What a great first half of 2016 for Dogs of the Ganges and our project to help animals in Varanasi, India! Last year, our pilot year, we partnered with the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) to deliver a grassroots, community-driven project to raise the level of compassion for animals in Varanasi. During our founders’ visit last December, we saw people alerting our team to injured dogs, locals providing first aid treatment, and a small but mighty team of volunteers who were keen to take on leadership roles in neighbourhoods across Varanasi.
Building on the achievements of the first year in our two pilot neighbourhoods, we set forth with FIAPO to expand our project to more areas of Varanasi, thereby helping even more animals through a city-wide grassroots movement! Our activities revolve around engaging leadership volunteers to oversee the welfare of animals in their neighbourhood, engaging locals to alert them of animals in need of care, providing on-site first aid to prevent issues from worsening, and bringing veterinary care to the animals when needed. As a result of this expansion, we increased our budget so that we could hire additional staff to focus on project expansion, build the capacity of these new volunteers through training, and supply first aid supplies to locals who’ve been trained through our project.
In Toronto we’ve spent the first half of 2016 focused on raising funds to achieve our expansion goals and are excited to share some of the amazing achievements that were made in the first seven months of our second year!
Our project’s activities now cover approximately 70% of Varanasi! This means we now have 50 volunteers and 20 community caretakers keeping an eye on the dogs and other animals who live almost three-quarters of the city.
So far this year, volunteers and community caretakers provided care to over 575 animals, including dogs, bulls, cows, birds, snakes and monkeys. Common issues included skin infections, maggots, overheating, and injuries from traffic accidents, dog bites and abuse. Animals were treated through our team-based first aid drives and through individual first aid efforts made by trained volunteers.
Building the Capacity of Locals to Turn Compassion to Action
Our project team created a volunteer development manual, which includes details about the project purpose and vision, volunteer roles and responsibilities, and a treatment guide.
First aid training workshops were held, teaching interested locals on how to identify basic animal welfare issues, what to do when they see an animal in need of help, and basic first aid techniques. First aid kits were provided to volunteers who attended training and took part in first aid drives led by staff and leadership volunteers.
A workshop was conducted to provide information on basic animal protection laws, and how to file a First Information Report (police report) when they see an animal being abused.
To show appreciation to locals who’ve participated in our project activities and to encourage continued care and concern for animals, we invited volunteers, organizations and community caregivers to a celebration and presented them with certificates of excellence, given out by the Municipal Commissioner and the Health Officer of Varanasi Municipal Corporation.
Working with Government on Animal Welfare
The auspicious Hindu festival of Navratri (in April) brings a lot of snake charmers to the city, with varied species of snakes in their repertoire. Our volunteers helped in the rescue and release of snakes into the forest with the aid of the Forest Department and filed a police report against the culprits.
With the start of summer, the season for bird trafficking begins but due to the timely intervention of locals, they busted one bird trafficking ring and rescued numerous parrots and sparrows from the clutches of the traffickers looking to sell them.
Volunteers met with the Forest Department to complain about the illegal animal market situated at Bahelia Tola and a raid was performed.
In conjunction with the Municipal Corporation, our volunteers conducted a rabies vaccination drive in June. 130 dogs were vaccinated in 9 areas, and we look forward to working with the Municipal Corporation to expand vaccination coverage!
Meetings were held with the Municipal Commissioner to seek more support from the Municipal Corporation to improve the welfare of animals in the city. Along with the work of the other animal welfare organizations in Varanasi, achievements included:
- An agreement to build kennels at the animal hospital run by the Municipal Corporation; our partner FIAPO provided them with best-practices in kennel design
- A commitment to introduce five new ambulance services in each ward, and the installation of a new X-Ray machine in the local animal hospital run by the Nagar Nigam
- Issuance of contracts for a spay/neuter program (called Animal Birth Control, or “ABC” in India) to two local animal shelters, Varanasi for Animals and Aashray for Sick and Helpless Animals. ABC drives have now begun on a much larger scale than before, which will increase the success of controlling the population of street dogs who suffer throughout the city. In June an ABC Monitoring Committee was created, which our staff member Swati a member of.
- The installation of water tubs throughout the city, ensuring that there would adequate water within the reach of animals throughout the summer heat.
Collaboration with other NGOs
One of the greatest strengths of our partner FIAPO is its ability to encourage collaboration between existing animal welfare organizations and build the capacity of member organization by leveraging everyone’s best practices. Efforts have been made to reach out to other NGOs in the city to ensure that the city develops well-coordinated support for animals in distress.
A shelter protocol document was developed for a local animal shelter and assistance will be provided to them to implement these best practices.
When our volunteers saw the poor condition of large animals at the local Goshala (cow sanctuary), they stepped in to provide assistance to the caretakers of the facility. Training was given to the caretakers of the Goshala and regular follow-up and first aid is being conducted.
Working with Media
Volunteers organized a press conference to spread awareness regarding the environment and animal welfare issues in the city.
After a wave of exaggerated and hateful articles in print media about stray dogs, wrongfully branding them as a lethal menace, volunteers met with the editor and started a dialogue about the problems faced by street dogs and clarified any misconceptions about their behaviour. The newspaper agreed to stop publishing such polarizing pieces and to publish accurate information about animals provided by our volunteers.
Help us help the animals!
- For individuals in Varanasi who want to help street dogs, please contact our Helpline at 9452781980.
- For individuals who can contribute financially to the project costs, please click here to make a donation – every little bit helps! We thank everyone in advance for their support!
Thank you to our partner, the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations!