animals so that at least some good can come out of what all has happened." The ACF had initially said that it would use the money as part of its ongoing trap/neuter/vaccinate/relocate-release programme.

In its caption, the ACF reasoned that people don't see all the work done behind the scenes. "We do enough, and it is unfair and absolutely ludicrous to malign us for a battle that wasn’t ours to fight." People had called upon the ACF — which, to be clear, is a rescue organisation that most often works with stray and street animals — to take the dogs and prevent them from being euthanised.

"We obviously condemn negligence when it comes to handling pets carelessly because poor animals always pay the price as written in our previous post. We also condemn the vicious culling of friendly stray dogs as mentioned in the previous post," the ACF continued in a rather unnecessary clarification. It seems people expected the ACF to supersede a legal agreement and rescue the dogs.

The ACF runs on donations, it is not a for profit organisation. As it mentioned in the post, the donation could have been used to save many, many street dogs. "It is NOT easy to raise funds in our line of work, let alone on the magnitude that we work that is unheard of here. And frankly, that no one is really understanding, trying to force us to fight every battle. Then hating on us when our regular work suffers," the post said.

The statement that the donation would be returned may have been met with joy and vindication by some people who seem to have mistaken the ACF for a nonexistent government organisation responsible for the welfare and training of all animals in the city, but others who have the sense to realise that the ACF had nothing to do with the two dogs being put down and that a donation is a donation were saddened.

It is unfortunate that people on social media would have so much hatred for an organisation that has done nothing but help. The ACF is a popular and very active organisation but it is not all powerful, nor is it responsible for every animal, every act of abuse and every animal attack. People expected the ACF to turn away the money that could have been used to help hundreds of other animals because of the principle of the matter, but that wouldn't save the dogs' lives.

We've said it before and we'll say it again: this isn't a civilised society where there are dozens of other options and officials willing to help. This is one where organisations like the ACF are doing the government's job when it comes to sheltering stray and injured animals and it is beyond unfair to expect them to be responsible for every animal.

Well, you've done it keyboard warriors. The money has been returned and many dogs are going to go unvaccinated and neutered thanks to it. We can't say much more than this — we hope you plan on doing the ACF's job and helping animals now or donating to make up for that money.

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