Living in the Streets, Or in Hell?

Researchers have observed a variety of emotions in dogs, including not only joy, pleasure, and compassion, but also pain, grief, fear, and loneliness. Moreover, scientific exploration supports the idea that dogs have the capacity of suffering to the same degree as we humans do. But, this still doesn’t change the reality of stray dogs in Nepal having to suffer horrendous days, while most do not die a timely death.

As reported by Acta med Okayama in 2003, the density of stray dogs in Kathmandu, the heart of Nepal, was 2,930 dogs per kilometer square with a ratio of 1:4.7 to the local people. Likewise, a survey conducted by Himalayan Animal Rescue Team (HART) during 2010 with the objective of understanding the distribution pattern and also determining the causes of persistency in the population of stray dogs inside Pokhara valley reported around 1,700 dogs in the valley. However, very few statistical data regarding the demographics of free-roaming dogs in other regions of Nepal is known.

Lost, abandoned or born a stray, these dogs live a miserable life in the streets of Nepal, lacking basic health care. They are victims of neglect, starvation, sickness, as well as human cruelty. There have been dozens of hit-and-run cases involving speedy vehicles, leaving them hurt or critically injured. According to another Pokhara valley survey conducted in 2016 by Mohan Acharya, graduate research assistant, Department of Animal Science, University of Arkansas, USA, and Santosh Dhakal, graduate research assistant, Food Animal Health Research Program, Ohio State University, it was reported that wound was one of the most prevalent health problems in stray dogs. Causes of the wounds were: general wounds (18.12%), bite wounds (1.75%), maggot infestation (1.16%), accident fractures (2.92%), and abscesses (1.16%), which could all be due to human cruelty, traffic accidents, fighting between street dogs, bacterial and viral infections, and parasitic infestations.
Apart from the wounds, those poor animals suffered from canine vector-borne diseases (CVBDs). CVBD compromises a group of globally dispersed and quickly spreading illnesses caused by a variety of pathogens that constitute a serious health concern in stray dogs worldwide. While the topic of CVBD is a major issue for public health in Nepal, scientific knowledge regarding the prevalence of it is minimal.

Along with population awareness campaigns, animal birth control programs, and rabies vaccination campaigns, veterinary control must take into account and implement the prevention and treatment of CVBD. In the Kathmandu metropolitan area, this problem cannot be taken lightly. The situation may significantly improve if government agents could provide effective management. Instead of relying only on the government to tackle this problem, we can help the stray dogs in our community by feeding them, providing them with shelter, and also engaging ourselves and volunteering in spaying campaigns. The increase of animals in the streets would be stopped if these dogs were properly spayed and neutered.

Promoting the concept of “Adopt, Don’t Shop” by educating people on the importance of avoiding purchasing a dog from a breeder and instead adopting one from a shelter or even from the streets is also crucial in controlling the number of stray dogs in an efficient and sustainable manner. Similarly, teaching the younger generation to have empathy and compassion for their furry companions is essential to minimize the abuse of animals. We humans must now start acting humanely and unite together to end the sufferings of these innocent, voiceless animals.

FAQs with Mr. ct, founder of Team Sankalpa (

How long have you been working in this field, and what prompted you to begin?
It has been almost three years since I started helping needy animals. I think the incident that vastly changed my life was the day when I saw people taking pictures and videos of a helpless dog in a hit and run case instead of helping it. It was horrifying to see pedestrians stooping so low in the name of getting a few likes. It just didn’t sit right with me. I took the dog to the vet; the leg had to be amputated. The veterinarian said it’s more likely to be bullied by other dogs once it loses a leg, so I found him an adopter. Being of some help, I felt happiness like never before.

I started feeling a deep sense of connection with animals after this incident. In the later phase, I started working and joined veterinary, so that I could help animals on my own. I wanted to do something big; I wanted to bring a change that wouldn’t go unnoticed.

We are a team of two, including me. We answered calls and tried to be present anywhere to rescue animals, help them in adoption, and provide medical help. Till date, we have served more than 1000 animals. We officially named our non-profit organization “Team Sankalpa” having started from one small yet momentous step.

What keeps you motivated? Have there been any times that you’ve been daunted?
There were quite a few times when I was treated as an untouchable by my own Muslim community, because they consider dog as an impure and cursed animal, even though this cruelty contradicts the Quran’s view that all animals form ‘communities like you.’ I was often discouraged and humiliated for helping dogs, but my mother’s constant support kept me going. Today, I have not only changed the lives of thousands of animals, but also changed the mindset of quite a number of my relatives from the Muslim community, and that I believe is the change I brought, not going unnoticed, just how I wanted it to be. My mother, the supportive people around, and obviously, the blessing of animals, inspired me to maintain continuity in my selfless work.

What are the most common problems faced by stray dogs in Nepal?
Distemper, one of the most serious canine diseases, which is highly contagious and potentially fatal, with no known treatment, sarcoptic mange or scabies, which causes intense itching, resulting in formation of scabs as well as hair loss, and likewise, canine parvo virus, a contagious DNA virus that is difficult to eradicate and can persist for a long time in the environment, often resulting in death if left untreated, are killing these poor dogs day by day. Furthermore, rabies continues to be a fatal illness spread by a rabid animal’s bite or scratch, and there is currently no concrete cure, making death a slow, painful, and agonizing process. While these are some natural concerns, they have also endured acts of human cruelty, including being poisoned, being hit with rocks, and being splashed with hot, boiling water.

What are the most critical cases you remember dealing with?
I have looked after thousands of cases, but the hardest ones to rescue were the hit and run cases. I have dealt with this one critical case where a dog was struck in the mouth by a car, which caused both of his eyeballs to protrude, necessitating eye surgery. But, due to the dog’s extremely fragile condition, the surgery was quite challenging. Fortunately, we managed to successfully operate on both eyes by keeping him with us for a few days and giving him saline water to help him become slightly stronger.

The case of Khaire was again another one of the most difficult procedures I’ve ever experienced in my rescue career. After being hit by a bike, he spent the entire two weeks waiting for rescue in the streets without food or water. He could hardly stand up, because of how frail he was. As soon as we received the information, we began his treatment. After seven days of treatment, he gradually began to stabilize. He was able to gently stand up, walk, and begin eating food properly. Nobody thought that Khaire could make it, and every local person wanted me to put him down, as they couldn’t see him suffer. But I said, “No, just trust the process and see the progress.” I wanted to save him, and I did it. I literally cried when I saw him in this situation. Despite of being so critical, he lent me his hand and wagged his tail at me.

Similarly, another one of the most precious and emotional cases of my life is the case of Juntara. A mother dog named Aruna lived in Patan. She was pregnant and her community members were very excited to welcome her newly born kids. But then, what had happened was, she got hit by a bike during her time of delivery, which showed very serious complication. She could neither eat nor stand up. Not only that, she also couldn’t even push her babies during the time of delivery (obstructed labor/dystocia). She was about to die. I immediately rushed to help her and her kids as soon as I heard one of the community members crying while explaining her condition. She was so fragile that she didn’t have any energy to push her babies out. I burst into tears when I saw her in this situation. I helped her out and pulled out two babies successfully.

But, the sad part is, the bike hit her so hard that the rest of the kids died inside her womb. We did USG, but couldn’t see any movement of the remaining kids; that’s why we had to perform surgery and pull out all the dead babies. We found out that there were eight babies who died inside her womb due to robust hit of the bike. The surgery was successful, but Aruna was very weak due to the recklessness of the rider. There was very little chance of her survival, but I didn’t give up on her. I did daily follow-ups for seven days, and Aruna is completely fine now, and her kids are beautifully grown up girls. I have named them h’gtf/f.

What do you think of Nepali society’s views on stray dogs?
If we consider the current situation, Nepali society has undergone numerous changes. Wherever there has been an act of animal cruelty, many animal advocates have spoken out day and night. Nepali society is a little bit more conscious as a result. However, in some places, viruses and infections are still thought to be transmitted through the touch of a dog. I have disagreements with people in my own neighborhood. People throw garbage into the streets, where it accumulates. They claim that the dogs made the mess and must be killed when they go through the garbage looking for food. If there is a problem in society, it is always blamed on the dog. In the context of Nepali society, there has been change, but it has also regressed in many ways.

What are the difficulties you’ve come across from the public, municipality, and government, and what do you expect from them?
I’ve had many problems, be it from my home, the public, or the government. From the public, I expect them to report to the police station or the organizations as soon as they witness any kind of inhumane crime to animals, whereas, the government can help us with legal matters. Although laws for stray animals have already been created, they have not yet been put into effect. People kill dogs like flies, and when we go to seek justice, we are denied. We are always overlooked when we go to the police station to report animal cruelty. According to the police officers, they have not even been able to assist the people of Nepal, what to say about cases involving dogs? It would have been considerably simpler to achieve justice if the Nepali government had effectively implemented the laws against animal cruelty and circulated them through the police departments. I anticipate assistance and coordination from the wards and municipality. And, I expect the government to strictly enforce animal-related legislation.

You must have approached the government with other organizations for improving animal rights, have you seen any positive changes?
Yes, we have approached the government regarding the issue of animal rights, and there have been some notable changes. We, along with other five-six organizations work cooperatively and make sure that the animal rights laws are being exercised. In some cases, I myself have gone to jail and suffered a lot. Nevertheless, some cases have also been successful. There are also many animal-loving police officers, who have made it easier for us to deal with cruelty cases. For instance, a few weeks back, four puppies were burnt alive, and when we reported this to the police, they responded immediately and arrested the culprit. The culprit was then beaten and also made to realize his crime. If the government effectively implements the laws, then not only two-three of the officers, but everyone of them will have the knowledge and will work to end the suffering of those innocent animals.

Do you think there has been success in minimizing the population of stray dogs in Nepal?
Yes, the population of stray dogs is slowly but definitely decreasing. In the context of Nepal, the population of stray dogs is innumerous. Our organization, along with other NGOs, has been conducting spaying campaigns for controlling the population of stray dogs. As spaying every stray dog at once is not practical, we target one particular community at a time, capture the dogs, carry out the surgery, and release them in their respective areas. In this process, contribution of multiple organizations, and also cooperation from the public, is crucial.

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