While many brought home furry friends during the lockdowns, not many were up to the job of managing them, leading to an increase in the number of strays and abandoned pets on the streets
Laila, a three-year-old dog, used to live in a construction site in Sector 79, Noida. On 2 September, Akansha Majumdar, a law graduate and dog rescuer who runs an NGO called Philanthropist and the Happy Dog received a frantic call from her feeder that Laila was lying on the roadside after an accident. A speeding car had run over her. She was rushed to the hospital by Majumdar, who describes the drive to the hospital as the ‘worst 20 minutes of her life.’
There was very little chance of Laila surviving but the doctors worked hard and saved Laila’s life. However, she is now paralysed for life and is under the NGO’s care.
Laila is just one amongst 62.9 million stray dogs in India. A survey led by MARS Petcare and an Advisory Board of leading animal welfare experts released the first-ever State of Pet Homelessness Index. According to the report, India has 80 million stray cats and dogs. Only 8.8 million of the total 80 million strays are in shelter homes. The rest of them live on roads, construction sites etc. India’s score is a mere 2.4 out of 10 in the State of Pet Homelessness Index.
This data is revealing because when the lockdowns were imposed last year, there was an increase in pet adoption. As per the report, six in ten people felt the need to bring a pet home. However, gradually, nearly 50% of the people relinquished their pets. The overall global average for the people who let go of their pets in the same period stood at 28%.
Majumdar shares that she had a feeling that people would eventually abandon their pets. She says, “People bought or adopted pets thinking they could manage as they were working from home but as the lockdowns eased a bit and people had to start going to office, they realised it was not feasible for them to keep a pet at home. Hence we saw a large number of pets being relinquished.”
Majumdar also tells the Patriot that the pure breed dogs are mostly abandoned because they are generally bought from breeders who do not always tell their customers about the pros and cons of having a dog at home. On the other hand, if a pet is adopted through rescuers like Majumdar, they are less likely to be abandoned. In fact, Majumdar herself helped over 40 stray dogs find homes in the last 20 months. “None of them have come back to us’, Majumdar claims proudly.
The reason no one has abandoned a pet adopted through Majumdar’s NGO is because she has an elaborate process in place to ensure that a pet goes into a good family. It is a three-step process where those interested in adopting a pet have to first fill a detailed google form. The form contains different questions and allows for Majumdar to gauge by respondent answers if they are really interested in adopting a pet or are only wasting time. A lot of applications are rejected at this stage itself.
After this process is done, Majumdar puts a video call through to the family and talks to each and everybody in the family; if satisfied, she then proceeds to the last step. The last step is to do a virtual house check to see if the puppy can live in that particular house. “This process can seem long but it helps puppies to find the best families”, says Majumdar.
On being asked where she keeps so many stray dogs, she informs that most of them live in construction sites in Noida Sector 49, 50, 79 and 80. She says, “It is not possible for us to keep them with us. If it is an emergency, we try to find a foster home who can keep the puppy for a month, otherwise the dogs live on the street itself. We try to ensure that they are getting food everyday even if they live on the streets”.
When asked why can’t they be sent to shelter homes, Majumdar says it is because shelter homes are overcrowded and not all dogs can adapt themselves to those kinds of living conditions. The report also reveals that nearly 8 in every 10 people (77%) say they see a stray dog once a week.
Pooch Tales is another organisation which rescues strays and provides care to them. It is run by twin sisters Anantika and Adharika in South Delhi’s Panchsheel Park area. They have been rescuing dogs since the last four and a half years. According to them, the number of stray dogs has only increased in the last 20 months and at the same time the number of dogs they have helped get adopted has also doubled in the same period. In the last couple of years alone they have managed to find homes for over 50 puppies. They too have a similar adoption process as Majumdar’s. Pooch Tales is just not limited to feeding dogs and finding homes for them but they also ensure that the stray dogs are vaccinated and sterilized. Ananntika says, “Sterilization of stray dogs is the responsibility of the municipality but they are not bothered.” Pooch Tales does not have any funding and the two sisters use their own money to sterilize these dogs. If these dogs are not sterilized, the number of stray dogs would only increase.
(Cover: Laila though survived the ordeal of being run over by a car has been left paralysed for life)