A north Delhi couple has complained to police that a well-known animal care NGO had exhumed their dead pet buried on the premises of a centre it runs in the city, and thrown the carcass on to a municipal garbage truck.
Animal welfare activist and Aonla MP Maneka Gandhi is the chairperson of the centre, the Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre in Raja Garden. The centre has confirmed that it “re-uses” the graves in its animal cemetary.
The aggrieved couple said they had paid the NGO’s burial service fee of Rs 3,000, besides donating their dog’s accessories worth Rs 50,000, so they could be used by animals at the shelter.
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Vivek and Mukta Dhingra of Model town said their pet Daschund was like a daughter who even shared the family name. Chunnu Dhingra — who was eight years old when she died last week — was showered with gifts and affection, and owned the largest collection of clothes in the family.
After she died, the Dhingras wrapped Chunnu in silk, sprinkled holy water, perfomed a hawan, and set out to look for a place where she could finally rest. They found SGACC, “India’s oldest and Delhi’s largest all-animal shelter”, which promises the best burial services for pets.
“On February 5, we went to SGACC with our daughter’s body for the burial. They had told us that they dig fresh graves for pets, over which we could plant a sapling and put our dog’s name, and keep visiting to offer prayers. Our dog was buried before us, and we put garlands over the grave,” Vivek Dhingra said.
Visiting SGACC a few days later, however, the Dhingras were suprised to find the garlands and sapling gone. Suspicious, they made the NGO’s officials remove the earth, and found not Chunnu, but another dog in the grave.
“I could not believe my eyes. There was a different dog in the grave in which I had buried Chunnu a few days earlier,” Dhingra said.
According to Dhingra, SGACC staff told them that Chunnu’s carcass had been dug up and thrown into a garbage truck to make space for a new burial.
Ambika Shukla, director of SGACC, said that graves were indeed re-used. “We have a small space to bury the pets, and it is not possible to give an exclusive space for each one, hence we re-use the space. In such limited space, we cannot guarantee a reserved spot for each pet. In this case, we had buried Dhingra’s pet, but the space was later re-used. We cleared the garlands and the spot was re-used to bury another pet. Later we even told them that we would return their money, but they did not agree.”
Asked if the Dhingras had been informed in advance that the grave would be re-used, Shukla said, “If someone asks us about it, then we inform them. But it is not something that we tell them in advance.”
She denied that Chunnu’s carcass had been thrown in the garbage, and said that the second dog had been buried over her. “We put mud over the spot where the dog was buried and re-used the space for another pet,” Shukla said.
The SGACC web site says, “…We understand the grief of losing a companion animal. SGACC offers one of Delhi’s only burial grounds for animals. Our caring staff provides burial services for pets in a quiet secluded part of the premises. Graves are freshly dug and the animal laid to rest in the presence of the owner. A fee is charged for this service… Space allowing, SGACC is contemplating offering saplings to owners to plant in memory of their companion animal.”