A safe-haven for animals, not so safe anymore
Animal SOS Sri Lanka is a UK-registered charity dedicated to rescue, veterinary care, and rehabilitation of animals. They have a sprawling, free-roaming sanctuary for dogs and a secure sanctuary for cats, located in Puwakwatta, Kongashena, Midigama, Ahangama, Sri Lanka.
Providing a safe space for sick, disabled, and helpless strays, Animal SOS has been in operation in Sri Lanka, under the vision of Kim Cooling, since 2009.
However, the charity received fresh popularity when Kim Cooling posted a disturbing narrative on 23 September about certain violent threats, messages, and chaotic behaviour they were subjected to by a certain lawless village mob.
We asked her about the foundation of the said incident and here’s what she had to say:
Q: Tell us a little bit about your organisation?
We take in destitute street animals that no one else will help; disabled dogs and cats, and we nurse them back to health. Animal lovers support this project from all over the world. We do outreach programmes, rabies control programmes, and also free neutering. We have assisted to save the lives of thousands of animals; we have given employment facilities to nearly 40 locals and provided business opportunities to local people through the various supplies we purchase. I believe we provide a vital public service.
Q: When did these frightening events start?
This all started about four years ago, when we terminated the services of an employee for stealing from us. A villager blackmailed us, asking us to let her stay upon threat of creating problems for us with the Public Health Inspector, Central Environmental Authority etc.; and that is exactly what she did.
Q: Did you inform the authorities about this situation?
Yes, we informed the Police; we had a recording of the blackmail messages as well but the Police didn’t take any positive steps.
Q: Have there been other violent acts?
They threatened construction workers who were working on the drainage in our cattery and they almost drowned our cats. They regularly throw fire-crackers into our sanctuary to terrorise our animals.
Q: Was there a recent incident?
Yes, about a week ago. We had a shipment from the UK and we cannot bring the vehicles into the sanctuary because of the very narrow roads. So we usually park further away and carry the shipment to the sanctuary and the villagers had blocked the road with tree trunks. They were shouting with so much anger. The angry rioters pushed me and I dropped my camera on the ground. When one of our managers tried to remove the tree trunks, he was threatened by one of the villagers.
Q: Did you inform the authorities about this particular incident?
Yes, we did and we haven’t received any Police protection yet.
Q: How is the support you’ve received from the rest of the country?
The vast majority of the people are absolutely infuriated with the situation. Even my Facebook post received a lot of loving and supporting comments. Most people are animal lovers; they recognise that we are doing a service and are against the lawless activities of this infuriating mob.
Q: What steps are you planning to take regarding this situation?
We have gone to the authorities and it didn’t work, so now I am trying to create awareness on this matter. We have suffered so much – enough is enough.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to say to the general public?
We are here to do good; to help the animals and help the people. Those who are incapable of helping animals should not harm those who have dedicated their lives for such a cause, because at the end of the day, animals deserve love and compassion as much as humans do. I believe more people will support our cause and I thank everyone for the support given so far.
By Pujanee Galappaththi