British colonial laws on stray dogs, cats becomes election issue in Sri Lanka

Associated Press, October 4, 2005

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- Leftover British colonial laws regarding stray dogs and cats have become a campaign issue in the coming presidential election in Sri Lanka, whose majority Buddhists promote compassion toward all beings.

Animal rights activists on Tuesday asked candidates to promise that, if elected, they'd replace the century-old colonial animal control laws with more humane policies.

Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948.

There are an estimated 2 million dogs and hundreds of thousands of cats in the island country of 19 million people. Most of the animals are strays.

Sagarica Rajakarunanayake, who heads the group Friends of Animals, said strays are often placed in overcrowded pounds where they are allegedly neglected and left to die without euthanasia.

``Despite the strong Buddhist and Hindu culture of our country that is essentially based on nonviolence to all beings, the treatment of animals in this country is abhorrent,'' the group said in a statement.

Current animal control laws ``reflect the colonial thinking of the day which had no regard for our culture,'' the statement said.

It asked candidates for the Nov. 17 poll to promise they'd ``establish a special authority for all issues regarding animals and the protection of their rights by enacting new legislation in keeping with modern scientific knowledge and actual concerns of society.''

Neither of the two main presidential candidates - Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and opposition candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe - immediately responded to the activists' statement.