KARACHI, Pakistan – “Karachi mayor Niamatul-lah Khan is about to go on a rampage, poisoning 500,000 stray dogs in total disregard of alternatives presented by the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society, along with a large number of doctors, health officials, and Karachi citizens,” Engineers and Scientists for Animal Rights founder Syed Rizvi warned on Friday, May 13, 2005, in an e-mail quickly distributed worldwide by pro-animal newsgroups.
Born and raised in Karachi, Rizvi now lives in San Jose, California, but maintains close contact with Pakistani animal advocates. “The City of Karachi is preparing 500,000 strychnine capsules,” Rizvi charged. “I have been in constant touch with Mahera Omar of the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society, who is asking that e-mails and letters from the international community be sent to the authorities, asking them to refrain from this barbaric practice.
“Please e-mail to General Parvez Musharraf, the President of Pakistan, who is a dog lover himself,” Rizvi asked. “Some might have seen his picture in Newsweek recently, holding his two little dogs close to his heart.”
“The World Society for the Protection of Animals will fax a letter to the President of Pakistan on behalf of our 506 member societies in 126 countries to protest this decision, and to offer WSPA’s services to discuss a more humane policy,” responded WSPA director general Peter
The intensive exposure of the poisoning plans brought mixed results. “On the one hand, the city government has offered cooperation to PAWS in setting up an Animal Birth Control program in Karachi,” Mahera Omar and Maheen Zia of the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society posted to on June 3. “On the other, it is resolutely
continuing its senseless dog killing. While we fully intend to take the nazim [mayor] up on his word, we believe the offer of help is lip-service, as the May 30 meeting which was supposed to explore alternative strategies began with the distribution of flyers announcing the strategy already decided upon: mass strychnine poisoning of stray dogs.
“The 3-page handout indicated that photographs of dead dogs are to be published in leading newspapers to keep the public informed of the progress of the campaign,” Omar and Zia said. “In addition, two million rupees [about $34,000] have been allocated as rewards for the most successful poisoners. This is clearly madness,” Omar and Zia opined.
h4. Warning tied to vaccine issue
Animal Save Movement president Khalid Mahmood Qureshi, of Multan, warned ANIMAL PEOPLE on March 18, 2005 that the dog massacre
was coming. E-mailed Qureshi, “The mayor of Karachi and the health department have declared that they will kill dogs in 18 towns,” once suburbs, now engulfed by the sprawling metropolis. Qureshi said that the Karachi city government and the Sind state governments had offered bounties amounting to about 40Â¢ per dog.
Qureshi alleged that the dog-killing had begun in response to a shortage of human post-exposure vaccine.
ANIMAL PEOPLE consulted many other sources, but for six weeks all denied that there was either a vaccine shortage or a dog massacre underway, other than sporadic poisoning by aggrieved private individuals. Indirect confirmation finally came through a forwarded statement by Infectious Disease Society of Pakistan president Naseem Salahuddin, who is also a member of the World Health Organization Expert Committee on Rabies.
“For nearly seven years the Infectious Disease Society of Pakistan has advocated that the National Institutes of Health in Islamabad should discontinue dispensing the obsolete and ineffective Semple sheep brain post-exposure vaccine,” Salahuddin explained. “Public pressure has finally prevailed.”
On April 8 the official Pakistani post-exposure rabies vaccination became a tissue culture vaccine, with a much higher reliability rating. Conversion to tissue culture vaccinations had already been underway at some hospitals for as long as 10 years.
Rumors about a vaccine shortage may have developed as result of hospitals using up their stocks of the Semple vaccine before introducing
the alternatives. Just two major hospitals in Karachi provide post-exposure vaccination to more than 50 dog bite victims per day, Salahuddin said. “There is a great need to educate the general public regarding danger of dog bite, its relation to the deadly disease, and prevention of rabies by using proper preventive measures,” Salahuddin emphasized. “This must be done regularly through the press, lectures and
handouts. Most doctors [in Pakistan] are inexperienced and not updated on modern methods. Wrong advice and improper handling of bite cases can lead to rabies,” and to public panic, Salahuddin continued.
“The Infectious Disease Society of Pakistan plans to hold workshops on rabies prevention in small towns and rural health centers,” Salahuddin promised. “Most importantly,” Salahuddin stated, “dog bite should be prevented by reducing the stray dog population. Niamatullah Khan supports
this viewpoint,” Salahuddin said, recommending
a three-point strategy.
“Catch, neuter, vaccinate and release stray dogs,” Salaheddin urged as one essential element. “Neutered animals not only are likely to be less aggressive, but will not multiply. “Encourage people to own stray or pet dogs,” Salaheddin added. “Vaccinate them and keep a vaccination record. Rogue dogs should be killed, as they pose the greatest danger to the human population,” Salaheddin concluded, making clear that he meant only dogs who have threatened or attacked people and other animals.
“Killing dogs randomly has never been proved to be successful in any country,” Salaheddin reminded, citing the success of Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia in using a similar strategy to “successfully reduce their numbers of dog bites and rabies cases to very low
But only three days later, Dawn, the leading English daily newspaper in Pakistan, announced that Niamatullah Khan had “decided to launch a major campaign” against homeless dogs, to “continue until their total elimination.”
In all likelihood “total elimination” cannot be achieved due to the abundance of refuse and rats in Pakistani streets. Dogs may become less visible for a time, but will rapidly breed back up to the high carrying capacity of the habitat within a year or less, as after previous poisoning and shooting campaigns.
“The nazim directed the Department of Health to take concrete measures for providing the required number of [poison] capsules for killing stray dogs,” Dawn reported, “stronglyinstructing that they should not fall short, as in the past.”
Acknowledged Salahuddin, “Mahera Omar [of the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society] suggested more humane methods, such as ABC or vaccinating stray dogs. This is highly impractical, given that we have no vets in the government sector to carry this out.
“People of Karachi do not want to see dead dogs, but neither do we physicicans want to see horrible cases of dog bites and rabies. We have a duty to save our people first,” Salaheddin said.
h4. “Colored water”
“The rabies situation in Pakistan is a total disaster, as bad as the worst I saw in West Africa decades ago,” offered Henry Wilde, M.D., director of the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute in Bangkok, established in 1921 as a rabies prevention and treatment facility, now involved in fighting many other viral diseases.
Wilde has visited Pakistan three times to lecture and investigate rabies outbreaks, he told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “They have been using Semple vaccine made locally for years, which my staff and local as well as Paris experts have found to be completely devoid of antigen,” Wilde said, describing it as “colored water.”
Wilde opined in an hour-long meeting with ANIMAL PEOPLE that the shortage of veterinarians in Pakistan is so acute and the abundance of
street dogs so large that it will be necessary to kill dogs just to reduce the numbers enough to have a hope of being able to sterilize and vaccinate 70%.
“I know you don’t want to hear that,” Wilde said.
h4. Introducing sterilization
“A handful of animal loving organizations and people from Geo T.V. are trying their level best to stop the mass killing of dogs,” offered I.H. Kathio, DVM.
Born in Larkana, Pakistan, Kathio, 51, now owns three U.S. veterinary clinics and three others in Pakistan. His primary practice is in Pennsylvania, but he also directs a pilot dog and cat sterilization project at the government-funded Richmond Crawford Animal Hospital in Karachi.
“In this hospital I am setting up an American-standard surgical and examination room,” Kathio told ANIMAL PEOPLE in November 2004. I am donating surgical and medical supplies.”
Kathio expressed hope that he can eventually train enough veterinary surgeons to do high-speed sterilization under strictly aseptic conditions to equip Karachi, and Pakistan, to deal with dog overpopulation humanely.
Meanwhile, argued Rizvi, “Dogs are a part of our urban ecology. Poisoning them can create environmental havoc. Moreover, poisoning is a painful way to kill animals, and inimical to the teachings of the Holy Prophet, who said ‘Whoever is kind to the creatures of God is kind to himself.’ I understand people in Karachi are being rewarded when someone shoots a dog and brings the tail to the authorities for
compensation. This is in total contempt of the teachings of the Holy Prophet, who said ‘If you must kill, kill without torture.'”
Rizvi told fellow protesters against the Karachi poisoning that Pakistan is not an inhumane nation, regardless of superficial appearance.
“A few years ago, I visited Karachi, my former place of residence, and was overwhelmed by the positive response I received when I talked
about animal rights at the Hotel Metropole,” he said. “The Pakistan Arts Council, the Pakistan Medical Association, and Engineers and Scientist for Animal Rights had sponsored an art exhibit on the humane treatment of animals. I was moved by the children’s presentations. They profoundly expressed their concern for animals.” “We will strongly protest this genocide,” Qureshi pledged.
by *Merritt Clifton*
Editor, ANIMAL PEOPLE
P.O. Box 960
Clinton, WA 98236