Mapstone has been a frequent visitor to Nepal and was always moved by street dogs huddled in cardboard boxes at street-side garbage piles near Swayambhu.
One afternoon three years ago, she followed a puppy to its mother and siblings living on a sidewalk. She started feeding them daily, but the mother and litter were in bad shape. She took them for treatment at the KAT Centre, but the vets were only able to save a female puppy.
Mapstone named the pup Dawa, and adopted her. With Dawa by her side in Canada, Mapstone’s Temple Dog Rescue has been helping KAT Centre with fundraising to carry on with its work in feeding and sheltering Kathmandu’s community dogs, which have been going hungry during the long lockdown.
Temple Dog Rescue also helps place dogs up for adoption with new families, and has helped find homes for dozens of strays from Nepal and Egypt. And it has found Angel a home.
The four-year-old is being adopted by an award-winning Canadian activist against domestic violence, and will soon have a large 20 hectare property to explore in Ontario. Through GoFundMe, Angel now also has a one-way ticket and is waiting for her own flight from Kathmandu airport, where she said goodbye to so many of her canine friends.
“Angel’s story about being an airport dog was so compelling that she was very popular during the fundraising, and soon she will have a loving home and lots of space to roam around and play,” Mapstone told Nepali Times by phone.
Meanwhile in Kathmandu, animal welfare activists are busier than ever caring for street animals during the lockdown. KAT Centre and Sneha’s Care have been feeding dogs, cows and even temple monkeys which have been deprived of their usual source of food. The empty roads also mean that there has been a horrendous rise in dogs and cows sitting on the asphalt being hit by speeding cars.
Sneha’s Care last week signed an MoU with Lalitpur Municipality to turn the city into an ‘animal friendly metro’, in the hope that it will be a model for other municipalities in Nepal to better care for street animals with anti-rabies vaccination campaigns, sterilisations, and control mistreatment.
Animal welfare organisations are often asked why they pay so much attention to dogs when people are also suffering during the pandemic. Sneha Shreshta of Shena’s Care answer to them is: “Looking after suffering animals is also a part of what it means to be a human being.”
Not all street dogs in Kathmandu are abandoned, many are community dogs. But many of these neighbourhood animals are also going hungry because of the lockdown, and have to forage in garbage piles to survive.
Janak Kapali says he has noticed growing awareness in communities about the need to take care of dogs all year around, and not just worship them during Kukur Tihar. Nepal’s animal care organisations have increased their profile, and there is now better response when abandoned dogs are put up for adoption.
“Unlike in the past, we now get inquiries about street dogs for adoption, although many more still prefer popular dog breeds,” says Dahal of KAT Centre. “Having people to volunteer with us is more important than donations because once people work closely with these animals, they have better empathy for them.”
It is difficult to find Nepali families wanting to adopt older, or disabled dogs and those that are not pure breeds. Which is where foreign adoptions have helped with finding homes for dogs that have been injured in acid attacks, or wounded in traffic accidents.
Adds Mapstone of the Temple Dog Rescue: “Street dogs can be just as gentle and loyal and as willing to please as any other breed, they just need a chance and that is what we are doing.”