These days, cases of inhumane treatment of animals are gaining national attention. But this certainly hasn’t put a stop to these transgressions. Every day, the nine registered animal shelters in the valley receive over a hundred request calls each for animals to be recused from the fatalities they have become victim of. The calls come from everywhere, more in numbers every day and with more heartbreaking episodes every time.
Sneha Shrestha, the founder of Sneha’s Care, one of the largest animal shelter homes in the country, says that though the facility is home to 175 dogs that have been rescued from heart wrenching conditions, there is only so much they can do. Each dog at Sneha’s Care was a victim of unimaginable atrocities. Cases range from hit and runs and abandonments to negligence and to even acid attacks. Shrestha says that she now cares for them like they were her own children.
However, she claims that she hasn’t always been so, “I wasn’t particularly fond of dogs and I definitely wasn’t a keeper but my husband was. Long time back he brought in two little retrievers for keepsake but one of them couldn’t survive past a fortnight. I was overcome with guilt as I speculated that it died as a result of my negligence. So when my husband brought in little Zara I showered her with all my love,” she explains adding that her neighbors were troubled by Zara’s mischief and complained constantly. Apparently, there were fights and arguments every day and one day Shrestha came home to find Zara in a pool of her own blood and violently convulsing. The neighbors had poisoned her.
It was this incident that had Shrestha thinking about the street dogs of the country that had no one to care for them and were thus forced to roam the streets, scrounging for scraps of food from garbage bins. People tend to become wary of them and in their defensive modes mistreat them. This took Shrestha to kennel clubs that, for a fixed daily charge, fed and reared dogs but these were supposedly reserved for the “family dogs”. Shrestha brought in dogs from the streets to save them from the unkindly treatment they were being subjected to but soon found her finances couldn’t quite cover all the expenses. But she was adamant to rescue homeless dogs and Sneha’s Care came into operations after officially being registered in the year 2014.
The establishment now employs 16 workers consisting of an executive director, communications officer, vet technicians, senior veterinary doctors, dogcatchers, and miscellaneous workers. They are responsible for catering to the needs of every dog at the shelter. A phone call for the communications officer, Sobina Joshi, with pleas to rescue prompts the shelter to send in their ambulance with their vet technicians and dogcatchers. The animals are brought in and the senior doctors treat them. They have dogs with severe skin conditions, paralyzed limbs, and impaired organs.
They also travel to public schools in the valley educating children to become kinder to animals and not detest them. “People presume that every animal is aggressive. But unless incited or provoked animals are innocently harmless and any aggressive behavior is only a response to the situation they face,” says Joshi further adding that even offering a piece of biscuit is an act of great kindness.
The facility typically has breed dogs and Nepali-Tibetan breeds. Their tubes are tied to prevent breeding because they want to give good care to a few and not distracted care to many and since adoption is rare they only have a few options. What with 175 dogs, only 16 employees and more calls pouring in each day with requests to take more, it’s hard enough already, “The land is on lease and 80% of the expense is funded by the owner. Donations are sparse but the expenses are rising each day,” informs Kapil Kafle, executive director of Sneha’s Care.
But the troubles are all worth it. For the little beings have so much love to give. There’s the beautiful eyed Aishwarya, Sanu Maya will lick you every chance she gets, Kopila is everyone’s best friend, and Doctor and Lucky’s rivalry could put Apple and Microsoft to shame. Although Sneha’s Care is running with full capacity, when asked if they had any plans on expanding Shrestha remarks, “My plan for the future is to shut down Sneha’s Care. I want to see our society become a place where there’s no need for organizations like this to exist. I want each community to take responsibility, to show a little kindness, and a little love. It really isn’t hard. It’s in our very nature to be kind. Let’s not fight it.”
Very recently the shelter has rescued calves that were casualties of tar attacks. Sometime last month, hot tar was poured on a herd of calves in the premises of Shanghai Construction Group in Malpokhari, Bagdol resulting in the instant death of a few. Three of the carcasses of the calves were scooped up by an excavator and dumped on the banks of the river. They have since taken in more calves that were run over by vehicles in the streets of Kathmandu. The animals have received the necessary treatment and are recovering at the moment.
“Our government focuses more on infrastructure development than on social welfare and it’s not very surprising that they have failed to address animal rights,” says Kafle, “Though animal rights activists are persistent in their efforts to safeguard animals and maybe things will someday get better but for the next decade or so I don’t see the government prioritizing animal welfare.”
Nepal is a nation that celebrates festivals where animals, especially dogs and cows, are worshipped. They have deity-like status in our culture but we often fail to keep that in mind except for the one or two days when religion dictates we treat them with respect. It is this mindset that needs to change to put an end to innocent animals’ sufferings. As Shrestha puts it, “You don’t have to love them, just don’t harm them.”