Guest Bloggger, Abhimanyu Jain (merrywag.com)
Stray Animals. Creatures who instead of being in lovable homes are generally seen to be in a perpetual struggle for survival in the streets of, what must be to them, nightmarish and unnatural concrete jungles. Some of them have been abandoned, many have been born on the streets and know no other life.
In India, stray animals generally consist of dogs and cats, and in some cases cows and buffaloes which can be seen roaming the streets. I first became truly aware of their plight when I started volunteering at an animal shelter. I’m not quite sure what prompted me to do that, perhaps it was the fact that I had a pet dog, or maybe it was the endless stream of videos, pictures and articles that talked about the abuse of animals going on in India and around the world. Whatever it was, I became far more aware of animal rights than I had ever been; and I jumped in to do my bit.
I was not quite prepared for what I experienced at the animal shelter. It was intense. You could go from hoping against all odds to feeling completely and utterly hopeless in a second. Many abandoned pedigreed dogs came in, labradors, German Shepherds, pomeranians, etc. A lot of them were abandoned police dogs, which left me appalled. They had served their communities, and were nothing less than heroes, and here they were left to die alone in their old age. Many of the other pedigreed dogs were there either because their owners wouldn’t or couldn’t meet their expenses. Sometimes the reasons were more frivolous, some were abandoned because they had outgrown their cuteness, sometimes their caretakers had no idea what keeping a pet meant, sometimes they had to move and the pet was just an inconvenience to be rid of.
Even so, pedigreed dogs had a better chance than Indies (also called Pariah dogs, dogs which are native to India) at adoption. The great colonial hangover has ensured that pedigreed dogs are a status symbol in India, prized possessions which indicate social status and wealth. They had a decent chance at adoption, especially if they were young. But due to this colonial hangover, our own Indies have long been seen as second class. The vast majority of the population is extremely reluctant to adopt them. This is despite the fact that they are extremely well acclimated to the Indian climate, they do not fall ill easily, they are hardy and live long and almost never suffer from any genetic problems, which is sometimes seen in purebred dogs due to inbreeding.
In India, there are approximately 30 million stray dogs and cats. There is a big increase in the number of man-animal conflicts due to 1) the increase in stray animal population and 2) Increasing urbanization which leads to an extremely high density of human population in cities. Animal birth control has been haphazard and uneven, with municipal bodies incapable and/or unwilling to take on large scale programmes to reduce population of animals. The shelter I worked at was compensated for every sterilization they successfully undertook, which at least ensured that the animals that came in were sterilized. Some cities have seen relative improvement. Chennai and Jaipur were the first cities to start sustained ABC-AR programmes.
But one of the major pain points is the lack of enthusiasm among people when it comes to adopting Indies as pets. This was the reason why I started Merrywag.com. I had seen the success of petfinder in USA, and I felt that something like that was sorely needed in India to give pet adoptions, and especially adoption of Indies, an impetus; a place where people could come and see them for the truly amazing and loyal companions that they are.
Currently we are working with 16 Animal shelters who list pets up for adoption/fostering on the site, and they can make requests for donations too. Individuals and volunteers are also allowed to make submissions to the site. We also list all the happy endings, where pets have found forever homes.
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