Whether you’re an animal lover or not, there maybe times that you were tempted to help a wounded animal in need and did not know whom to approach. Here is one such organization In Defense of Animals which comes to therescue of all kinds of animals and birds in distress and they are just a call away.
We chatted with 64-year-old Mumbai based Sudnya Patkar, the Founder President of In Defense of Animals (IDA), India and the Hon. Secretary about IDA and her journey from when she started this organization in 1996 and the journey so far…
When did this all begin?
Ms. Sudnya recalls, “I have always loved animals from childhood, and had a dog at my parents’ home in Grant Road. But despite taking formal education and working in Corporate office, I was unaware of the animal suffering, because all animal suffering happens behind closed doors, whether it is slaughter of animals, cruel experiments carried out on animals, training given to circus animals, or anything else. Those days when the Municipal Van picked up stray dogs from the streets, it never occurred to me that they were being taken away to be killed by electrocution. When I came to know about this some time in mid-80’s, I was horrified, because this is something that we do not do even to the worst criminals….and to kill Man’s Best friend in this manner was shocking.”
She then came across an organization that was trying to stop this brutal killing of street animals and joined them. With great efforts from all NGOs in Mumbai, and lot of support from Mrs. Maneka Gandhi, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai the killing of stray dogs was stopped from 26th January 1994, and the sterilization program was adopted.
In July-August 1996, Ms. Sudnya quit from her organization as she found too much of ego problems amongst some Office Bearers, which did not appeal to her.
She adds, “Since I wanted to desperately work for animals, I decided to register an organization myself, where I would endeavor to see that concrete animal work would be done, with no place for ego or politics. Accordingly on 31st October 1996 ‘In Defense of Animals’ was registered by me, with 6 other signatories, who were my children and their friends.”
Gradually over the years as and when new people joined the organization the original signatories resigned and made way for people who were dedicated to the cause of animals. In the last 15 years innumerable people have joined the IDA India team, and truly by God’s grace, each of them is a gem, a true pillar of strength and works with dedication, without any expectations. So her desire to have organization that is free of personal egos had finally materialized.
The challenges are innumerable and it is difficult to put down each of them, so I shall enlist the major ones.
The biggest challenge is raising funds to keep the organization running. In last 15 years IDA has increased their work so much that today they have 2 centres running, one in Mumbai and one in Navi Mumbai, and have nearly 600 dogs and 100 cats admitted at any given point of time. IDA boasts of having 8 ambulances running all over the city rescuing / treating ill / animals and bringing in dogs and cats for sterilization. They have a staff of approx. 58 persons including qualified vets, centre managers, helpline executive, ambulance drivers, ward boys and office assistants. “Of course all the Office Bearers are working on honorary basis, and not drawing any remuneration or even taking reimbursement of some expenses from IDA India. In fact several Office Bearers contribute towards the running of the organization. A special mention needs to be made of our President, Ms. Fizzah Shah who donates Rs. 50,000 every month and has promised to do so for a year,” adds Ms. Sudnya.
IDA’s monthly expenditure to cover cost of food for animals, medicines, ambulance diesel, salaries and wages, comes to approx. Rs. 12 lakhs per month. Of this approx. Rs. 4.5 lakhs is covered by funds received from BMC and NMMC towards the dog sterilization program, approx. Rs. 1.5 lakhs is received each month from ‘In Defense of Animals’, an international organization based in U.S.A. with whom they have a tie up.
“So 50% of our expenditure is covered, and balance 50% has to be raised through donations. Having increased our work so much and no definite source of income other than what is mentioned above, it is a real challenge to make both ends meet on a day-to-day basis. By the 20th of each month I have to start worrying about from where the money will come to pay for salaries at the end of the month. So the uncertainty is killing, and only because of Divine Intervention we have been able to manage afloat so far,” explains Ms. Sudnya.
Getting volunteers to help
The second biggest challenge is to get volunteers to help with this work. There is an ocean of people that support this cause, but very few who take time off every week or every fortnight to work for animals.
She further adds, “With the tough life in a city like Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, I cannot blame them either, but we desperately need volunteers to help out at our centres, to walk the dogs, to groom them, bathe them, foster the puppies and kittens, help with adoptions, and so on.”
Ms. Sudnya lists out various crimes committed against strays dogs and cats in our country.
Crimes against strays
Throwing stones at them or kicking them are the common ones, but some sadistic people even go to the extent of poisoning them or beating them to death. Some pick up the puppies / kittens born in their locality when the mother has gone scavenging for food, and dump them far away where they surely die of starvation, and the mother nearly kill herself out of desperation at not being able to find her babies. What is surprising is that even women, who very well understand what motherhood is, do this to a mother dog or cat.
Crimes against pets
While crimes against stray dogs and cats come to light, crimes against pets go unnoticed until some one complains that a particular family is ill-treating their dog.
“Sometimes I feel that stray dogs are luckier than some pet dogs that are abused by their familis and locked up into their homes for days together and at times without food and water while the family is on vacation, or kept them tethered all day on the terrace in the heat or rains, sometimes sitting in their own muck causing skin ailments and sores,” adds Ms. Sudnya.
The Animal Protection Law
Ms. Sudnya strongly feels that, “The animal protection law in our country is ‘Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960’. This half a century old Act needs to be urgently replaced, because the penalties prescribed under this Act are mere Rs. 10 to Rs. 100, and not at all any deterrent to people who commit crimes against animals.”
The Animal Welfare Board of India, which is a wing of the Ministry of Environment & Forests, has drafted a new Animal Welfare Bill of 2011 that needs to be placed before Parliament. Meantime another Ministry has made drastic changes in this Bill, which would make it most ineffective. She further adds, “Therefore we all have to come together to put pressure on the Govt. of India to present to the Parliament the Bill drafted by AWBI.”
The response so far
Ms. Sudnya explains, “The response we get from metropolitan cities is fantastic. But now with the advent of Internet, emails, face book, etc. people across the world are becoming aware of the animal issues and environmental problems. The people in smaller towns and cities also care for animals and would love to do something for them, but the problem is that there are no animal NGOs working in their cities, so they do not know how to go about helping the animals.”
She further adds, “So the need of the hour is that each city / town should have a dedicated force of people to work for animals in their respective city. Govt. of India has issued a Notification that every District should have an S.P.C.A. but this is not being implemented by every District. Also, even if it is implemented, one S.P.C.A. for the entire District cannot take care of all the cruelty that happens in the District.”
There are a few film and T.V. personalities who support In Defense of Animals right from Ms. Hema Malini, who was a Member of Parliament, who donated an ambulance from her M.P. Fund, Ms. Raveena Tandon, Ms. Anju Mahendroo and Ms. Kashmira Shah also donate towards their activities, Ms. Anupama Verma the Model has promised to help us with their campaigns as well.