The Sunday Leader

Embarking Mad!

By Gazala Anver

Puppies sleeping on dirt and urine and Puppy waiting for a home

CEO of Odel,Otara Gunawardene’s personal CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) project “Embark,” is clearly minting tonnes of money in its third year of operations. Aimed at ‘reducing animal cruelty and focusing on the wellbeing of animals throughout the country,’ Embark’s current focus is on street dogs. To fund its operations, Embark’s main source of income is its merchandise brand, up on sale at all Odel outlets as well as donations.
One of Embark’s operations is puppy adoption. The kennel in which these dogs are kept is located at Odel, Ward Place. But despite the large amount of funding, when The Sunday Leader visited the location, the “kennel” turned out to be a small, miserable looking shack in a dismal looking corner at the edge of the car park. Under the minimal shade of a tree, there were around six animals, not just puppies, but stray dogs as well, all cramped together.
Upon closer inspection, the kennel was found to be filthy, with the unmistakable smell of urine in the air, as well as what looked like rice, spilt around the pen. Puppies are generally known for their playfulness but this pen barely had enough room for these animals to move around, let alone play. Around six puppies were cooped up in this tiny cage. Next to it, was a dismal looking dog, in a cage with barely enough room for it to stretch its legs.
The caretaker is a street woman, under the employment of Odel, but despite the presence of this lady, there was clearly little being done about the dogs.
It is a drastic contrast to the modern interiors of Odel where the merchandise is put up for sale. Everything and anything is sold in the name of Embark, from apparel (underwear included) to pet products, to tokens like bags, key tags, soft toys and even jewellery. Embark apparels are priced at higher rates than other Odel apparels.
For instance, the Odel Embark Niko Star Frame T-Shirt is on sale for  $11.73 ( approx Rs 1290.3). The Embark Niko Studded Design T-shirt is priced at $ 10.18 (approx Rs 1119.8), the Embark Niko Magazine Print T-shirt at $ 12.17 ( approx Rs 1338.7), Embark Niko “I Am A Star” at $10.18 dollars (approx Rs 1119.8). Accessories such as the Embark Mini Jaw Hair Clips are sold at $6.86 (approx Rs 754.6), the Embark Bull Dog necklace goes at $10. 18 ( approx Rs 1119.8).
But the question remains as to why despite having so much funds, are these dogs  housed in such ghastly conditions, when Odel clearly has the cash flow to ensure that these animals be treated better?
Embark has had fashion shows, with models strutting around like Sri Lankan Paris Hiltons, with puppies tucked under their arms. Advertisements have been splashed all over newspapers showing clean looking dogs who look as if they’re right out of a Hollywood movie and yet the reality is far from the projected picture.
Speaking to a leading government veterinary surgeon, he said that under normal conditions, the cost of taking care of dogs does not amount to much. “There are three vaccinations to be given, and each vaccine costs between Rs. 450 to 600 depending on the clinic. Worm treatment tablet costs Rs. 100 and on average only two tablets need be given every three months.”
The dogs at the kennel however aren’t permanent tenants like your average house dog. They are simply sterilized and kept until they are adopted. The Sunday Leader visited the site twice and noticed that the dogs from the first visit were replaced the next time around. The second time around, the dog cage housing the miserable looking dog next to the kennel was empty, but nonetheless, while there was no rice splattered about, the conditions of the dogs were pretty much the same.
According to  Assistant Manager, CSR, at Odel, Ishan Fernando they have managed to re-home 218 dogs to date and the reason why the kennel is in such a condition is because they find it hard to find people who would take care of the animals, and the lady in employment is a street woman who does not ‘seem to understand.’
Fernando however claims that they are planning on closing down the kennel in the car park and move all their operations to Thalawathugoda, a process which they say will start in about two weeks time.
“People have criticised, people have said good, people have supported, but the service will move on,” says Fernando, adding that Odel aims to match international standards. “We have managed to find land and look into transferring our whole operation there.”
He added that this situation has arisen partly because Embark is managed by only two people, but when it comes to a company as big as Odel, which employs more than 450 staff, understaffing, especially for a venture as big as Embark is hardly a valid reason.
The Sunday Leader also tried contacting CEO Otara Gunewardene but found that she was not in the country at the time this went to print.

45 Comments for “Embarking Mad!”

  1. Prema de Silva

    I am not surprised……after hearing a lot of stories from staff who have been employed at Odel and some who are still employed but do not want their names mentioned i know that this is nothing new…..Odel has been doing a lot of stuff which has been publicised and also it is well known that they take goods from various places without going through the proper channels….the staff areall aware of it and talk about it……why arent the authorities concerned doing anything about it………because the big wigs are all corrupt and make use of Odel to purchase their own stuff with no payment……..a former Minister whow as also into fashion in the UNP was highlighted as a person who did that too…….nothg came of it…there have been many stories about corruption by Odel but all covered up….WHY????????

    • Champa Fernando

      This is what I emailed to Mr. Ishan Fernando with copies to other animal welfare groups working in Sri Lanka after reading the above article awhile ago:

      I have followed with interest some negative comments made in Embark’s Facebook about the bad conditions for the temporarily housed dogs at ODEL’s premises. And then this appeared in the Sunday leader today. It sounds appallingly horrendous and gives such a bad image to Embark and to all animal welfarists in general.

      If dogs are incarcerated it is the onus of those who incarcerate them to ensure their well being. If not don’t do it. The dogs would be better off on their own. You /Embark may mean well, we all do, but if there are shortcomings it is the animal that will suffer.

      And if you lack in human resources, the story will be the same in your new place — so think twice before you set up a shelter in another place. Changing the location or making a bigger shelter is not the magical solution. You need volunteers, and a darned good round the clock supervisor who CARES about the animals.

      Shelters cannot be run by proxy without personal supervison by someone who is capable of knowing what is good and bad for the inmates.

      I agree with the newspapers that surely better kennels could have been established given the resources you have and better care with at least another person being employed. If not, I repeat, changing the location will not help — you will be creating another hell for the dogs. How can you expect a street worker to know all about taking care of these dogs? Obviouly there has been no supervision or the supervison has been pretty slack.

      Many think running a shelter is cute and easy. I did too. As a person who has run a shelter for more than 10 years take it from me, shelters cannot be run on an ideal level, no matter what you do. My clear message is do not set up shelters. If animals need to be looked after temporarily it is best that it is done by ourselves with much supervision as possible without depending totally on labourers.

      I am sharing this email with others in animal welfare in the best interest of the animals.

      Champa (KACPAW)

    • nirmala

      Oh those poor little puppies. So cute ane. Paw meyala! Since our country has no more issues our dear CEO of odel chose to save puppies! How nice meyala! What a philanthropist! lovely ane….. paw!

  2. rustom the thief

    Odels policy of “Be kind to pets because its fashionable” will certainly go a long way towards improving its profit margin. Who cares for the disgruntled overworked underpaid harrassed employees anyway? All that matters is the glitter and sound of the coins being counted..

  3. Alfreda de Silva

    If she is so concerned about animals, why doesn’t she run Embark like she runs her Odel business so the animals she has in her care have proper facilities? I’m sure with all those profits she makes, she can even start a proper animal hospital as there is no such thing in Colombo and is so badly needed too. That would be a genuine service to all animals, stray and homed.

  4. An Animal lover

    Every time an individual or a group tries to do something good, there is always someone to critisis. No one is perfect and embark is mostly run by volunteer who are genuinely interested in helping animals. So far in Sri Lanka, no other animal activist group has been able to make such awareness that EMBARK managed to achieve. I also see that this particular article have written in such a way that, the author means to say that only thing embark has done so far is re-home animals they have conveniently failed to mention all the sterilization programs done and cost of them, Saving the injured and other animals related activates done by EMBARK (all this data is easily accessible in EMBARK web site to anyone who take time to do some research regarding work done by this organization). The author has also failed to mention how many dogs have been adopted from this particular kennel. As I see it, Embark has done a very good job in making awareness, making funds (since all earning made by embark products questioned hear, when sold goes to the charity fund). EMBARK has brought all the other animals groups which were never even heard of together, making animal activist groups in Sri Lanka stronger. As I see it, Fashion is mentioned by EMBARK to demonstrate that street dogs could also be cute and trendy just like the pure breads. People succeed because they learn from their mistakes and embark as the article says have made necessary arrangement to shift the kennel to a much appropriate area for dogs. It’s very easy to criticize a group of people who are at least TRYING to make a change, while you are just sitting a side just pointing fingers. You forget, that when you point a finger at someone there is always four other fingers pointing towards you.

    • Yorick

      Please read carefully. The writer has mentioned the number of animals re-homed. Also, if you were paying attention, the writer says “One of Embark’s operations is puppy adoption.” Since you have difficulty reading, let me explain. The writer is clearly stating there are more than one, but since her sole focus is puppy adoption, why should she go into other details? The job of a journalist is not to blow anyones trumpet, she is not on the pay roll of Odel to be doing that. Its the truth as it is. Unalterable. Unadulterated.

      • Ruwan Ferdinandez

        This article is like a breath of fresh air for this newspaper, which is full of garbage and low quality articles. It has a purpose, and well written. The writer says what is wrong and what is right with this project quite eloquently. Sterilisation and all the rest are good but if the dogs are left to sleep in filthy conditions and everything else the articles says are true, that’s not right. At least the project will make people aware of the alarming situation of stray dogs (at least in certain areas) in the country.

  5. Surprised

    So animal lover are you also trying to say that there are no puppies caged in an inhuman manner in the Odel car park ?? Let us be the judges and do not try to belittle the journalist. There must be some good done too, as well as good to the pocket linings of some individuals all in the name of EMBARK

  6. Michelle Mendis

    If we, as a society was a bit more careful, considerate and responsible Embark will not have the opportunity to ‘make money’ out of a situation WE have created ( I am not saying that is what they are doing maybe they are maybe they are not). We stood and watched until the stray dogs reached the staggering numbers, we bought hybrid dogs and built walls around our houses ignored what was happening around us. Now they have come forward and they are trying to do something and mostly what we hear is some sob story about how they didn’t do a perfect job!

    Yes these dogs look pathetic, this is not a shelter – this is a temporary home until the dogs are moved to proper care. There I rice everywhere – lets look at the positive side – the dogs are well fed! I have lost faith in all animal welfare groups in SL. When I needed help with four dogs living down my road, no one was able to help, not Embark not any of the other organisations. I had to spend over Rs. 20,000 / – on a dog catcher and sort it out.

    Whenever you try to do something there is always someone who knows better and sits and criticises it.

    Get real – just do the bit you can. If you feel sorry for the dogs take one home. Just do your bit.

  7. Michelle Mendis

    This is not what you call ‘inhuman’

    What is inhuman are the ones you see on the road eating polythene, the ones who are run over and left there for hours to die a long painful death, the ones who are feeding six puppies after eating a lunch packet paper. What is inhuman is the fact that we ignore these dogs day in and day out, how we drive our cars over a dead body until its quashed to fine pulp.

    We live in the land of the unforgiving …driving our posh cars, taking our hybrid dogs for walks and building tall walls around our houses to keep away the strays.

  8. Surprised

    Spot on Yorick. Journalists have a job to do just like Odel has when they took on the responsibility to look after the strays, Michelle might think otherwise but if you take on the responsibility and use the strays to make money, collect money for their cause and get models to flaunt their products, they have to do better than the cage in the car park with the streetwoman as matron…….pardon the pun but steetdogs have had enough of steetwomen………posing for pictures alone does not maketh the heroine. There are animal homes looking after strays and they have little or no income, here there is no lack of income, so do the job properly (which is difficult) or do not do it, half measures with inanimal (Michelle does not like the word inhuman)conditions. Abilitiy to take the brickbats and improve is what Odel must do, bouquets is easy to handle………………ciao

  9. Times aer a changing...

    This is sooo silly.

    If you are going to be a reporter, make sure you check both sides. There’s never one side to a story.

    Everything that was picked on will be sorted once the new place is up and running. No one else in Sri Lanka is looking after the street dogs. Like Michelle said, isn’t it better than the street?

    These dogs get better treatment than the street dogs without any question. The reporter herself said the dogs were replaced by the time they came the second round. Obviously these dogs are getting adopted. They get their vaccinations… and again like Michelle said, if there are rice around… well they’re getting fed well too.

    Nothing is perfect children. Obviously people will see faults in everything others try to do. When did someone do any good without being criticized? All those who criticize this charity… are any of you adopting street dogs, checking on their health and then giving them to good families?
    Or do you just sit behind your PC’s and decide to comment on everything just to make sure you look like you have some say in the world?

    Don’t agree with something for the sake of agreeing. Don’t always look to criticize. Think for yourselves. It’s not an easy job to adopt street dogs. (please log into their website and also their facebook and see how much trouble these people go to make sure these dogs are saved).

    it’s not about you. It’s about the dogs. They’re trying their best. Mind you, you don’t know everything that happens. I used to wonder where money goes in these big companies. Then I found out where it actually goes, and how much is actually profit. Look into it. Think before you speak. Give everything a chance. You might surprise yourselves.

    Be good kids. Don’t put down a good thing.

    • Ferdy

      OTARA NOT TO WORRY, WE ARE WITH YOU !!! one can never trust SL stories nor their pictures to begin with !!! they only favour those who share their beliefs, their political ideologies etc. They must be having some petty issue with OTARA for all I know !!!!!????. Those who are blindly criticising OTARA’s efforts please check both sides of the story !! these dogs are way better off with OTARA than being abused by the road side!

      • Grandma Joe

        It seems like a pretty well balanced article to me. You clearly don’t read much do you?

  10. Pink Panther

    bravo “times are changing” !! well written..

    before anyone starts criticizing, look around on how many homeless animals YOU have fed/ kept in your home/ vaccinated/wormed/ sterilized/ re-homed. how many seriously injured street animal YOU have saved.

  11. Surprised

    Mother time, have you ever looked at a mirror ?? Things are definitely changing with checks and balances. Can you answer these questions as you seem to be kidding us silly ……………………………..
    Do you like the way the dogs are kept in the odel car park ?
    Is it going to be much more expensive to give them a bigger cleaner cage ?
    Is odel incurring financial difficulties by looking after these dogs ?
    Other than a streetwoman, is there no person willing to look after these dogs,
    I mean for a fee, I do not know if the streetwoman is doing this for charity.

    We ‘kids’ have seen and do not like what we saw so we have to agree with the reporter…….Sorry we are not employess of EMBARK or distributors of ‘Silly’
    compliments to others just because they do not see eye to eye with us.

    We will check out this new place if and when it is up and running and Ahhh Haaa it seems like the reporters points will be looked into and corrected which
    is admission by silly you that something good will come out of this exposure.

  12. ALF & SAG NETWORK

    Guys, I find this article very interesting and I thought to make my comments to this.

    You all should visit Europe and see what kind of problems we go through when it comes for animal welfare. As a Sri Lankan I am ashamed that we have an animal welfare regulation which is more than 100 years old. And after The law Commission came up with an ANIMAL WELFARE ACT which is sitting there for more than 5 years. You guys argue about how money is being spent and how these animals treated?? I would like to ask the journalist to write articles about those stuff… what about the zoo? I am so sure that Ishan is very happy about this free publicity that you guys have created.

    I do shop at odel and I buy embark stuff when I come down to SL. And I m quite happy what embark have achieved for 3 years. No matter how much is been taken, they have done something to the street dogs. Looking at the way the journalist have written, she have made back fire her own writing. Micheal have pointed out perfectly. Even we are not all perfect, but we try and it doesn’t stop. I always argue with Ishan for animal welfare concerns in Sri Lanka, but I am so sure that a person like Ishan who have represented Sri Lanka for animal welfare in other countries and working with Humane Society International, WSPA, RSPCA in his past would do anything bad for any animal. I am so sure Otara made a good decision and took him by knowing his back ground.

    @ Champa… As a Sri Lankan I am so disgusted at you! You guys are animal welfare organizations, not political groups! You guys need to unite and work together, not cross post things like this. For 2million dogs in there at Sri Lanka, Is it only you who is going to give a solution for the stray dog problem? As far as I know, KACPAW is not a member of any animal welfare group internationally… As far as we are happy at SAG network & ALF about Embark work, we will continue to support them from Europe. When you guys post something, we need better facts… Don’t talk rubbish…

  13. Times are a changing..

    Re: ALF & SAG NETWORK

    I wrote a bit more than this. Then I read your last line, and just erased it all. There’s nothing more anyone can add to that. Well done..

  14. WOW

    Seriously?? I’ve helped a friend adopt a couple of pups through embark.I have also seen the place that is in discussion. And it is not as bad as the reporter claims it to be.it might not be the best but it is definitly better than the road!!!embark linking fashion through street dogs is quite succesful in finding homes for the street dogs in my opnion.

  15. Disembark

    Alfy and Sagie, we do not have the funds or the inclination to visit Europe, but if you are happy with the way the puppies are caged in the car park at Odel you must be from some cheap european country. Working towards helping the strays does not mean getting on rooftops and shouting about your achievements, making profits out of strays and not matching the ballyhoo with actual conditions for the strays is something which we cannot accept even if you have european bloodlines supporting you. Just do the job and see that it is done as well as the marketing that is being done for it………..Need I say more…….I can say more but people who do not want to take criticism and think that they are the strays whiskers and the god of stray dogs (self appointed) are far away from the truth. Keep reporting on this progress dear reporter, a few checks on profits and use of profits will certainly throw the puppy among the europeans.

  16. Dee

    This is unfair. Working with Animal Groups, we only have to call Embark who come and rescue animals who need help. Yes, there will be downs in this operation and this kennel is appalling, but they DO GOOD WORK.

    Do you have any idea they have a Twitter account? That they post pictures of the numerous dogs they sterilize, re-home and help? Please write about the WHOLE picture and not bits and pieces.

    They were even featured on the CNN, they are trying to change the STUPID Sri Lankan mind set that stays can live off the roads and breeds are better.

  17. Chris

    Gazala Anver, you’ve done a fantastic job. I was pretty pleased after reading your article on Embark as I always felt that whatever they seemed to be doing for these animals was done with an ulterior motive. There have been so many instances where I have complained to Odel for putting puppies in cages in the parking lot, exposed to exhaust fumes with a packet of spoiled rice and a bowl of chocolate milk. Sadly, nothing was done. They make millions. Surely they can do more!

  18. san

    It looks like Odel or their management uses the dogs to make money. Why can’t Odel have a project to look after and give shelter for street beggars / refugees / any poor people in the country. Are we full of rich people so that we have only dogs to look after. No doubt that the dogs and other animals should be looked after well and their wellbeing are cared. But what is the priority in a country like Sri Lanka. Dogs or human beings?

  19. go embark go

    HI EVERYONE WHO ARE POSTING NEGATIVE COMMENTS ON ODEL’S EMBARK SOCIAL WORK. Have anyone of you given at least a Marie Biscuit to a stary dog? Have anyone given them clean water to drink when they see these animals drinking dirty rain water? Have anyone given them a shelter when they were shivering beside a road? Have anyone of you were concerned when a clan of dogs keep on harrasing Female dogs day & night? Have any one of you looked after an injured dog beside a road? Have anyone of you treated a dog suffering from skim desease. Have anyone of you protested when your neighbours throw the litter out of their houses and keep only the mother dog to watch the house. IF YOUR ANSWER IS ‘NO’ YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO CRITIZISE ODEL’S VOLUNTEER SERVICE TO THE STRAY ANIMALS. Typical Sri Lankan Atitude. THREE CHEERS TO OTARA, ODEL & VOLUNTEER STAFF! Keep up your good work. Journalists please publish much more interesting topics in Sri Lanka (presently there are so many) to attaract people to their papers.

  20. look up and bark

    We have not fed any stary dogs marie biscuits, this is possible only if you are smoking some really good weed……………

    • Rustom the thief

      Heck. Never realised that now MARIE Biscuits can also find it fashionable to be kind to pets. Synergistic opportunity gaps spring eternal in the breasts of clever entrepreneurs .Come on all ye animal lovers, be kind to puppies, grab one off the streets, drape it around your neck while you shop at ODELS and give the mongrel a bisuit or two when it yelps. But be sure its a MARIE. Brigitte Bardot, are you listening?

  21. MM

    San

    Are you kidding me ??? why should humans get priority over dogs?? That’s exactly the attitude that has created this situation. Animals feel the same things we do, they feel the same pain. They do ‘scream in pain’ but we choose to ignore or pretend we cant understand. Majority of the beggars have a choice – they beg because they choose to. Have you ever tried to take a beggar home?

    Asked him to do some work in return for pay, lodging and food – they chose begging over that and believe me I have tried one too many times and failed every time and I am not talking about hard manual labour. I am talking about sweeping the garden and watering the plants in exchange for a room, food and pay. They don’t stay around for more than a few days .. cos its easier to beg (specially in a country like SL) than work.

    Animals don’t have a choice – they suffer mainly because of what we humans have done and they deserve our compassion more than anything or anyone else.

  22. MM

    Most probably people dump puppies near Odel or around their other offices. This might have been a temporary solution. A bit like someone with ten dogs at home taking another stray puppy home because they don’t have the heart to leave it on the road next to speeding traffic. Then they put in a small kennel (temporarily) to keep it from the other dogs who are attacking it – that is the best the person can do until they sort something out. Are you then going to accuse them of not caring for the dog??

    Most shops and even home owners, throw stones or pour hot water on strays who sleep near their door steps. Here is a high end store having stray dogs peeing, and ruining the place because they are desperately trying to help them and what do they get in return – accusations!

    No one’s bothered to tackle the problem the way Embark did. All these year we have had the problem not one organisation was able to do as much as they do. They are doing SOMETHING unless you are willing to help and be a part of it you have no right to say anything about dogs in a car park, had they not ended up there they would be under a tyre –which do you prefer ?

    Even if Otara is making money out of it she is still better than the other multinationals who sit there and drive in their posh cars passing the misery around them doing absolutely nothing. So she is smart enough to make some money out of it, so what? If you think you can do better you should go ahead and do it. Give them some competition, look after the strays maybe then you will understand the scale of the problem.

    If you really think the trouble they have taken in making ‘stray dogs’ their CSR is worth the money they make in selling Tshirt and key tags you clearly don’t understand the extent of the problem.

    Embarks survival will depend directly on how we as a whole treat animals. If we help take the little steps to stop the stray dog problem, there will be no reason for Embark or any of these other organisations to have puppies in their car parks. Let’s stop pointing fingers and help them do their bit.

  23. chariths

    Let’s just be glad Embark is doing more a
    than you or I to help these helpless animals
    it very easy to criicise but it takes more to actually get down and do the job!!!!!! I am grateful to Otara for doing it.

  24. Angie

    I take it MM is Michelle Mendis? what positive, productive and sensible comments by you! Wish there were a few more people like you around, its not what others do that matter its what we do!

  25. nirmala

    This is nothing but a corporate gig under the guise of CSR( Corporate social resposibility) and to promote the “innocent” image of its CEO otara gunawardana! Good thing they chose puppies because they are unable to talk of complain! By the way who dont buy T-Shirts when part of the funds goes to save the annimals. So they are killing two birds with one shot! I say to ODEL ceo don’t play fool with us public. We are way ahead than u think!

  26. Grandma Joe

    I sniff something in the air when I say Odel has asked all these people who go “embarking mad” about this article to post here, going “embark this, embark that.”
    Don’t be blinded by corporate gimmicks. A business is a business. And these little Social Responsibility projects are just to further profit. There is no such thing as “socially responsible” anymore. Just fashionable.

  27. Nicola Perer

    A few months ago I called in Embark about neighbours in Embuldeniya who were mistreating their dog. The owners are more often than not living some place else and the care of the dog is entrusted to their old mother next door. Brownie is continuously caged and the family, including the mother, is indifferent to its suffering. Embark paid a visit to evaluate the situation.

    Now I understand that Embark’s focus is on rounding up stray dogs on the roads. Prior to their visit, Embark reps explained to me that they would institute legal action if Brownie was being mistreated under Sri Lanka’s animal welfare legislation or if legal action was not warranted, that they would “advise” the family. I told them beforehand that regardless of whether the family was in residence or not, Brownie is caged. Let me be clear. She is in her cage around the clock. To me, this is an undeniable case of neglect and cruelty. The family, when there at all, and the mother next door, is deaf to her cries. They are completely indifferent. Given this attitude, I wonder whether Brownie receives regular feeding and whether she is compelled to live inside a soiled cage.

    Embark reported later that their grounds of action, a situation of animal cruelty as defined under Sri Lankan law, did not exist in Brownie’s case. I wasn’t particularly surprised, but I was taken aback (to say the least) at what followed. Embark explained that ‘Nothing was wrong with the dog’ and that it is ‘a docile animal’. The family had justified Brownie’s confinement on the grounds that there is no gate to their compound and if let loose, the dogs on the street scrap with her. She gets the worst of it, ends up wounded and bleeding. Docile animal that she is.

    Perhaps I did wrong in slamming the phone down at this point and ought to have listened further. I couldn’t because I detected in the Embark personnel the same attitude shown by many Sri Lankan dog owners who see nothing cruel about keeping dogs caged.
    I wasn’t hoping for legal action – I had hoped that Embark’s advice would result in better treatment for Brownie. More hours of freedom than spent in a cage. Two or three meals a day. Clean water. Not having to sleep in her own urine and shit. Embark did a miserable, appalling job considering Brownie’s welfare. They saw nothing wrong with the family’s argument that Brownie is caged for her own ‘safety’ because their compound is insecure. If your home conditions do not allow you to treat your dog with kindness, care and compassion, then you give it to someone who can. Simple as that.

    We have spoken multiple times to the family, even offered to take Brownie off their hands. They refused because Brownie serves as their burglar alarm when they are not at home. The last time we spoke to them was when Brownie had cried continuously from 9am to 3pm. The man of the house told us to mind our own business, that we should take care of our own animal and they would take care of theirs. All the while, Brownie kept crying and continued to do so for a long time after our encounter. Just to make clear, it was a Poya, the family was at home the whole day, and Brownie was caged.

    In desperation, we have now approached the chief priest of the neighbourhood temple to persuade him to speak to the family about treating Brownie humanely. (Incidentally, this avenue doesn’t seem to hold much promise because the chief priest did not seem particularly moved by Brownie’s plight. By the way, he owns a German Shepherd.)

    My neighbours have installed a gate. Brownie remains caged for most hours of the day and night. She continues to cry.
    I will not comment on Embark’s core work because I know very little about it, although I have not escaped their extremely savvy marketing. But I have deep reservations about the motives, attitude and compassion about the Embark staff in relation to this animal. Her pathetic keening haunts my neighborhood during the day and night.

  28. Prema de Silva

    Embark is another FARCE!!!!! What Rusotm the thief said is so true…he knows what the employees are undergoing just like me, as my niece still works there so what he says is true….Champa, Surprised, Yorick and Nicole Perer who has called Embark re Brownie and seen what happens, is living proof of what is going on…..MM is living in another world….maybe dodo land!!!!! Alf & Sag Network….obviously u all are friends of OTARA!!!!!…as for MM, & Go embark Go who talks about feeding dogs Marie biscuits (like if you cant eat bread eat cake) and Chariths who does not seem to fathom what is going on,,,,,,these seem like people who are all friends of the said perpetrator!!! Knowing her background well and being aware of what goes on I can say that she does not even have time for her own kids…..she always was and still is hell bent on making money and a name for herself……and being given publicity for all the big parties she throws…….as a person who also worked for her long ago, I can truthfully say that she does not even look after her employees welfare…….what more

  29. me

    The people who shop there are indeed fooled by the oldest trick in the world. The money goes into the company while the dogs are just props for such crookedness. She has mastered the art of marketing and fake causes. The merchandise are rejects from the factories and priced more than such merchandise in US stores.

  30. Animal Friend

    To argue that Embark is the only organisation that does anything substantial in the field on animal welfare is useless. Just because they are the lesser evil, they remain evil. The conditions of the puppy shelter were deplorable. They may have been less deplorable than others but they were deplorable nonetheless.

    To also argue that we shouldn’t point fingers and ‘criticize’ is even more useless. We NEED to criticize. We NEED to be aware. And we NEED to point fingers. Who is ODEL trying to be responsible for? Dogs. Can they speak? No. So who is supposed to speak for them?? If we do not criticize them, Embark or any other organization loses its accountability. And everyone is Sri Lanka knows, I am sure, what happens when we don’t have to answer for what we have done.

    ODEL is a high end store. True. So naturally one would assume that whatever CSR venture they ‘embark’ upon would also have the same level of commitment, funding and quality. We cannot separate the two, nor should we be expected to. There cannot be a disconnect between what they do to make money and what they do because they ‘care’. If there is, then this kind of bad press and negativity is natural and is to be expected. They should have seen this coming. Who knows? Maybe they did and didn’t care.

    I am young and not very wealthy. I spend almost all of my modest income to keep my dogs. I can very honestly say that I have done my bit when it comes to street dogs. And I will continue to do so until my life comes to an end. If I had more money I would do more. We cannot expect people to do their part disproportionately to their capabilities and still refer to them as ‘animal lovers’. If i fed a street puppy once in my life, a single meal, and I run around all day with a warm and fuzzy feeling in my chest because I have ‘done my part’, am I an animal lover? Rather than having taken four dogs so far from the street, who have been/will be cared for the rest of their lives?

    The fact of the matter is, Embark is trying to pull wool over our eyes. They are not the first of their kind in this country, they are simply the ones who make the biggest noise.

  31. I am a dead dog now!

    Just scanning over the comments it seems that a percentage of writers are using this situation to have a “dog” at Otara…… including the journalist in the snide and outdated style of writing.
    Possibly the journalist may have put forward some positive suggestions and solutions ………. it is very easy to criticize it takes a little more brain power to balance that criticism with a solution.

    A picture does not always say a 1000 words… many mothers know if you snap a pic of their kids after breakfast with full diapers and rice all over their chin whilst playing in cardboard cartons for fun it will look like she is a bad mother………. then Mum comes along and cleans it all up.. new image .

    The marketing strategy of teaming the care of stray dogs and profitable products seems upset some people more than the situation in the kennels…
    again possibly a little Otara jealousy showing through.

    Great, to the readers with the understanding that this is a new and growing program and yes be critical ……….. but also supportive.

    To those who only sit behind lap tops to criticize ,,,, offer your services to Embark for just a few hours a week and make a positive difference to your own lives and the dogs.

    PS.. I may be wrong but I thought Otara/Odel built a number of human houses for tsunami victims………. .anyone have a problem there???

  32. Chanura Jayasinghe

    once i read this article i called one of my best friend who is working at odel and asked him the truth . He laughs at me and said ” Pissuda ban me dawas wala x-mas sale ekata shop karayo porakanawa me wage dewal paththara karayanta ganak dila liyawala karanne wena magadiyak . Embark project eke inna hemoma mara gemak denawa un balanda aththatama mara love ” and he also added that he don’t like dog’s at all. hmmmmmm i think its better to do something without doing a nothing .

  33. CLP

    How many of you have / had dogs as pet?

    How many of you bought a meal / medicine for a stray dog?

    How many of you stroke a stray dog in the street with love and care?

    AND

    Gazala, do you own a dog?

    I am pretty sure your answer will be NO for more than half of above.

    Before you start criticise some one else’s work, why do not you all think how you can help to improve the situation (no offence to people who came up with some constructive comments).

    As far as I’m concern Odel is a business organisation, do not oblige to carry out any charity work. There are many animal welfare organisations (as I heard) in SL, but what have they done so far to help stray dogs?

    If you are complaining about making money using stray dogs as a brand, why don’t you point your finger at animal welfare organisations, other relevant parties, government authorities, and YOUR SELF before you point finger at someone else?

    Odel might have made money through this, why is it so difficult for some people to be happy on some one else’s success, especially another Sri Lankan. Reason is you could not achieve what Odel has achieved and you cannot bear to see some one else’s success. This is one of the main difficulties for someone in SL to go up on the ladder, when someone takes one step, so many to pull you down.

    Do you know how many jobs Odel has created last 3years or more?

    Do you have any idea how many kids go to school, and how many families do live good life because of Odel?

    I have been monitoring Sri Lankan retail market for last few years, and Odel toped my list and ticked most of the boxes as a good company to work, invest. Odel is one of the best institutes who using up to date methods in retail marketing.

    The way I see this is just more than stray dogs, if some one is thinking of bringing down this brand or Odel, you have failed the first hurdle, and do not even think you will be able to reach second hurdle or any further.

    Embark is well established brand in SL, these allegations are not strong enough to bring it down.

    You effect will be very minimal.

    On the other hand if people decided to abandon Embark brand, you can shout out about your success very loudly, but you will be responsible for killing lively hood of so many families in SL who are depending on Odel and you will be responsible and will have to carry that burden rest of your life.

    I am not exactly sure intensions behind this article, as far as i can see someone is being paid to do this and rest is just joining the band wagon. You can clearly see that from some comments made by some one who used to work for Odel.

    There is a comment about Odel not looking after staff; apparently she has worked for Odel long time ago.
    Sorry to say, your comments does not add any weight to this conversation, it is obvious that you are just criticising Odel just because of your bitter past with one of your ex. employers.

    I am not aware of the full story about the situation of the kennel and I have not seen the place. It is bit difficult for me to write about that just reading an article on news paper.

    Just to see what is happening I will make sure I’ll visit the kennel when I go to SL next time (hopefully within next six months) and up date the situation.

    In the mean time, why do not you all come up with some suggestions how Odel can improve this?

    Merry Xmas and happy New Year every one, hope all your dreams come true, good luck with all your future plans…etc.

  34. PAM

    I know this comes a bit late, but I have read the posts with great interest.
    My mother and I have close to 20 dogs at our home, all except one are strays taken in from the street. People know we care for dogs and some have thrown pups into our garden. So far we have kept them all. Recently my mother had found a stray dog on the street with injuries sustained due to being hit by a vehicle. She had got someone to help her to get the fellow inside. The dog could not walk. I work abroad and all that I could think of doing was to call Embark and ask them to take care of the dog. I called Embark as a last resort as I am fed up with some of the vets who have treated our dogs before. I didn’t want any of them to see this dog and give substandard treatment because it was a stray. Anyway, I called Embark (my first dealing with them), Ishan answered the call and promised to send someone to have a look at the dog. True that promise they had gone to my place, taken the dog for treatment and have brought back the dog after treatment. The dog is on a slow recovery path now. Thank you Embark for doing that. My mother was helpless at that time and even if I had been there it is doubtful whether I could have been able to handle an injured stray dog.
    I also know that my cousin and her family have adopted a puppy from Embark and the pup is doing really well. These are people who would never have taken a street pooch to their home (I have never tried to re-home any of our dogs with them as I knew that they were not keen), but somehow or another bought into the Embark advertising and gave a home to a homeless pup. So, I see a lot of good in what Embark does. It is easy for us to sit in the comfort of our homes and offices and air-conditioned cars and criticize a group who is at least trying to better the life of even one homeless dog. As a carer for nearly 20 homeless dogs in my house I welcome anyone or any group who step out to help these hapless creatures. Sure there will be mistakes and misjudgments and even abuse of funds(happens everywhere all the time), but lets not forget the good that has also being done. The writer and all the other “embark attacking” commentators have the right to criticize. However since you have done this now, next time you see a homeless, hungry dog on the street remember the great concern you showed for their welfare on this forum. Maybe take one home and give them a place to live and be free from hunger and danger. Also, next time you see an injured dog on the street, do something without looking the other way. Perhaps you can call Embark and they will come and take the dog for treatment. We can be pretty callous at times. Once I was on my way to airport. It was around 10:30 pm and as we passed the Mahabage junction I saw a dog lying on the street. obviously it was hit and probably dead. But, I asked the driver to stop the vehicle and we walked towards the dog. I could see two other dogs barking at the fallen dog and perhaps urging their friend to get up and get out of the road. They would bark at the dog and run around him and yet when they saw other vehicles approaching them, they would run to safety. It broke my heart to see that. Even as we approached the dog, two other cars went above the, didn’t run over it, but managed to keep it in the middle of the path of the tires. It was traumatic to see that. Anyway, we got to the dog and I saw that it was dog maybe of 6 months of age. It was not dead but was in shock and unable to get up. Can you imagine another vehicle running it over while it lay in that helpless position. My driver managed to keep the vehicles out of my path as I pulled the puppy-dog out of the road. I was happy to see two men from the nearby fruit kiosk also approaching the scene with a plank in their hands to pull the dog out of harms way. Some people do care. I sent the dog home to our place and it was recovering well for one month. Then a callous, money hungry vet mistreated the dog and it passed away, suddenly. At least she died in the comfort of our home, well-fed and cared for until then. She did not get crushed alive on the road.
    Anyway, i wrote about that incident to make all of you who care so much about animal welfare to take a moment out of your busy schedule to be concerned about an injured animal lying on the road or on the side of the road. Stop and do something. I held the dog tightly by the top of it’s neck (that way they can’t turn around and snap at you) and put my other hand under it’s back and took it out of the road. You may not be able to do that. But, stop and get someone to come and help you to get the animal out of the road and traffic. Do something, we are human beings and we should care about it. I’m sure Embark will help with the treatment of the animal.

  35. I really dont know about the truth about this story,,but one thing i want to wright here is Otara is doing something than doing nothing,I thank GOD for giving her a heart that feels pity and love for these stray sweethearts rather than giving a heart of finding faults of others,whether she collects funds or not,what is that others problem to bring insults on her regarding this matter?to the editor of this or reporter,i would love to ask this from you”"”HAVE YOU EVER AT LEAST GIVE A KIND LOOK TO A STRAY CAT OR A DOG EVEN ONE TIME IN YOUR WHOLE LIFE TIME?,,if you can answer this from your heart,i hope that you will never can write something like this,,i dont know Otara ,but I know that she’s some where down the line with a heart of compassion for the ones whom others hates and ignores..may GOD bless you Otara and give you strength to do the right thing,,Amen.

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