Hoping to curb the abundance of strays in Shimla, the Municipal Corporation came up with this idea which was inspired by the Michigan Humane Society.
Shimla is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India due to its high altitude and unmatched weather. Apart from being home to a number of buildings flaunting colonial architecture and churches, it is also home to a number of stray dogs in the area. Hoping to curb this abundance of mongrels, the Shimla Municipal Corporation has come up with a plan that would kill two birds with one stone (not literally though).
In an attempt to encourage residents to adopt these adorable canines, the Shimla MC has offered to waive off garbage fees and provide free parking in residential areas to citizens who would adopt a stray dog. Of course, this offer comes with some rules that see to the well-being of the little pooches. If a person fails to take good care of the dog, they would be charged a hefty amount of Rs. 10,000 ($135.36) reports Times of India. There are nearly 2,000 stray dogs roaming in the city and it is not uncommon to see packs of dogs roaming around Mall Road and the Ridge, which is one of the most popular tourist spots in town.
Back in September 2019, a division bench of the high court declared that the Municipal Corporation (MC) was responsible for getting rid of the stray dogs. It further said that the MC was duty-bound to provide shelter and kennels to these homeless animals. Providing an ultimatum of three months, the court ordered the MC to rid the city of stray dogs in 2013. However, the matter was not resolved within the given time frame and nothing was done. Apparently, the matter is still pending in the Supreme Court.
When the civic body was faced with a shortage of dog pounds, they proposed a stray dog adoption scheme which was inspired by one city in the United States. Noting the role played by Michigan Humane Society, a private non-profit organization, Shimla MC Commissioner Pankaj Rai revealed how they are providing animal welfare and sheltering services to the Detroit area in the US. Founded in 1877, the Michigan Humane Society (MHS) is one of the oldest and largest nonprofit animal welfare organization in the state. The organization's aim is to "improve and save lives through compassionate care, community engagement and advocacy for animals."
Every year, the "MHS achieves 100 percent adoption of more than 8,000 healthy and treatable animals through compassionate care, community engagement and advocacy for humane treatment." Detailing specifics of their operation, the website says, "MHS operates four shelter and veterinary centers in Detroit, Rochester Hills, Westland and Howell; seven adoption partnerships with Premier Pet Supply, Petco and PetSmart; and both a Cruelty Investigation Department and a Statewide Animal Response Team." From time to time, the MHS offers free sterilization and affordable veterinary care for cats and dogs. Additionally, they have created many innovative programs to help owners bear the cost of keeping pets.
It also assists pet owners to rehome their pets by providing possible alternatives. A team of trained and credentialed investigators and rescue agents are deployed by the Michigan Human Society on the streets of metropolitan Detroit every day. Inspired by their concept, Commissioner Rai decided to replicate it in the hopes of finding a permanent solution in Shimla. "People interested in adopting a stray dog will have to fill up a form and enter into an agreement with the Shimla MC assuring that the animal would be given good food, medical (treatment) and care," noted Rai.
"Initially, this scheme was not included in the proposal. Earlier, we offered 50% off the garbage bill, but after viewing the response of the people, we thought that more people should join the adoption scheme. So, we offered free parking and exempted people from the garbage bill for adopting stray dogs, along with free registration and vaccination charge," explained Rai in an interview with NDTV. Applauding the move, a resident of Shimla, Geeta Sood said, "The local residents have appreciated the offer and are coming forward to provide the stray dogs with shelter. Not only will the dogs get a home, while the people will be safer on the streets.