Every week, there are reports of people killing and indulging in acts of violence against dogs. Just this morning, one of the news pieces in a leading daily mentioned the killing of seven dogs in one of Delhi’s “posh” areas.
While being indifferent to dogs or disliking them is one thing, killing or causing them harm is just not acceptable.
Neighbourhood Woof is an NGO started by Ayesha Christina, nearly four years ago. Ayesha not only has immense love for the canines but says she cannot remember a time when she lived without dogs in the house.
In an exclusive conversation with The Better India, she talks about their work at length.
“Along with my human ancestry, there is also canine ancestry, and that is the kind of upbringing I had. I was sure that when I was older, I would have dogs in my office, and the reason for that is that my mother’s office did not allow dogs,” says Ayesha.
During college, Ayesha moved into an apartment and says that was when she started understanding ‘street dogs’. “They became a constant companion during those years, and I started observing them at such close quarters. What they go through, how they survive, and what their challenges are,” she says.
It was during college that Ayesha realised that while there were many people who were genuinely fond of the dogs on the streets, they could not look after them. And these people were generally the rickshaw wallahs, chai wallahs among others.
“My main aim then became to ensure that I did something for the street dogs. The first job I took up was also with an animal welfare organisation. That, I would say, helped me understand the challenges of running such an organisation,” she says.
Neighbourhood Woof, therefore, was born out a need to bridge the gap between the animal welfare organisations and the animal lovers on the street.
“I wanted to devote a large portion of my resources to find a long-term solution to a problem. While a shelter home would have taken care of the injured animals, it would not have solved any of the problems on hand,” observes Ayesha.
The Supreme Court had ordered the implementation of the Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme to control the street dog population in all states of India. However, since none of the civic bodies has the means to conduct these sterilisations, they depend on various NGOs across the city.
Things to know about the ABC programme:
- Under the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001, street dogs are to be sterilised, vaccinated and subsequently released into the same area from where they were captured.
- Sick dogs are to be treated before their sterilisation and vaccination. Incurably ill or mortally wounded dogs can be put to death only in a humane manner.
- Mass vaccinations, an essential part of the programme, have shown to reduce the spread of rabies in dogs substantially, and thus to humans.
Neighbourhood Woof works with the local animal caregivers to identify as many females in the area to bring down the dog population, empowering local caregivers to take care of whatever issue then crops up.
Sheru – the dog that gave Neighbourhood Woof its four helpers
“It was in 2007 that Sheru, who was an unrivalled alpha male in the locality I stayed in, came into my life. I rescued him from the clutches of my neighbours who were out to kill him.
He became so possessive about me that he would come with me to college, drop me at the metro station and come back to fetch me, each day.
He needed to be in a place that would let him live without being hassled. We relocated him to a shelter home for kids that already had a few dogs. It was here that he finally settled down; the kids there had been around dogs, and so they understood Sheru and gave him the space he needed as well. For 11 years that he stayed there, he was fine, and from that shelter home, I found four of my helpers who are still with me,” she says.
People who work at Neighbourhood Woof
Hiring has always been a big challenge, says Ayesha. “There is a huge difference between enjoying the company of dogs and liking them vis-à-vis actually working for them.”
She explains, “Just last night, I got a frantic call telling me about a dog with terrible maggots on his leg. We picked him up and started working on his leg to ensure that more of it is not eaten away. For anyone who looks at this as a typical ‘job’, it wouldn’t work. It requires a lot more than just that,” she says.
She continues, “A lot of the credit must go to the boys from the shelter – the sense of community and the innate helping hand they lend to the work is just amazing. Vipin, Jeetender, Iqbal, and Ganesh are truly super-heroes.”
Ganesh and his tryst with the organisation
Ganesh is a painter who is pretty ambivalent towards dogs like most people are, says Ayesha.
Ganesh would visit Ayesha’s home to do the odd painting job and would be surrounded by the seven dogs that resided there.
“During one of his painting jobs at my home, he asked if he could join me. His reason even today makes me wonder about what kind of people we are. He said to me that because of how nicely we treated him, he wanted to work at the shelter. I, on the other hand, was just treating him like I would any other fellow human being,” she says, still wondering how people treat each other.
Statistics and numbers
In the three years of its existence, Neighbourhood Woof has rescued over 1,000 dogs and neutered about 5,000 street dogs. Ayesha also mentioned that while the government is mandated to pay them Rs 1,100 for every dog that is neutered, it has been almost six months since the last payment came through.
Neighbourhood Woof continues their work and invites volunteers and full-time employees to join them. For more information about the organisation, visit their Facebook page here.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)