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My family, from Seattle, Wa., has lived in India for 20 years and we have ran a rescue program for street animals since 2002, treating 45,000 animals since then. The number of success stories is a phenomenon and they touch us deeply every day, but to understand their significance, it’s helpful to understand the context of India and its lively street animal population.

Unlike in the West, India actually has laws to protect the rights of animals who live in the streets as they have done for thousands of years. Instead of a death sentence for dogs who are not adopted, the law gives dogs the right to live where they were born. India is one of the only countries in the world that includes compassion for animals in its constitution. It is an astounding expression of tolerance that even while cities grow, displacing the animals who were there first is considered illegal.

Who are India’s street dogs?

A Real Look at Rescuing and Returning Street Dogs in IndiaJulie O’Neill Photography

The free-roaming dogs who color the village lanes, byways, and city streets throughout India are usually indigenous to India and the Asian Subcontinent, just as dingos are original dogs, indigenous to Australia. They are not pets who were abandoned. They come from hundreds of generations who have been born into/adapted to living in villages and cities and evolved from a proto-Indian dog over thousands of years of occupancy in India.

Are street dogs treated well?

A Real Look at Rescuing and Returning Street Dogs in IndiaJulie O’Neill Photography

While the vast majority of animals who live on the streets are happy, well fed, and healthy, when animals meet problems they do need help. But sadly, help for street animals is not available in most cities and without the infrastructure of a hospital and ambulance, most people don’t know how to help.

When we founded Animal Aid Unlimited, our mission was to help animals by giving the community a phone number they could call, and a place they could come to save a life. We knew that people wanted to help, and so we set out to heal injuries and connect with people who care too.

When we arrived in Udaipur 18 years ago, animals died in the street from untreated wounds and illnesses.

Today, Animal Aid rescues 15 to 25 injured or sick animals every day, cases ranging from a thorn in a paw to a cow fallen in a ditch to a dog paralyzed after an accident. Each and every rescue was possible because a local Indian called on our helpline to make the report.

During the last 12 years, because of Animal Aid, Udaipur has become India’s city with the largest per capita population of residents involved in animal rescue.

Why return healthy animals to their home on the streets?

A Real Look at Rescuing and Returning Street Dogs in IndiaJulie O’Neill Photography

One Green Planet has recently shared the incredible rescues and recoveries of Tony, Yamuna, and Toffee. Their stories have inspired many people to become more interested in the situation faced by Indian street animals.

Let’s focus on Toffee for this discussion, OGP’s most recent rescue feature on Animal Aid. Toffee’s terrible injury likely started from a fight with another dog and a puncture wound to his ear. The puncture got infected and, within just a few days, flies had laid eggs that turned into flesh-eating maggots. His condition became critical within just a few days but he fully recovered after treatment. Toffee is about eight years old and was neutered at Animal Aid several years ago. In these eight years, he was critically injured once, received the help he needed, and now he is healed.

The answer to the problem of street animals is not to remove them from the street — not only would that be currently impossible to do humanely, but removal would not further our goal of inspiring compassion and protection for animals. In medium-sized cities like Udaipur, there is no street dog adoption even remotely available. Some families keep breed dogs but most people’s homes are small and while many care for the dogs in their neighborhood, they usually don’t bring them inside.

With just 80 kennels and space for 100 disabled animals, Animal Aid would soon be full if we didn’t return animals to their neighborhoods. Space must be reserved for the critically injured and those who cannot survive on the street because of disabilities. Among the several dozen shelters for animals in India, all, as policy, return healthy animals to the street.  The street homes of dogs include the nooks, crannies, and roads where a dog was born and dozens of animal friends, special favored spots for a nap, and personal relationships with people who feed them.

Compassion to the Rescue!

Before Animal Aid, and in most of the cities throughout India where no rescue services exist, an animal hit by a car means the animal lays on the side of the road and bleeds to death.

But not in Udaipur. A road accident almost always results in a call for rescue. Often, we receive multiple calls to report an injured animal who needs help. A first-time caller is touched to discover that they receive gratitude with prompt service, invitations to visit, and several follow-up calls to detail the progress of the animal. This ensures that people who have called once, will call again and again. When it comes time to return a healed, spayed/neutered, de-wormed, bathed, and inoculated animal to his/her neighborhood, our efforts have strengthened the ties between that caller and the animal. We make sure the caller realizes that they helped save a life, and, in turn, that life becomes even more precious to them.

Every time our ambulances pull up to the rescue, dozens of people crowd around to watch compassion in action — people are thankful, they donate, visit, call to ask for updates, and they call again when they see another animal in need.

Sometimes, it is hard for us to release animals back to their neighborhoods because we love them. Sometimes, we wish we could keep them all. But the animals cherish their freedom and it is worse to imagine keeping them confined in a shelter which would soon be overcrowded if not for the rescue-return cycle. But it’s even worse to imagine not being able to say, “Help is on the way!” to the next call we receive for an animal who needs us.

Lead Image Source: Julie O’Neill Photography

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45 comments on “A First-Hand Look at Rescuing and Returning Street Dogs in India”

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11 Days ago

I visited this wonderful place on a visit to Udaipur in 2017. Absolutely inspirational and moving experience. Many animals lives are transformed by the kindness and skill of the people who work here.

1 Years Ago

I want to use this great opportunity to thank Dr.Ihunde for helping me to get my boyfriend back after 3 months of breakup.My boyfriend breakup with me because he see another girl at his working place and told me he is no longer interested in me and live me pain and heart break.I seek for help on the internet and i saw so many good talk about this great spell caster Dr. Ihunde of [email protected] and i contacted him also and explain my problems to him and he cast a love spell for me which i use to get back my boyfriend within the period of 3 days and i am so grateful to him for the good work he did for me,that is why i also want to let everyone who is in need of help out there to also seek help from him so he can help.His email is [email protected] or call +2349055637784

john pasqua
1 Years Ago

great people at animal aid.

Seth Tyrsen
1 Years Ago

Ahh, if only that mentality existed here in America.

4 Years Ago

Thank you for your work and compassion. In the west people think that a dog has to be a pet. In Asia we see them living as they should, free and in pack. So much to learn from them and that dogs have a right to their own life as dogs, not as pets.
The city, however, is not a good place for a free roaming dog. They did not chose to live there, so let\'s help one dog at the time, just like we do with humans.

Bhupinder Sharma
4 Years Ago

Dear Jonna Joanna Tuczyńska! The article won't make a difference here in India! I see people starving and dying on footpath, but nobody gives a helping hands as you have no clue at what moment the dying person would get up and strangle you to death, steal off your assets and fly away! So, is the case with the stray, No one cares because of their multitude! It is not just the human population that's increasing but also the other breeds!

Sunflower Lanna
4 Years Ago

In the third world, there is not only in India but all stray dogs and cats are in unkind world.

Joanna Tuczyńska
4 Years Ago

I lived in India 14months... I helped so many street dogs with food and medicines... They were starving and dying from wounds... I even took one little pup from a treet with me to Poland... Noone wanted to adopt her, although there were so many so called 'animal lovers' who had flats and a lot of free time... I think the article is faraway from the tructh.

Deepaks Ambadasrao Shukla
4 Years Ago

Very practical & humane ! It must be followed in other cities too & improvised with experiance .

Bhupinder Sharma
4 Years Ago

Dear Kim! Indeed! Indians have enough food to not atleast eat dogs & Yes! Majority of Hindu population is vegetarian! But this is in no doubt disagreeable that we have the largest population of stray which is multiplying every day as they keep breeding especially in the urban areas where they have ample garbage to eat! They often are hostile and bite people, & their number alone makes it difficult for people to take one as pet!

Angie Haviland
26 Apr 2014

I saw the same PETA report...and it was so heartbreaking. I cried after watching. I, too, wish there was something I could do to make a difference. It is so sad. :-/

Sanjib Chakraborty
29 Apr 2014

Bhupinder Ji.... Some Part of India Eat Dogs too..... & That Tribes where ever go in India, They Grab all the Stray & Eat Them ..... Pls find the Link


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