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Justice for Charlie

While Sri Lankans gathered with their near and dear and celebrated the dawn of a new year, unbeknownst to all, a horrific sequence of events was unfolding in Negombo. Charlie, a 2 year old Labrador was doused in kerosene and set alight; unspeakably evil and barbaric, more so considering the poor animal was locked in a kennel, with no means of escape. The pooch ultimately succumbed to its injuries.

Messages wishing everyone a ‘Happy 2019’ were engulfed by graphic images of a Labrador whose skin was burnt off, with an accompanying gut-wrenching account that shocked the country. News emerged that the pooch was murdered because of his excessive barking. As angry citizens bayed for blood, the purported offender of the heinous crime was divulged - a 38 year old resident of Koppara Handiya in Negombo, the same locale as Charlie’s home. The half-hearted celebration was short lived and those eagerly following the story learnt that the Negombo Magistrates Court released the 38 year old labourer on a surety bail of Rs. 5,000. Renewed calls for the Bill to be passed, and fervent protestations ensued once again.

An undercurrent of eerie discomfort permeated the collective psyche of the masses as they attempted to comprehend the story, to dissect the mind of one capable of committing such a heinous act. Afterall, we have become quite accustomed to tales of humans enduring various forms of torture, but when the same fate befalls animals, ‘we are more likely to feel empathy for a victim if we consider them to be helpless and unable to look after themselves, much like an infant or toddler, and we view dogs in the same way — ultimately defenseless and requiring assistance’.

It is imperative then, that the Animal welfare Bill is ratified with utmost urgency. ‘The new legislation proposed has as its objective the replacement of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance of 1907 and to recognise duty of care for persons in charge of animals to treat animals humanely, to prevent cruelty to animals, to secure the protection and welfare of animals, to establish a National Animal Welfare Authority and Regulations and Codes of Practice and to raise awareness on animal welfare’

Without a doubt, in light of the fact that the story is still sensational news, Charlie will be the celebrated poster pup for animal cruelty. His photographs, those taken in his heyday, his adorable face melting your heart, followed by the fateful photograph that shook Sri Lankans to their core, continues to be shared far and wide. Social media is still flooded with an unprecedented number of impassioned posts calling for the head of the culprit on a spike. But to what end? A quick Google search will furnish evidence that is disheartening - activists and individuals have lobbied time and time again to have the Bill enacted, but to no avail. What will it take before the Bill is finally ratified? What poor soul will next succumb to government inaction? Campaigns have continually plateaued out due to such inertia, and in turn, public confidence has taken a nosedive. To what extent will we tolerate animal abuse and torture before we decide enough is enough?


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