THE DANCE OF DEATH; VET SCOTT MILLER TRAVELS TO INDIA TO SAVE TORTURED ANIMALS Their Teeth Smashed by an Iron Bar, Bears Shake in Agony as Keepers Pull on a Rope in Their Snouts

Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland), October 29, 2006 | Go to article overview

THE DANCE OF DEATH; VET SCOTT MILLER TRAVELS TO INDIA TO SAVE TORTURED ANIMALS Their Teeth Smashed by an Iron Bar, Bears Shake in Agony as Keepers Pull on a Rope in Their Snouts


Byline: By STEVE DINNEEN

SUNDAY MAIL vet Scott Miller is battling to rescue India's desperate dancing bears.

Scott, 32, has travelled to the subcontinent to help rescue the tortured animals and perform emergency surgery on their wounds.

The bears are kept by Kalandar gypsies who make them "dance" for money.

But the tourists who toss them a few coins are unaware that the animals' jerking movements are in fact shudders of agony.

The bears are stolen from their mothers as cubs and have never known a life free of pain and misery.

To control them, a red hot poker is inserted through the nose into the mouth. A rope is pushed through the hole and yanked by its keeper causing the bear to shake in pain.

The wounds inevitably become infected, leaving the animals in constant agony.

Scott said: "The state some of the poor creatures were in was horrific.

"The injuries to their snouts are especially cruel as in the wild they live by sniffing out termite nests and catching them with their long claws."

Scott has just returned from a trip which took him from Agra in the north to Mumbai on the west coast.

He travelled with a team of three specialist dentists who helped ease some of the bears' suffering. As well as the mutilation of their snouts, the animals' front teeth are smashed out with an iron bar to stop them turning on their keepers.

As a result they sustain severe mouth infections and absesses.

Scott said: "We spent a week with the bears doing a lot of root fillings, extractions and relieving the terrible pain they're in.

"We were able to treat these in a lot of the bears so hopefully they'll be able to lead normal lives in the sanctuaries.

"I guess it might seem daunting working on bears - especially for the dentists who are more used to drilling human teeth - but when you see them you realise they are just beautiful animals who desperately need your help. They are not scary and vicious like some people imagine them.

"Obviously they are wild animals and they are capable of hurting you if they are provoked but they are not aggressive."

The practice of bear dancing has been illegal in India for 30 years but still carries on because the desperately poor can make money from tourists who pay to watch the performance.

But Scott says the numbers are so small it can be ended for good - and he has pledged to help achieve that aim. …

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