Rubaiya Ahmad reflects on the progress towards recognizing animal rights
“Earlier this week, Obhoyaronno received a call from the Special Security Force (SSF) at the Gonobhaban to rescue a dog that had fallen into a deep swamp. The honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina saw the dog fall and prompted SSF to call us right away,” said Rubaiya Ahmad, the founder of the organization. “This shows her love and compassion towards animals,” she added. The dog was rescued with no serious injuries and was taken to our clinic for observation. The dog was later vaccinated and sterilized and will be returned to its location on Saturday.
Incidents such as this aren’t anything new, the greenery in the Gonobhaban complex naturally attracts various animals, including wildlife that can be seen roaming around. However, there are strict instructions by the Prime Minister to the Gonobhaban staff that no animals should be disturbed or harmed, as they too have a right to live. “This is why we feel shocked when we receive requests to kill/displace dogs from the parliament area or the Gonobhaban. We know that this instruction could not have come from the Prime Minister even though her name is often used,” adds Rubaiya. She also mentions that only updating the law isn’t enough. Animal rights should be institutionalized and the policymakers should be sensitized.
It was only last year that the Bangladesh Parliament passed the Animal Welfare Bill 2019, which institutes stricter penalties and fines compared to that of the 100-year-old Cruelty to Animal Act of 1920 established in the colonial era. This was considered a major breakthrough in the development of the much-needed reform of the older law. However, making sure that proper supervisory duties of the authorities are performed--is another major challenge.
Even though the current administration is seemingly doing much more than any other in the past when it comes to animal rights, there are still a few places where the support from the representatives of the administration should be more visible. Only in April earlier this year, Obhoyaronno - Bangladesh Animal Welfare Foundation, faced concerns regarding its veterinary hospital -- which was being asked to relocate without any prior notice. This would immensely disrupt the lives of many stray animals which were undergoing treatment at that moment. However, the issue was resolved after the organization complied with the authorities regarding taking necessary changes so both can operate. The organization was running on fewer staff members due to the ongoing pandemic, but Dhaka Tribune was told, it would continue its full-fledged operations from next month.