You may remember that last year we were shocked to learn about a terrible act of cruelty to a donkey in India. Well, we’ve got some good news - later this month we'll be providing a training course, which we hope will prevent any other donkeys in the area suffering a similar fate.
It was in August 2011 that we were shown a distressing video clip of the donkey being crushed to death with the excavator of a mechanical digger in the town of Churu, Rajasthan. As if the brutality of this act wasn’t bad enough, we learned that it had been carried out by an official from the local municipal council. He had been told to do this by a sanitary inspector from the council, who was responding to reports from local people that the donkey had been sniffing the body of a dog which had died of rabies. They believed – wrongly - that this meant the donkey could have contracted the disease.
We were obviously shocked by this incident and wanted to understand why it had happened, so that we could do whatever possible to make sure it didn’t happen again. Working with our Indian legal adviser, one of the country’s top animal welfare lawyers, we took legal action to highlight the seriousness of the incident, which was a clear breach of Indian animal welfare law. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 sets out a procedure for dealing with ill and suffering animals, which should involve examination by a vet, followed by humane euthanasia, if necessary.
However, we knew that the best way to prevent a similar incident would be by working with the council, not against it. The donkey killing incident had highlighted the major issue of rabies, the very real fear people have of the disease, and the need for better knowledge and skills on the part of council officials. We were encouraged to hear, at the end of 2011, that the council had taken disciplinary action against the sanitary inspector who had authorised the killing, and the JCB operator who had carried it out, and that its new Executive Commissioner was taking the incident very seriously.
Working with the organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in India, we offered to help facilitate training for his officials to improve their understanding of rabies, and their skills in the humane handling and transport of donkeys and other stray animals.
The Executive Commissioner of Churu council was very happy for such a course to take place, and willing to organise a venue. The course is due to take place at the end of June, and will be carried out by vets from The Donkey Sanctuary. We and PETA are both very pleased with this outcome. We hope it will lead to other councils following the example of the Churu municipality, taking the responsibility to ensure that their own staff are aware of the correct response to a possible case of rabies, and know how to deal with any infected animals in the most humane way possible.