18 May, 2022


Addressing The Issue Of Community Dogs In Sri Lanka

By Avanthi Jayasuriya

Avanthi Jayasuriya

Canine strays have been a perennial concern in urban and suburban areas of Sri Lanka due to the links to dog attacks and the spread of rabies. Adding to this issue is the recent incidence of “community dogs” frequenting public places, which has been sought to address through various government policies and strategies. Regarding the efforts to curb the canine stray population and the spread of rabies in Sri Lanka, the question arises as to how the national policies and strategies with regard to canine strays integrate the well-being of the animals.

Government Policies on Canine Strays

As a strategy to suppress the spread of rabies, the Rabies Ordinance of 1893 allowed stray dogs to be seized and disposed of, underscoring inherent cruelty in the means of elimination of stray dogs. However, in 2006 a presidential order was passed to implement a “no-kill policy” with regard to the stray dog issue. With the lobbying of animal activists this national policy highlighted a more humane approach to the treatment of the canine strays of Sri Lanka. The culling method operationalised under earlier laws was replaced by a catch-neuter-vaccinate-release method (CNVR). Statistics point to the dramatic decline in reported cases of rabies With only five cases of human rabies recorded in the first half of 2016 compared with 24 in all of 2015.
Following a decision taken by the Cabinet in 2015, Minister of Local Government and Provincial Councils, Faiszer Musthapha, was requested by the cabinet to present a proposal on managing the stray dog population particularly with regard to avoiding the inconvenience experienced by the general public due to stray dogs found in public. Accordingly, the Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Government decided to amend the existing ordinance related to rabies and the ordinance related registering dogs.

National Policy to Control Stray Dogs

In 2016, Minister Faiszer Musthapha announced his decision to implement a national policy to control stray dogs. As per the new amendments, actions to control dogs with no owners would be taken. In addition, Provisions to ensure that rabies vaccination is compulsory when registering dogs were introduced. Moreover, the appointment of a National Advisory Committee including members from the Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry, Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Ministry, Livestock and Rural Community Development Ministry, and the Animal Health to regulate, instruct and to supervise the actions that are taken to prevent and control Rabies.

Animal Welfare Advisory Committee

In January 2017, the Minister Faiszer Musthapha, met with multiple Animal Welfare Activists to converse about the stray dog overpopulation problem. During this dialogue, the Minister reiterated the need for short term and long term solutions for the current overpopulation issue of dogs in public places (hospitals, parks, markets, etc). The Minister stated that the strategies implemented by the government focused on a humane mechanism for the animals where no animal will be killed.. Additionally, he reinstated that an advisory committee which also include independent activist  will be appointed to advice and monitor a practical short & long term decision. As a first step to appointing an advisory committee the Minister visited the dog shelters located in Ahangama, Midigama, Kongashena, Puwakwatte on the 31st of January 2017.

Enacting the Animal Welfare Bill

With the government’s campaign on addressing the over-population of stray dogs and “avoiding  inconvenience” to the general public caused by “community dogs”, the urgent need for a comprehensive Animal Welfare Bill is felt at large. The Animal Welfare Bill which is currently approved by the Cabinet and awaits enactment is a good place to start addressing the issue in a humane and a manner which is not cruel torwards animals.  The Bill is at present at the Legal Draftman and it would be needed to make its progress.

While due appreciation needs to be given to Minister Faiszer Musthapha’s efforts in addressing the issue of canine strays and eradication of rabies through setting up an advisory committee, the need for an Animal Welfare Committee which has been proposed under the Animal Welfare Bill still remains vital in order to ensure that the welfare of animals in Sri Lanka is safeguarded.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 4

    Excellent Avanthi Jayasuriya.

    Thank you

  • 0

    Politicians n three wheel drivers r more Rabid than the most Rabid dog. It is the fault of the idiotic Singhala Buddhists who do not Spay their pets saying…ane Pav..but once puppies r born they r out to the road n get killed by motorists.

    Also remember pavement hawkers are more a nuisance to walkers than dogs. Faizer Musthapher is a Muslim who do not like animals but we got Buddhism by Mahinda telling the King not to harm the Deer (Animals) before he preached whatever Buddha said.

    Have a good system of sterilizing n not putting to death an innocent animal. If voiceless animals r to be controlled n JUST have a way of controlling rabid politicians.

  • 2

    Before thinking about how dangerous a stray dog would be, this country needs to think about how to stop drug, trafficking, smuggling n all other money laundering stuff most of the so called rice people do! These poor innocent animals have no where to go! If people can’t feed them, give them a little water to drink and why not vaccinate them, they can too live.. This world is not only humans!!! It’s all other animals right to live too! Of anyone just talks a kind word to a dog, you would know how much love they have to offer you.. There is so much love, kindness n innocence behind those eyes of them.. Sadly most of Sri Lankans fail to see it! I’ve experienced million times the way these people chance poor animals away when they try to be friendly by waging their tail..

    Please learn a bit more about animals before trying to label them as scary!

    And excellent work Avanti Jayasuriya!! This world needs more people like you!

  • 3


    Please remember that politicians are only motivated by money only , and are never bothered about other mundane things .It is up to civil society to do whatever they can , and allow politicians to do what they are best at – shamelessly squandering our hard earned money . Keep up the good work !

  • 6


    I was happy to read this article. Whenever I encounter strays on the road I am happy to note that they are safe. In the old days one encountered trusting puppies with tails wagging being led by a wire noose to the cart, to be drowned out of sight by persons from a despised caste, forced by society to bear the karma for this work. The medical authorities insisted that this was absolutely necessary. Rajapaksa used his power, benignly in this instance, to put a stop to this arrogance. On this, at least, I am fully behind Mahinda Rajapaksa.

    There is also a further irony I could not help noticing. While many people in Jaffna, unlike in the 1950s and 1960s, go out of the way to treat cows well, celebrate and feed them outside their gates, the bulls are strangely missing – probably shunted off at a tender age to a gruesome fate. That people seldom notice.

    In motor launches from Delft to Jaffna, one could observe bulls bound for slaughter in Jaffna resting on the deck under the torrid sun, almost half dead from thirst.

    Another difference, in the 1950s there was far less public piety, but about half at least of my Hindu classmates were vegetarian. Now there is literally resounding piety and also shops and homes selling broiler meat in every other lane. Despite the fetishisation of Navalar, who enjoined vegetarianism upon his followers, from university to school, Vegetarians here are almost a disappeared race.

    We need to go much further to gain liberty for sentient beings, who are no different from us.

    • 1

      Rajan Hoole,

      “Despite the fetishisation of Navalar, who enjoined vegetarianism upon his followers, from university to school, Vegetarians here are almost a disappeared race.”

      We have the ESS, saiva conferences, plans to increase Hindu studies and ever expanding Hindu festivals. A lot of circus for the masses while what I consider the real pure old fashioned Hinduism including vegetarianism and asceticism is dying or has died.

      Even many of the Hindu priests no longer are vegetarian and drink alcohol.

  • 2

    We always employ someone from other religion to get the job done so no blood in Buddhists.
    We get Christians to kill a pigs and catch fish, so we have no sin
    We get Muslims to butcher chicken and beef: No sin

    Now stray dogs:Faiszer Musthapha, At least he is not killing this time.

  • 0

    Avanthi Jayasuriya:

    Why do you carry stray dogs in your back ?

    Just leave them alone.

    If you can put some food outside. IF not have a fence around your home.

    • 2

      don’t just criticise people who are trying to do good, just for the hell of it.

      what is your problem, is it effecting you?

    • 3

      Oh please Jim… this stray dog menace is very real and definitely not funny at all. Like you and many say, give them some food and leave them alone and the poor people who have to walk or ride on those roads, a few have been bitten, kids have fallen and injured themselves, the crazy barking at nothing, defecating and urinating all over the place, the diseases they help spread?? … The list goes on… Funnily, when a human is injured there are no owners to these dogs but when I hit them with my lovely slingshot, the dog is put away!!!

      What would happen if a human were to suddenly attack others walking on the road?? Would people have the same pity they have on these strays??? Personally, I kill them at every opportunity I get… I am a nature lover to the extent of almost living there but am definitely not a fan of strays. Cattle and dogs!!! Why can’t you folks have the same compassion on your brothers and sisters instead of on these menaces????

  • 1

    Good article, Avanti. I have been actively engaged in animal welfare from 1969. CNVR is the only humane method of reducing roaming dogs, however hand in hand with this, irresponsible pet ownership should be addressed and breeding should be regulated. Breeding has become a commercial enterprise, with no regard to the welfare of the animal. Breeding is for breeders only – not you and me, who may like our pet to have a litter of pups – just for fun! Breeders should be licensed annually and their premises inspected. This method will immediately reduce the number of pet shops that are usually run in far from satisfactory conditions.

    Let’s carry on the relentless task of caring for our voiceless friends.

  • 4

    Thank you, Avanthi Jayasuriya, for your comprehensive series of articles drawing attention to the need for us to care for all of nature. I remember your first article,


    You were not stuck in the past; you are aware of all the cruelties inherent in modern animal husbandry, including dairy cows that are primarily kept for milk. I’m sure that you would like to see an end to zoos, and the environment preserved so that as many animal species as possible continue to roam this planet as free individuals.

    That being the case, I think it rather irrational to be so concerned about stray dogs. I agree that the entire community should co-operate to ensure that there is widespread CNVR (i.e. spaying). That would be the most humane way to deal with this problem.

    But I think that in all human societies there is this fondness of dogs because very early in their evolution they learnt that the reward for coming towards people, wagging their tails, was for them to be accorded a life of comfort. And they ARE indeed faithful companions. I used to keep dogs, and looked after them; it is a lot of work. But with regard to strays, I tend to agree with Aku. In this country we go much too far safeguarding canines but being unconcerned about how human population growth is threatening the future of all animal species: except those either useful to us, or parasitic upon our way of life. I can’t help hardening my heart towards strays.

    I acknowledged in my comment on your Sept. 2017 article referred to above, that I eat the flesh of many animals – perhaps with a sense of unease. I referred there to one vegan, and another (Dr Rajan Hoole), has taken time off his recounting of the horrors of our Civil War to actually compliment Mahinda Rajapaksa for his “dog policy”. Rajan, I’m sure is very sincere, but with Mahinda, it was absolute hypocrisy.

    As for me, I admire Avanthi and Rajan as better human beings than me, but I hope that Faiszer Musthapha & Co. come up with some solution whereby strays are in some way “eliminated”. Judging by my locality, their numbers are increasing.

    • 4

      On a practical level the question is best discussed without relativising the importance of human well being and comfort with that of animal. When there is a will there is a way for both. It requires civic sense. Not long ago it was held that there is no alternative to killing strays. It is not so now and as the article points out we have achieved some success in letting strays live.

      It requires civic sense among individuals to use and encourage services that offer sterilisation. Not only here, but at least also in Tamil Nadu, humane methods of controlling the dog population have been in vogue for some time. Perhaps the dogs too behave better when we don’t threaten them with dog catchers. As a resident of Madras for four years, I found the strays quite companionable.

      The civic sense required is something similar to what is needed in controlling plastic waste. Our leaders in Jaffna say very little about local crime or the environment, or potential bird sanctuaries getting clogged with plastic waste. The feasting that goes on in Jaffna with foreign remittances also results in plastic and other wastes being carried in vehicles after nightfall and thrown against someone else’s fence to lie there for days, to be torn apart by cows and dogs and run over by vehicles. Our leaders could easily stop this by inducing civic consciousness whenever they meet the people.

  • 4

    I agree absolutely on the importance of Civic Sense in almost every sphere of activity.

    Getting that message across to millions is the problem. However, you say: “Our leaders could easily stop this by inducing civic consciousness whenever they meet the people.”

    Will our leaders please start leading us in that way?

    We have got to the stage of saying childishly simple things!

    • 3

      Perhaps I should have said “simple childlike things”:

      “We shall not cease from exploration
      And the end of all our exploring
      Will be to arrive where we started
      And know the place for the first time . . .
      . . .

      A condition of complete simplicity
      (Costing not less than everything)”

      That passage to be found here:


      although it is part of a longer work.

      Where’s the time for all that reading? Let’s get on with our lives!

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.