Animals and staff continue to suffer at the Sector 38-west shelter of Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), two weeks after the fund-starved NGO rejected the UT administration’s takeover bid.
After stopping the funding to the NGO in March over allegations of mismanagement and misappropriation of funds, the administration had formed its own Society for Welfare of Animals (SWA), but was later forced by rules and circumstances to urge the SPCA for a merger.
The takeover talks fell through over what appeared to be ego issues and the matter of takeover of the NGO’s pending liabilities of around Rs 13 lakh.
A visit to the SPCA shelter and hospital for destitute animals on Friday revealed a pathetic state of affairs. For instance, one out of the seven pigeons at the shelter was found dead during the HT team’s visit.
The staff said someone from Mohali had got the injured animal there, but it could not get treatment due to paucity of expert staff. “We were going to dress its wounds soon, but it has apparently succumbed already,” said a staff member who did not want to be named. Otherwise, new admissions have been stopped.
SPCA president Jasbir Ralhan said the NGO had decided to reject the takeover as they had got “nothing in writing”, also blaming “ego of some officials”. He had said that “we will run the SPCA howsoever we can”.
He repeated his claims on Friday, though he admitted that no funding had yet come through. “We are 15 executive members and plan to contribute Rs 1 lakh each. So far, we are doing our best through public donations,” Ralhan added.
The NGO had been getting government funding for over nearly decades, with Rs 60 lakh given in the past three years alone.
There were two doctors, but had left in March and April due to non-payment of salary. Now, doctors are requisitioned every four or five days, said Avtar Singh, the reception staff at the shelter.
But the staff remains unpaid for at least six months. The funding had been stopped after August when Ralhan came to power in a bitter faction fight in the SPCA. That factionalism is being cited as the reason behind the “mess”.
The number of destitute dogs has come down from 16 to 10 in the six weeks that HT had last visited the shelter.
While four dogs have died due to their ailments and two released as they were doing better, said the staff, the others are getting “basic dressing at least”.
Large animals, including cows with maggot-infested wounds, can be seen suffering in unhygienic conditions. Their feed is donated by the public, though. “We have some regular donors, so the feed is not a problem yet,” said Avtar.
None of the 10-odd staff members have been paid in the past six months. “We are hoping things will improve, as we cannot leave without at least getting the outstanding pay,” remarked two of the staffers.
‘OPEN TO RECONSIDER THE TAKEOVER’
SPCA chief Jasbir Ralhan had earlier expressed fear that the administration “would hand over our SPCA to the much more powerful NGO People for Animals PFA)”, underlining that the local PFA chief Payal Sodhi had been made the head of two sub-committees of the administration’s SWA.
Ralhan had even received a call purportedly from Union minister Maneka Gandhi, who is the PFA national chairperson, over alleged irregularities at the SPCA facility.
On Friday, though, he said he was open to reconsidering the takeover offer “if talks are held not below the level of the UT adviser”.
Animal husbandry director Prince Dhawan was not available for comment, though a senior officer in the department said talks could resume as the administration “has realised that it cannot take over by force” since the NGO had got rules on its side.