"My father repeatedly told them that Jack was our pet dog, but they did not spare him," said Obhi Shankar, a resident of IG Gate Bank Colony, Old Dhaka.
Jack fell victim to Dhaka South City Corporation's arbitrary dog removal operation, which itself is in violation of Section 7 of the Animal Welfare Act, 2019. The act disallows the killing or removal of stray animals unless they are proven to be causing harm.
Jack was first anaesthetised, before being taken amid protests. Since then, Obhi has been looking for Jack from Matuail to Nagar Bhaban.
Many residents of Old Dhaka, Shahjahanpur, Malibagh, Kakrail, Jhigatola and Wari have complained that some dogs have been removed from these areas in recent weeks.
They expressed concern on the social media pages of various animal welfare groups.
Relocation amid writ petition
As the dog population increased in the city, the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) started relocating dogs in 2020.
A writ petition was filed with the High Court in this regard, challenging the legality of the relocation decision. Barrister Shakib Mahbub filed the writ petition on behalf of Obhoyaronno President Rubaiya Ahmed, People's for Animal Welfare (PAW) founder Rakibul Haque Emil and actress Jaya Ahsan.
The petition led to the halting of the relocation activities. The HC then dropped the petition from the work list, observing that the writ could be raised again if the removal operation restarts in the future.
Rakibul Haque Emil, one of the three complainants, said the DSCC had not contacted any of the complainants.
"Once the allegations surfaced, the recent relocation drive came to our notice. Some dogs were neutered and left a few kilometres away. But in these cases, no scientific rules are being followed. Administrative work is being carried out without adhering to the scientific aspects of an animal's life. Even those who are doing these are inexperienced.
"The city corporation is not working in a sustainable way. They should take into consideration expert advice, keeping scientific methods in mind when doing this work," he said.
Emil further said their organisation would keep the matter under observation before deciding to file a writ again.
Meanwhile, DSCC Mayor Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh said there were no new steps to remove dogs from their current locality.
Why is it unreasonable to relocate dogs?
Experts opined that a number of factors needed to be taken into consideration before relocating dogs: whether there will be a shortage of food in the new area, the number of dogs already in the area as the dog is a territorial animal and whether they will be able to adapt to a completely different environment.
They said just removing the canines without taking all these into account will mean pushing the animals towards their death. A dog's eating habits, behaviour and relationship with its environment are all important to its overall wellbeing.
As dogs are called territorial animals, they have their own areas, which are marked, although invisible to the naked eyes. When a new dog enters another's territory, fights among the animals break out.
Dipanwita Ridi, founder of Animal Lovers Bangladesh Animal Shelter, is deeply passionate about the animals she works with. As an expert in dealing with stray animals, she said the current method of dog removal was basically passing the death sentence on them.
"Dogs suddenly find themselves in a completely different environment. They do not even know where the source of drinking water is. Additionally, new dogs can't compete with those which have already been in the area and thus have to fight for both food and territory. At one point, the newly relocated dogs die of starvation," she said.
The relocation decision of the DSCC, which disregards all international and scientific conventions on controlling dog population, will not benefit anyone, but rather cause more suffering.
"The city corporation is now saying that they are neutering the dogs and relocating them a few kilometres away. But they do not have any detailed information about their programme. They were supposed to have the information on dogs' sterilisation, but the authorities aren't even saying where the dogs were left behind. Pet dogs and dogs that have been neutered are also being taken away," she alleged.
"Relocating dogs to new areas means their numbers in those areas will rise again. The newly relocated dogs will aggressively approach the dogs already in the area. This situation can be frightening for many people. In other words, the issue is as harmful to humans as it is to dogs," Dipanwita said.
She said that dogs reach fertility between the ages of six to seven months. A dog can give birth to four, six or even eight puppies at a time. Even if a dog gives birth once a year, its puppies can play a role in population growth after six months.
In short, just relocating dogs without having a proper population control plan in place creates a food crisis and makes it impossible for dogs to adapt to their new environment.
When is a dog aggressive?
The dog is said to be man's best friend. So why do such friendly animals attack humans from time to time, if the various complaints are to be believed?
There are several reasons behind this. The first reason is humans themselves.
During the breeding season, the mother dog, like all other animals, is concerned about the safety of her offspring. Puppies are often taken or crushed under the wheels of a car in front of their mother. The mother is, thus, on high alert.
Secondly, dogs are often attacked by humans. They are pelted by stones or even drenched in hot water. This makes them wary of people and at times, if they feel threatened, they can become aggressive. Dogs that have been directly abused by humans can often attack out of self-defense. Sick dogs can also be aggressive in self-defense. In these cases, if one slowly walks away, then the situation does not escalate.
Tauhid Tanzim, president of the Dhaka University Animal Welfare Club, said mother dogs can suffer from extreme insecurity during pregnancy and after childbirth.
"Many people take small puppies away. Some throw stones or hot water. Many times, the puppies die in accidents. At the same time, during this period the mother dog also needs more food. All in all, they can become aggressive at this time, especially towards strangers."
What can be done
Due to the breeding characteristics of the dog, relocation only is not an effective method of controlling the population.
The scientific and most effective method of reducing dog population is to vaccinate other dogs in the area and spay/neuter them. Animal rights activists always advocate for sterilisation as a proven method to control dog population.
The process of CNVR or "collect", "neuter", "vaccinate" and "release" is an effective way to control the number of stray dogs.
Dog attacks aren't the problem itself, but symptomatic of a larger problem.
Street dogs do not attack people in areas where people are sympathetic to the animals. There is a notable difference in the behaviour of dogs in different areas of the city, which depend on how they are treated.
Awareness programmes in this regard can go a long way into protecting the rights of the animals and proper use of animal welfare laws can reduce animal cruelty.
On the other hand, to ensure that rabies-infected dogs do not attack, there is no alternative to the government-run city corporation's initiative to bring dogs under rabies vaccination.