Asia Life

Sri Lankan Police Apologize for Mass “Buddhist” Dog Weddings

A publicity stunt went awry in Sri Lanka, invoking the ire of the nation’s culture ministry.

Jonathan DeHart

It seemed innocent enough when Sri Lankan police in Kandy decided to hold a mass “wedding” for nine pairs of sniffer dogs using Buddhist iconography. The officers slipped socks, shawls and bonnets on the “brides,” while the “grooms” wore red ties. The canine couples were then walked to a platform decorated with white cloth and flowers.

Although the intent was simple enough – to promote breeding of the sniffing dogs – it backfired when the nation’s culture ministry strongly condemned the act, claiming that the officers’ actions were an affront to the wedding traditions of the predominantly Buddhist island. In particular, the platform upon which the nuptials took place was purportedly a Buddhist poruwa of the sort used in Sinhalese weddings. The weddings were registered by an official in the presence of vets, doctors, senior police and members of the public – who dined on milk and cake.

“This is not acceptable according to our cultural norms,” Culture Minister TB Ekanayake told reporters. “We are people who really value our traditional weddings – which are only done at auspicious times alongside the chanting of stanzas and [other] poruwa rituals.”

He added, “The police have demeaned all this by conducting this in the Kandy – the city of the Temple of [the Tooth]. I totally condemn this.” Ekanayake also issued a written request to the inspector-general of police to request a full inquiry.

But the police insisted that the platform was simply a photo op and was not intended to resemble a poruwa. The damage had already been done and they apologized in a statement. They also pointed out that domestic breeding of the sniffing dogs was a well justified cause.

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“This program is aimed at breeding dogs accustomed to local weather and food, thereby saving money,” police spokesperson Buddhika Siriwardena said. In 2011, the force dropped more than $500,000 importing the breed from the Netherlands.

After the contentious ceremony, local television showed that the dogs were whisked away in police vans to the hill resort of Nuwara Eliya to enjoy their “honeymoon.”