Govt orders probe into Animal shelter
In late July, the Karnataka government initiated an inquiry into Karuna Animal Shelter amid allegations of mistreatment of animals and misuse of funds.
Karuna is a Bangalore NGO running the shelter in a part of the sprawling University of Agriculture Sciences campus in Hebbal.
The complaints, and an online petition on change.org that has garnered over 5,000 signatures, concerns Karuna’s questionable conduct & ethics over the years.
The Department of Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Sciences formed a five-member committee after several animal activists, including Sujaya Jagadish from SOACT, alleged irregularities in a written complaint.
Sujaya says: ‘’So many NGOs struggle to get even one dog adopted, any animal lover will know this. Then how come Karuna Animal Shelter claims it is getting dozens of dogs adopted within such short periods of time? Where are these dogs ending up?”
Allegations include mistreatment and isolation of pedigree dogs, taking a hefty fee for adoption as well as giving up pets, euthanising unclaimed street dogs as well as favouring some VIP’s by removing strays from their areas and others.
The Government has given the committee a mandate to investigate all the allegations thoroughly and file a report within six months.
Many activists have complained that Karuna charges Rs 7,000 from those admitting their dogs to the shelter.
“Visitors are not allowed to visit the inside or take photographs. Very predictably, they get calls within weeks that either the animal died or has been adopted,” says one volunteer activist who worked with Karuna briefly.
She also recounts how she had to really struggle to get two female Labradors adopted from Karuna Animal Shelter years ago. These dogs were also not neutered as per guidelines before giving up for adoption, she adds.
According to our source who visited Karuna recently after the government ordered an inquiry, most dogs are kept in a ward that opens up into small kennels. While adult dogs are kept alone, puppies are housed together in enclosures.
This source was allowed to visit one of the enclosures amid allegations that it is usually not allowed, falling in line with Sujaya Jagadish’s claims of an attempted clean-up after the committee was formed to look into the allegations.
As per the staff on duty, severely infected dogs are kept in a separate building where entry is permitted only to staff and officials. This building is out of bounds for visitors, the agonised howls the only proof of its residents.
A staff member says that they are very specific that the shelter should be looked on as a last resort – if someone wants to give up a pet or stray.
She adds that the organisation is strictly for sick and aged dogs, most of whom are abandoned either because of their guardians migrating, sickness or an inability to care for the animal.
Sujaya alleges that there is a separate isolated ward for pedigree dogs that is not known to the general public. It gives rise to speculation that some breeders have access to it.
“People need not be scared to come out with their Karuna story as it will help animal welfare in the long run”.
The absence of a proper regulation for animal shelters allows anybody to start a shelter and use it as an excuse to mismanage donations and abuse the voiceless. There is no accountability for these organisations, especially when it comes to adoption or count of dogs registered.”
Sujaya hopes that as the issue gains momentum, there will be calls for investigating shelters such as Karuna that operate with the help of the state and on government land.
“We need much more transparency in such shelters. There are also reports the organisation buries dead dogs at a farmland in Doddaballapur.
This is very disturbing as it points to the fact that instead of taking care, the shelter may be practising mass euthanisia,” say Levin, another animal activist.
The activists say there is a need to bring in dedicated, honest and invested professionals who are connected to the cause.
Sujaya says anyone who has more information can mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Maria Kuruvilla