In this edition of Animal Instincts, Ritika Goel, Director of People for Cattle India and an Honorary Animal Welfare Officer speaks to Pinky Chandran, on her foray into the animal welfare world and about her pet campaign “Bengaluru Opts to Adopt”, India’s first comprehensive adoption drive of rescued Canines and Felines.
Here are the edited excerpts of her interview with Radio Active CR 90.4 MHz
I first fell in love as a toddler with the entire concept of animal kingdom, because I remember sitting down with my dad watching Discovery Channel where all they would show were the African jungles, the savannahs’, the giraffes and the elephants. It’s just so beautiful. The more the episodes started coming in, the more you began to know about the animal kingdom, so that’s where my curiosity for animal kingdom started. I have always had something or the other at home, because my dad is an animal lover too.
The next phase of my life, was when I used to walk from home to school, and school to home, and on the way, I would see a tumour dog, or a maggot case, and I would go to a PCO (Public Call Office), in those days we would have the one-rupee coin booth and call a local NGO for an ambulance. I would wait for the ambulance for up to five hours sometimes…The moment the ambulance picks the dog up, the sense of satisfaction that you have done something for someone, that this dog will no longer be struggling or suffering on the road, where it is neglected, unseen, not helped. That’s a beautiful feeling and I can’t tell you how amazing it was.
And then life got busy with college and with corporate level. It became very mechanical and I decided to take a break of couple of months and touch base with the animal welfare side. So I started volunteering with an NGO and that has been a life changing experience for me because I learnt a lot.
I was working at the adoption center, and I learnt that the moment the dog is dropped off, it is important to know the history, the trauma, then introducing the dog to already existing 35 odd dogs, who come with their own baggage and the fact, the universal thumb rule that dogs are pack animals and every pack has an alpha. So when you have a collection of 35 plus dogs in a small limited area, chances are high that you have a handful of dogs competing for alpha position, remember they work in a hierarchy and they work in a pack and it is for the dogs to decide what position of the hierarchy that they fall into and the process seeing a dog change itself, change its personality is so beautiful. Understanding the psychology, understanding the behaviour because it is not about somebody coming and picking the dog up, it is about explaining to the person, this is the trauma about the dog or the personality of the dog, understanding lifestyle of the potential adopter is so important.
Because it is not about wanting a fancy dog or any other puppy but it is understanding the lifestyle, do you have somebody at home, are you going to be busy, how long are you are you going to be busy, do you have kids, so many things to understand about the potential adopter and then, matching it up. Maybe you know what you have got kids at home, maybe the puppy you selected is too hyper, you need to go for a dog that is subtle … and that’s what I learnt and I would like to thank the people that I worked with for teaching me and for showing me, how it is done.
Handling a dog- You cannot walk up to any dog and ruffle the head or the ear and say how cute. Every dog is different. There is something called space and every dog needs space and you will find a difference of the level that they would be like to be interacted or be touched. Some dogs are shy, some are hyper, some don’t like to be touched, some like want to pet them and be with them. Understanding and learning that, was my journey!
And after some time, I was offered a job and then I started managing the centre.
Experience managing the adoption centre
It was an amazing experience because right from your vaccination cards, the books, the medical records, I got slowly introduced to the medical side of it. When a dog is sick, what is the symptoms, what are the treatment, understanding the medications, understanding the way a doctor treats, dressing, nail clipping, cleaning ears that part was something I learnt. I almost felt like a para vet. Because that’s what your job demands, your job demands you to be confident enough to know what is what, you need to talk a call on certain things, you need to make sure de- worming are done, vaccinations are done, sterilisations are done on time, and what are the precaution, and of course the medications and I also learnt to give injections. It was beautiful experience, because every dog came with their own set of wounds, physical wound, and mental wound. Learning to nurture the dog was a beautiful experience and it changes you as a person, as well.
They say dogs are therapeutic, trust me they are. If you are going through something in life. If you have a physical wound, or emotional wound, or you don’t have somebody to tell you what to do, or people don’t understand you, things are not going the way you want it to go. Spend some time with dogs and cats. It will do wonders to yourself. You will explore yourself, the more you explore the canine and the feline. I am telling you 101 percent it will work. Go to shelters, go to a friend who has a pet, or come to us, we do a lot of adoption drives every one and half month, we have a lot of beautiful puppies and kittens, come spend some time with them. It will change your life. It will mold you as a person.
On Ground zero rescue
Then I started doing a lot of rescues. I think Tony was one person, who encouraged me and it was so nice to be encouraged and appreciated, more than anything else
Now, when you do rescues, it is a different story all together. When you are approaching a dog, you don’t know anything about, unlike the shelter dogs, you know the past history, you have the time and bandwidth to understand what has gone wrong. But with the dog on the street, you don’t the story, was it a pet dog, or street dog, you don’t know what exactly happened, what kind of accident happen how did it get its wounds…
So how do you approach the dog? Some dogs are runners, some dogs are shy, some dogs are defensive, not aggressive, but defensive! But you also need to be able to identify what happened to the dog, is it a spinal cord injury or a fracture? You need to understand that.
My past experience helped. So everything just fell into place so beautifully. You need to secure the dog, muzzle it, the way you are holding is very important. If it is a spinal cord injury, you cannot hold it any other way, but horizontally, so that you don’t cause any more damage. And then I decided to go a notch further and enrolled for the Honorary Animal Welfare Officer(HAWO) Training, conducted by HSI and the Animal Welfare Board of India.
On the Honorary Animal Welfare Training
HAWO training was the third chapter of my animal welfare journey and that was a very powerful phase. Beginning of the year we had a training in Bellary, there were fifty of us. So there were over hundred applications, but only fifty selected. You need to have three years’ work experience in an animal welfare and a reference from an NGO and a reference from an HAWO and then accordingly you are called for an interview and then you are shortlisted. You are called over for a three-day intense training and I cannot tell you, it was such an eye-opener.
I learnt about the Constitutional Laws that our animals have, Animal Laws like the one that protect and the ones that tell us what is acceptable and what are not. For example, Slaughtering: You cannot slaughter in public, there are slaughter houses and even slaughter houses have rules, on how a slaughter is conducted, there are certain knives, there are certain ways and that you cannot slaughter an animal in front of another animal, and so you need to do it in a closed room. The tools you use need to be sterilized, the way you need to slaughter is with precision and that is also prescribed in the laws.
Transporting Animals: You cannot just transport animals in any vehicle. They have to license to transfer animals, cushioning, water, shelter, food, and make sure they are secured and you cannot jam them up. If you are exhibiting animals, you need license for the animals and license to transfer and vehicle needs license and health certificate from the doctor. It was such an eye opener!
Shreya Paropkari from Humane Society of India, was the one who trained us. There was so many things that I was not aware off, and it was a learning.
And that was where I met Arun G, Founder of People for Cattle India(PFCI), Chennai, and he also did a session on what PFCI does. So basically they are into stopping illegal trafficking of cattle and I have immense respect for Arun and the work he has done. He is so inspiring, and that is the kind of work I want to do.
After my HAWO training, when I was back in Bangalore, one day I spotted a goods tempo carrying two calves and four cows. And they were tied, no cushioning, no food, no water. They were jammed. I immediately called 100, registered my complaint and continued to follow the tempo and on the next signal was a traffic cop, and I stopped by him and told him there is a violation of the Motor Vehicles Act and I made him stop the vehicle and five minutes after there were about eight inspectors, sub-inspectors on the spot. When you stop a vehicle, the person who is the offender, will try to converse with you, it is important that you do not speak to them, most people think that they can counsel the offender. But no eye contact, no speaking, let the cops do the talking.
We then went to the Commercial Street police station, as that was the jurisdictions and I tried speaking to the Sub- Inspector of the violations. And very confidently he told me, Madam, they are cattle, they are allowed to be slaughtered.
Yes, they are! Cattle are allowed to slaughtered and allowed to be consumed as meat, but they did not have any license, the way they were transporting was against the law. It took me forever to convince him. Finally I called Arun who spoke to the Inspector and then I started tweeting. And then my battery died. So after five hours, the Inspector, asks me which Goshala should the cows be sent.
But it did not end there, we had to file a court case, the owner also filed a case, saying he wanted them back, and I filed that he violated the law, as he was transporting them to Kanyakumari without any documents. It is all about waiting. The court decided that the cattle will remain in the goshala.
I would like to tell our listeners, know your right, stand your ground, don’t get scared, keep calm, do not talk to the offender, have patience, don’t throw attitude, don’t get restless, know the right people, network. Next time, when you see animal cruelty, you can connect with me and my team and we can tell you how to go about it.
And this got me my first award, by Ramakrishna Mutt and they felicitated me for my work. That’s how I started connecting with PFCI and I started going to Chennai and I got the team over to Bangalore and that’s when they said Ritika we would like to head the Bangalore Drive.
On Bengaluru Opts to Adopt( BOTA)
This is the fourth chapter of my animal welfare life, and I am always doing something out of my comfort zone. I may not succeed; I want to try it. Something that I have never done before, and because I did it, I have learned something, I met people. When you do something like that you are increasing your network, your bandwidth and you are growing as a person.
So the fourth chapter is called the BOTA – Bengaluru Opts to Adopt.
I have pets at home, and so I know the challenges that one faces, and having been through different roles as a reporter, a volunteer, a rescuer, a foster, a caregiver, a pet parent, there are different challenges, and that’s when I decided to do something or come up with a campaign. So this year, January 2016, I started working on my brainchild, looking at solutions. And then I got in touch with Mr. Dipendar, CEO of Woofy’s and that time he was launching his app, a pet social platform, and he wanted to know the process and I told him that this is what I want to do, and he encouraged him to pursue it.
I met Dr.Pawan from Cessna Lifeline, who came on board as our medical partner. And in return all dogs and cats free medical check- up, free deworming, free vaccination or grooming before the adoption drive and the ones who get adopt get a 20% discount on all services
And then I approached Pet Space and Tailspin, our Pet Boarding Partner and they give a 50 % discount, if the pet who is adopted boards with them, when the family goes out for vacation or work.Then we have a Canine Cuisine, our Fresh Food Partner and deliver it very single day, run by Mr. Naveen and they give a 33.3% off, if you subscribe to them.We have got Unicorn, who is our Digital Partner and Red Communications our PR partner, and Dogsee Chew, is our Treats Partner.
So, what else? Legal Aid?
So when you adopt to a dog or cat and somebody challenges your right as a pet parent, you get in touch with us. Legal Aid is headed by Shreya Paropkari from Humane Society of India, the Animal Welfare Board of India and is an advocate and lawyer at the High court of Telangana and Hyderabad. She will guide you in securing your right as a pet parent.
Sneha Kapoor is our Campaign Ambassador, and is the face of the campaign. She loves animals. She is compassionate and a lovely person to be with.
This will be our fourth adoption drive which is a tribute to #nomorefifty, to no more animal cruelty and also to the abuse that our trees face every single day.
No more 50 is a campaign to increase the penalty for animal cruelty.
Take a listen to the interview
Mark your date Saturday, August 27, 2016 at Cessna Lifeline from 10.30 am to 5.00pm. There will be 29 dogs and cats looking for forever home. In addition, express your solidarity by dropping by to record your message on no more fifty, increase penalty for animal cruelty. We also have two sessions one by VijayNishanth, also known as the Tree doctor on Urban Forestry & Tress and the other by Priya on Energy Healing for dogs. For more information on the adoption drive contact us at 9902155307.