Meet Shalini Agarwal, an animal lover who has dedicated her life to taking care of injured animals in her city. She lives with 46 animals in her flat and has no plans of stopping anytime soon. This is her story.
Call Bareilly resident Shalini Agarwal any time of the day, and it’s likely that you will hear dogs barking or birds chirping in the background. If you are lucky, you might even get to listen to to her playful foal, one among the 46 animals who live with her these days.
An unabashed animal lover, Shalini has turned her apartment into a shelter for animals.
“My father was a passionate animal lover and I saw his love grow since my childhood. Whenever he came across any injured animal on the streets during road trips or work tours, he would get it home. My work for animals evolved in the form of a habit I developed after observing him for years,” says Shalini, unperturbed by the barks and the meows audible around her.
Today, the 36-year-old’s two-bedroom apartment is akin to a mini animal kingdom, housing dogs, birds, a 3-month-old foal, cats, and even a monkey. Shalini, who has been working for animal welfare for about 20 years, came across some of the animals suffering on the streets. In other cases, her neighbours or people acquainted with her work provided information when they encountered injured animals.
After rescuing, Shalini brings them home, provides them with emergency medical care, and takes them to vets if needed.
Over the years, Shalini has seen cases of animal abuse in various forms. About five years ago, she lived in a different locality where she fed and looked after an area bitch named Daisy. “She was calm and quiet and used to come near my house only at the time of feeding,” says Shalini. But in an unfortunate incident, some society residents allegedly poisoned Daisy when she was pregnant. “That incident shook me. I filed an FIR and an investigation followed,” she recounts. The event made her more dedicated to her cause and she went on to register an NGO named Mercy for All aimed to facilitate rescue operations, file complaints, reach out to vets, etc. Having an organization also helped give her endeavours a more serious approach before the authorities.
“When I started out, I didn’t have any place to keep these animals. I had to admit the large animals in municipal shelters or give them up for adoption. But in case of small animals, it was impossible to go to different shelters and look after them–they all need medical aid; some even need surgeries. So I brought them home to ensure that I could offer quality care. And slowly, adding one plus one, they became so many,” she says.
Shalini makes room for the animals in the same flat where she lives with her husband and two daughters. Some dogs like to stay outside the house and roam about, but they always come back to her place.
But Shalini’s job isn’t all is about lovely puppies and purring cats. Stating an example of its perils, she recounts the story of a recent bull rescue operation. It looked like some smugglers had tried to trap the bull by inserting iron strings inside its head, near the horns. The bull’s wounds were infected with maggots by the time Shalini was informed. The pain had led the animal to become aggressive. “When I saw it for the first time, I was scared because it was violent and trying to attack. I hired 16 volunteers who work at a dairy and are experienced in handling such animals,” she says. Together they chased the bull till they could finally tie it, cut the strings from its head and apply medicine to its wounds. “Once we treated it and offered food, it became extremely docile, standing with its head bowed down. It was the first time I realised my work is really risky. The operation involved a lot of physical action and anyone could have been hurt. But the impact was also heart-warming.”
Sometimes attacked and threatened by people who don’t want animals to inhabit certain areas, Shalini has learned to be brave over the years.
She understands the concerns of people who are scared about the menace animals might cause and has a message for them, “Dogs don’t hurt people unless we try to hurt them. Animals have feelings the same way like we do. I have been working in this field for 20 years and no animal has hurt me ever. If your intentions are clear, they will not hurt you.”
Completely dedicated to the cause, Shalini uses her own funds for the animals’ food, medicines, surgeries, and other needs. Some of her friends contribute for food or medicines too. But currently a homemaker, Shalini also finds herself struggling for funds at many times.
Keeping that in mind, she is now raising funds to open up a dedicated shelter for the animals and continue the service. You can contribute to her cause here.
“There should be someone for everyone. And I feel that I am here for these animals. Many friends and relatives have stopped visiting me because they are not comfortable around animals, but my family has supported me every step of the way. That motivates me to continue,” she concludes.
You may also like: How a German Vet’s Love for Camels is Saving a Unique Community in Rajasthan