Birth and Rabies Control
ABC (Animal Birth Control) Sterilization and Anti-rabies Program
The ABC program objectives are to control population and eliminate rabies in the dog population thereby dramatically reducing rabies deaths in the human population.
Homeless street dogs are captured, sterilized, held six days or more to convalesce, given anti-rabies injections, and returned to their original territories. Sometime in 2009 the population started reducing naturally as the number of deaths exceeded the number of births. We now know there were over 4,000 homeless dogs when we first opened. We believe the number was below 3,500 by March, 2013. With ongoing "maintenance", the population will continue to decrease and stabilize at a much lower level.
We currently do between 60 and 100 sterilizations/anti-rabies injections per month. The total number of sterilizations at the end of May 2013 was 5001 (around 4300 of those were on "homeless" dogs). This should result in a decrease of at least 7,000 puppies born each year, most of whom would have suffered and died on the streets.
The whole process of being caught, incarcerated, and released can be very stressfull for the dogs. We go to great lengths to catch them as gently as possible, and to reassure, stroke them, and lovingly talk to them from the moment they are caught. For the time they're with us convalescing, we give them a lot of love, and reassurance. Almost all of them, by the time they're released, are much more open to humans.
Our ABC dogs have Arnica and Rescue Remedy (both homeopathic substances) included
in their drinking water. One facilitates healing and the other helps overcome the stress of being captured and whisked away to what at first seems a strange and threatening place.
When we first opened we got two or three rabies cases a month. As we gave more and more anti-rabies injections, the number slowly decreased. In the twelve month period ending March, 2013 we have not had any rabies cases. So it appears that the homeless dog population is rabies-free. However people that are bitten, to be safe still have to get the series of five anti-rabies injections, because it's always possible that a dog was bitten by a bat, or rat, or some other creature that had rabies.
When we do get a report of a suspected rabies case we send someone to catch the animal and bring it in for observation. If it does appear to possibly be rabies we immediately send a shelter team into the area to give all nearby animals anti-rabies injections, and to alert the nearby residents and tell those at risk to go for treatment to the Government Hospital.
Rapid Emergency Services
We provide Rapid Emergency Services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If an animal is injured in the middle of the night, we will pick it up and bring it to the clinic. Our doctors are on call 24 hours a day, and will be waiting at the clinic when the animal is brought in.
Vishwa to the Rescue. Again.
We got a call about a dog who had fallen into a deep borehole well. Impossible to get out, it had been crying for hours. As you can see the task was difficult and dangerous. But nothing stops our beloved Vishwa from getting his dog as you are about to see.
Our clinic was originally intended to treat homeless dogs only. Many are brought in having been hit by vehicles, beaten, and/or with a variety of serious illnesses. Surprisingly, though, there has been an unanticipated high number of "owner dogs" brought in for treatment. More than any other shelter we know.
Before we opened there were no small animal specialists within 75 km's of Tiruvannamalai. As the reputation of the Shelter has grown, more and more "owner dogs" are being brought in for treatment. Regularly we get people from as far away as 100 kilometers. This is in addition to the ABC Sterilization activity.
We usually have between 150 to 250 puppies and adult dogs brought to the clinic each month. A number are brought in for treatment more than once. The number of so-called "visits" (If one dog were brought in three times, it would be counted as three "visits") vary between 200 and 350 each month. At the end of May 2013 we had treated over 3600 "owner dogs".
We will treat any small animal in need. There is a government veterinary hospital that treats larger animals but when situations arise where a large animal needs care and we are the only ones that can provide that care we will, of course, treat the suffering animal.
Through May 2013 we have treated 1,739 animals other than dogs: 311 cats, 463 birds, 359 cows/calves, 339 goats, lambs & sheep, 14 horses, 2 bullocks, 27 donkeys, 3 pigs, 67 monkeys, 12 squirrels, 80 rabbits, 3 eagles, 18 parrots, 24 peacocks, 6 deer, 2 snakes, 5 turkeys, 1 owl and 4 ducks. Our clinic is open seven days a week. And we provide emergency services 24 hours a day.
Almost all services are provided free of cost. However people with owner dogs are asked to pay a small amount, but are given free care if that is difficult for them. There is no charge for homeless dogs or wild animals. And we provide free medical treatment (and family planning) for life for dogs or puppies adopted from the Shelter to encourage their adoption.
We provide full hospital care as required. Anything from an overnight stay to creatures requiring or needing care for months. If a case requires intensive, focused care for an extended period, we have an isolation intensive care ward in which it can be given.
For those that require care for very long periods or for life, we provide it in a setting where the patient is not isolated but together with other creatures. In particular we have a large veranda where there are a lot of puppies playing. It's also close to a lot of human activity ... doctors, staff, visitors.
This interaction with both animals (especially snuggling puppies) and loving humans is immensely important in the healing process.
For animals that cannot survive on their own, we offer sanctuary for the rest of their natural lives. They are not kept in cages but freely live out their lives in the compound. It's a very good life. And they are very happy.
An example of the loving care we provide: On Sunday, January 10th 2010 we buried our beloved Lakshmi the cow.
We had rescued her from slaughter in a James Bond-like action drama almost two short years ago. She had been hit by a truck and Dr.Raja had lovingly nursed her back to health, every three days completely changing her bandage/cast, warding off infection, encouraging healing. She lost part of her right rear leg (just below the knee).
We had found a lovely home for her outside of town on Hari's estate where we were intending to place her but during the healing process (which took six months) we had come to love her. Her gentle nature ... Her sattvic presence ... Moving here and there around the Shelter garden ... Giving us her darshan. And so she was happy and content with us, and we decided to keep her.
Towards the end on a friday, she became weak and unable to garner enough strength to stand up on Friday. We contacted the one government veterinarian who was expert in large animals. He was in meetings all day and unable to come that day. Dr.Raja arranged to meet him at the Shelter 7:30 Saturday morning. But it was getting cool here at night and we were concerned about her. In the evening, Dr. Raja had Prakash enclose her entire "resting area" with plastic to ward off any breeze and cold air and made a bed for her of straw covered with a blanket. Our staff picked her up and put her on it ... lying on her side). Late evening we were still concerned. Vishwa and I scanned the shops before closing and bought two extra "space heaters", and five wool blankets.
She was comfortable. Prakash gave her a lot of extra attention and love during the night but she quietly left her body around 4:30am. We don't know why. She expired before the large animal expert had a chance to examine her.
Vishwa arranged for a beautiful burial. Her body was put on a flatbed bullock cart. It was adorned with vibutti (sacred ash) and cum-cum. Totally covered with yellow, blue and red flowers. Four photos of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi (one with him and his beloved cow Lakshmi, another with Jackie the dog), a photo of Satya Sai Baba, and a print of Chenrizig (the four armed aspect of Avalokateshwara, the Tibetan Buddhist bodhisattva of compassion). There was a large yellow garland (six inches in diameter) encircling most of her body. She actually looked beautiful and peaceful.
Eight of us followed the bullock cart, on foot, as we slowly made our way to a quiet remote burial spot facing sacred Arunachala that Vishwa had found. We threw flower petals on the road the entire way as is the Hindu custom. The eight young men lifted her body off the cart and gently placed it in the prepared grave. We said brief prayers. We all participated in covering her with the earth.
It rained for five minutes immediately after we finished ... a blessing and very auspicious. The grave site was prepared beautifully. A large cluster of incense was placed on it. Camphor was burned at the foot and head. Vibutti and cumcum was liberally sprinkled all over. The large garland was placed on top of the dirt mound. And as is the local custom a small pool of milk was poured, with a stick of incense placed in the middle ... beginning and ending of life with milk. We will miss her.