Wednesday Jun 08 2022

Rawalpindi university torturing stray animals to teach students, say activists

Scores of perfectly healthy stray dogs were picked up from the streets in Rawalpindi to be experimented on. — Canva/file
Scores of perfectly healthy stray dogs were picked up from the streets in Rawalpindi to be experimented on. — Canva/file

Just a few days ago, tweets and videos began circulating on social media about the barbaric practice of animal torture and experimentation currently underway at Pir Mehr Ali Shah (PMAS) Arid Agriculture University in Rawalpindi.

It is being reported that scores of perfectly healthy stray dogs were picked up from the streets in Rawalpindi to be experimented on by students at the university’s Veterinary & Animal Sciences department.

Anila Umair, of Critters Ark Welfare Organization, an animal welfare organization in Islamabad, reveals that she found out about the unethical practice taking place at the institution early this month.

Rawalpindi university torturing stray animals to teach students, say activists

“Since I’ve been rescuing animals for almost two decades, I’m in constant touch with animal activists in the city,” she states, “On June 1, I was informed by an animal activist that a stray dog she used to feed was picked up by two men on a motorbike.”

Through CCTV footage it was soon discovered that the men were from Arid University. Acting swiftly, Umair contacted a friend studying at the university and asked him to visit the university’s Veterinary & Animal Sciences laboratory.

“I’d sent him a photo of the stolen dog and when he went to the lab he saw the same dog had been operated on and was in a terrible state. He told us to come to the campus immediately,” the animal activist told “When we arrived, we noticed the dogs were tied up from their legs, some had their mouths sealed – it was a shocking and gut-wrenching sight.”

When the students and staff members were questioned about their practice, Umair reveals that they appeared visibly worried after being caught red-handed.

“We questioned why they were picking up dogs and conducting life-threatening surgeries on healthy animals,” she added, “We tried to make them understand how unethical their practice was and that if they wanted to do good work and train their students, why didn’t they ever consider partnering with animal rescuers and organizations on humane initiatives?”

Leaving the lab after assurances that the staff would work closely with Umair and her peers, the animal activist states that when they went back the next morning - to figure out the way forward regarding the release and protection of the dogs – they were barred from entering the campus.

In fact, when the Dean of the department, Dr. Arfan Yousaf, was contacted by Umair about the issue, she was reprimanded.

Ever since the horrific videos – featuring dogs writhing and whimpering in pain – began going viral, a number of animal activists and animal rescuers, including celebrity, Mishi Khan, have taken to social media to alert the authorities and to put pressure on the university to put an end to the apathetic, ghastly veterinary ‘training.’

In fact, Umair, along with other animal activists in the city, even staged a protest at the Islamabad Press Club on June 7. But even though one week has passed since the news began going viral online, Arid University is yet to release an official statement.

“I’ve been working with and supporting all of our local animal rescue organizations for years,” states Karachi-based animal activist and animal rescuer, Sarah Jahangir

Rescuing and rehabilitating animals for over a decade, Jahangir states that no matter how much work Pakistan’s animal activists and rescuers like herself do on home turf, animal cruelty remains rampant in the country.

“It literally falls on deaf ears and blind eyes,” she told, “People think that by just celebrating our work online, they’ve done their bit. However, the sad part is that we haven’t been able to change mindsets. Perhaps we have, to some tiny extent, all of us combined have made some difference in creating awareness, but 90% of people I know haven’t changed their ways.”

She adds that at this veterinary program, students are being trained who will eventually treat pets.

“Do we want such barbaric practices being done by vets with zero empathy? What good is your degree if you’re experimenting on animals off the street and torturing them? Don’t they have any rights? In which world does this sound normal?” Jahangir asks.

Ayesha Chundrigar, the founder of the most well-known animal welfare organization in the country, states that ever since she found out about the animal cruelty unfolding in Arid University, she has been deeply distraught.

“I haven’t been able to function properly since I saw these videos because I was continuously tagged in them,” she says. “I can’t function only by looking at them. Imagine being the dog in them. There have to be better practices for learning purposes. We understand that veterinary schools need to teach students, but there are ethical ways of doing so.”

Rehman is a journalist based in Islamabad. She can be contacted at: [email protected]