Friday, May 06, 2011

State-sanctioned animal cruelty?

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 06 May 2011)

I was pleased to hear about the government’s move to start picking up stray animals from the streets. Anyone and everyone can attest to the hazard these animals create with their presence on the roadways – both to others and to themselves. However, I was not at all pleased to read the Kaieteur News article published on May 4 entitled, “Impounded animals dying in State care.”

The article said, “This newspaper was reliably informed that as a result, these animals have been locked up in police pounds for more than two weeks, in most cases, without water and proper food.
So far at least two animals have died at one of the pounds on the East Coast of Demerara, apparently as a result of dehydration and starvation. There are also reports, too, that the remaining animals there are in really bad condition.”

Later in that same article, Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee said he knew nothing of these conditions. He also said, “Before jumping to conclusions, one has to ascertain what condition the animal was brought.”

I can see how this could be the case given the condition of most of the strays seen on the streets.
However, it is highly unsettling for me to think that the unchecked animal cruelty in Guyana has now become State-sanctioned, with animals being starved to death in the custody of the State. If the reports of maltreatment of the strays picked up from the streets are true, this is a new low for the nation. 

I have been witness to the animal cruelty in Guyana. One late night, after a trip to Berbice to hold a workshop on domestic violence, my companions and I had just arrived back to Georgetown. We pulled up to a corner in the minivan and across the street, in a fenced area, was the most beautiful white horse I had ever seen in my life – and it was being molested.

I am not sure what was going on, but the horse’s tail was raised and there were two men standing right behind the horse. The men were laughing and the horse was swaying as it was obviously finding it difficult to continue standing.

Everyone in the van just stared. I wanted to jump out of the vehicle and run over to yell at the men, but the driver pulled off quickly almost like he wanted to save us from seeing further abuse.
In bed that night, all I could see was that horse stumbling around and those wicked men laughing. I called my husband and told him about the horrid sight. We are both animal lovers and the idea of abusing an animal is barbaric to us.

At a later point, I also mentioned this to one of my colleagues who was in the van with me that night, and she too is haunted by that image.

We are also both haunted by our inaction, a mistake I will not make again. I was exhausted after a long day and there were still those who had accompanied us to the workshop who needed to be dropped off. I know full well that my fatigue was no reason to abandon that poor horse to the abuse of those wicked men. I repeat, it will not happen again. My conscience will not allow it to happen again.

I have watched with interest for a long time as letters from Syeada Manbodh encouraged the Guyanese people to care about Guyana’s animals. There is no doubt that Ms. Manbodh is a crusader for the nation’s animals and for that she has earned my respect.

In a letter to the Kaieteur News Editor on March 1 entitled, “A demonstration of compassion and love for animals,” Manbodh suggests that the Guyana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (GSPCA) “develop a volunteer network to provide support services that their existing employees are unable to carry out (animal rescue, animal transport, general support to people who need help with their animals, etc.).”

I agree that the development of such a network is a great idea – especially considering the depth of the problem concerning strays and animal cruelty.

However, I want to suggest that Ms. Manbodh do what I decided to do last year concerning domestic violence – choose to do more than just write about the problem and actually start doing something herself.

Now I know Ms. Manbodh rescues and cares for plenty of animals, but instead of waiting for someone else to put together a volunteer network – as she has suggested – perhaps it is time for her to do it herself.

Take it from me; waiting around for someone else to do what you can do is frustrating and a waste of time. It is also what holds Guyana back from so much, because everyone is waiting for someone else to do something.

The poor animals of Guyana have suffered long enough. They cannot afford to wait any longer for someone to decide to do something for them, which means that those who care about them must choose to do something now to stop the suffering.

According to, here are some things you can do to help animals in Guyana: Convince someone to return a wild animal to their natural habitat; adopt a dog or cat from GSPCA or off the street; educate children about the positive side of dogs and cats; report cases of cruelty to the GSPCA, your local shelter and police; control dog and cat populations by spaying and neutering your pets; exchange information with others on how to control abuse; or just how to make life easier for our animal friends.

I have six cats of my own, five of which were adopted (three from shelters and two from the street).
Also, I fed a group of feral cats (and their kittens) for years. I helped get them spayed and neutered, too. I did not intend on having so many cats for which to care, but I could not turn my back on them when they needed help.

I am not suggesting you do what I have done or what Ms. Manbodh does, I am just asking that you do not turn your back on an animal that is suffering when it is within your power to help.

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