August 3, 2016
by Sally Kannan
Given Kerala’s reputation as not being very friendly towards animals, I was surprised to be invited by the Animal Husbandry Department of the state’s Palakkad District to manage their Animal Birth Control program. The government wanted me to train the area’s dog catchers to handle the dogs in a humane and compassionate manner—the first time such as request had been made there. Even the name of the program, “Dog-Friendly Palakkad,” demonstrated a positive attitude.
All of the men I was to instruct used to cull dogs for a living, and it was a real challenge for me to change their feelings, but within a few days, these people who used to seize animals with poles and wires were catching them by hand and treating them gently. Even dogs who were initially aggressive responded to the kindness they were shown.
The tolerance shown by the public was also commendable. Every time we went out, we gave a brief lecture for the people nearby, explaining ABC and why it was important to release the animals back to the same place they came from after their spay/neuter surgery. I strongly believe that awareness is the key; we must engage citizens in a dialogue and dispel misconceptions about street dogs.
It was heartwarming to see people lovingly accepting the animals back into their community. Some kids were worried seeing us with dogs near their school, but I reassured them that these dogs were docile and could be trusted. Hearing me speak, someone came forward and adopted a puppy we had just let go. It was one of my happiest days ever. Help make a difference for more dogs in India and worldwide.
Sally is a consultant with HSI/India and an honorary member of the Animal Welfare Board of India. She and her husband also run a rescue shelter called Save A Life. She has been recognized by the president of India as one of the country's Top 100 Women Achievers.