The Animal Welfare Committee Begins The Year With Furry Fun
The G.K. Marg School students were in for a surprise when instead of a coordinator entering their classrooms on Skill Development Day, they had a dog, named Rani, who came in with her master Mr. Abodh Aras of the Welfare of Stray Animals. He revealed that Rani was a stray rescued from the streets and had become a popular “star” helping conduct workshops at schools and colleges to educate children on dog care, rabies prevention, the stray dog issue and dog population control. The programme was arranged by Animal Welfare Committee Chair Priyasri Patodia along with Vedika, a volunteer organisation involved in informing communities about strays, how to care for them and above all how to show them a little love.
Mr. Aras gave a brief talk on the history of strays and explained that it is due to the lack of garbage disposal in slums and societies that strays get attracted and mark out the “territory” where food is easily available. Slowly, the community accepts and adopts the strays without realising the consequences. After all, the dogs and cats roam without a leash and have not been vaccinated or sterilised. This makes the children of the community susceptible to animal bites which could cause rabies, apart from multiplication of the stray population which becomes a nuisance in time. He acknowledged that the relationship between humans and dogs and cats has been centuries old and that often there is a beautiful bond between them. But one has to take precautions to ensure that the dogs are vaccinated. He gave information about various NGOs involved in vaccinating strays and also explained why neutering pets is important to control their population.
The slide show he screened sought to educate children about how to protect themselves and how to recognise a stray with rabies or infection, what steps to take after being bitten by a dog, and what not to do to instigate the animals so that they don’t get bitten. While chatting with the students he said when people threw stones and shooed the animals, they didn’t realise that they had their own “territory” or home space and that hitting them or killing them is not the solution; rather, it is sterilisation that holds the key to control their population. Mr. Aras explained that a dog would never bite unless instigated, or a dog has delivered a litter and humans try to get in close proximity with her pups. Another trigger for dog bites is disturbing a hungry dog while it is eating. Otherwise, dogs and cats love being companions to human beings.
The session ended with a documentary, “Day of the Dog,” about a stray living all his life on the streets of Bombay on the kindness of the people all around. The children had several inhibitions and questions about dogs. One asked what to do when dogs in the locality got into a fight. Mr. Aras said that it was best not to get too close when dogs were fighting. An elder person could splash a bucket of water on the fighting dogs and thus startle them and end the fight. When a student wanted to know how to get his mother to allow him to keep a pet, he said it was a big responsibility to keep a pet. It had to be fed, taken for walks, tended to when it fell sick and a lot of other chores were involved.
It would be better if he waited till he was old enough to take up all these responsibilities. Till then, he could look after the strays in his area by feeding them and calling NGOs to vaccinate or sterilise them. Priyasri said she had gifts for those who had pets at home or had adopted strays; she was surprised that about 30% did have such connections with strays and pets. The programme was quite helpful because the maximum number of strays are found in slum areas and children are scared, do not know how to react and get bitten.