By Shaurya Kshatri
Kathmandu, Nov. 13 : In Kirtipur, several stray dogs of the city now walk with neon belts tied around their necks. These collars attached to the street dogs catch the light reflected from vehicles, making them visible in the darkness.
The initiative, a collaboration between local youth organisations, Panga Kirtipur, The Newars and pet stores, Care Paws, and Pawshome Nepal, began on November 2 to protect the vagrant dogs from road accidents at night.
“With large number of dogs roaming around Kirtipur, busy traffic and lack of street lights, there’s always a huge risk of accidents due to collision,” explains Bishal Maharjan, the Admin of the Panga, Kirtipur Facebook handle.
Bearing this in mind, the aforementioned organisations came up with the ‘Light of Life’ campaign by pooling in their resources and stitching the reflective collars independently. Melina Maharjan and Pratima Maharjan, two of the initiative’s brainchild, work on manufacturing the belts from their homes, which are then taken all around Kirtipur by volunteers. So far, the unit has combed the area from Tribhuvan University, Loktantrik Chowk to the periphery around the Kirtipur Ring Road while collaring a total of 145 dogs. “In the coming days, we will also be attaching these belts on strays found along the Chobhar Road, Tyanglaphat area, Nagaun to Machhegaun Area,” informed Admin Maharjan.
With 16 dogs per km, Kathmandu has one of the world’s highest densities of roaming dogs, according to Manumitra, Nepal’s first Metropolitan Dog Management Programme. In light of such staggering numbers, it’s commendable that animal-friendly campaigns such as the reflective collars have recently evolved across the nation.
The reflective collar movement isn’t unique to Kirtipur alone but has gained momentum in different parts of the country.
Since last September, the Animal Rights Club has been tying such bands around necks of stray dogs residing near the highway in East-Chitwan. As per ARC, there have been many cases of hit and run. Some dogs who get their spinal cord broken often get euthanized due to the absence of animal shelter in Chitwan. Much in the same vein, Humane Nepal, an animal welfare organization based in Pokhara, has been independently carrying out their campaign. They have already covered most stray dogs from Hallanchowk to Srijana Chowk in Pokhara.
Similar campaigns have sprouted at Bharatpur by Rotary Club of Bharatpur, at Mechinagar by Hope for Animal Nepal NGO, and a host of different places.
“Highways witness the most number of road accidents due to stray animals, most of them domesticated bovines abandoned by their owners,” informed SP Rameshwar Prasad Yadav.
Back in June of 2018, with the ‘Ethical Self and Animal Safety Awareness for a Better Society’ campaign, almost 50 bovines in Kathmandu were collared under the initiative of the Mathmandir Gaibachha Bachau Tatha Samaj Bikash Abhiyan, a cow shelter that adopts cows, buffalos and male calves abandoned on the streets. Gopal Neupane, the Founder President of the organization, has been rescuing bovine left for dead out in the streets, sheltering and feeding them in his humble abode near Pashupatinath since 2014.
As per Neupane’s estimation, there are over 8,000 stray cattle in Kathmandu alone. Most of them are male bovine or milch cows that have stopped milking or reproducing. Neupane brings these beasts, deemed useless by owners, and cares for them without expecting anything in return.
“Failing to preserve our sacred animal is a disrespect not only to the holy cows, but also to our culture and identity,” believes Neupane. In the cow shelter’s initial days, he used to carry the discarded calves to the shelter, not on a pick-up truck or a trailer but astride his motorcycle. Today, Neupane’s organisation caters to over 200 cattle.
“The country is waking up to fight animal abuse. This (reflective collar) is a vital movement and it should be promoted elsewhere,” concludes Neupane.
– The Rising Nepal