Geetha Rani, known as the “Dog Lady” of Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, not only takes care of stray dogs but also loves neglected canines abandoned by their owners. This 68-year-old is an example of care and compassion. Geeta takes care of more than 300 abandoned dogs at her own expense in Snehalaya Animal Shelter on Selvapuram Road. “I am finding secure homes for the stray, abandoned, abused animals that are on the streets, which include those that were injured in road accidents,” Geetha told Deccan Herald.
She regrets that many people hit dogs with sticks, stones and machetes, and use iron rods or kill them with knives. “Some heartless people even throw boiling water on dogs as well as poison them,” she said. Geetha carries a bottle of antidote in her vehicle whenever she receives information that a dog is in distress on the street. Section 11 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960, as amended from time to time, provides that if any person beats, kicks, overrides, over-drives, over-loads, tortures or otherwise treats any animal so as to subject it to unnecessary pain or suffering, he shall be punishable with fine and/or imprisonment.
“Most people are unaware of this Act and that is why they indulge in such cruel activities,” she said. Geetha is assisted by driver Balan, who is also an animal lover. “We have a van designed for animal rescue. Balan and I would go around the city in the van. As soon as we get a call to rescue an injured animal, we rush to the spot regardless of what time it is. If the injury is severe, the animal is taken to a veterinary doctor before it is brought to this shelter home.” She adds, “When people go on transfer or relocate homes, they are unable to take their pets due to objection from the house owners or flat owners. We bring such animals and take care of them.”
Armed with four female workers, Geetha cooks different kinds of food every day for the dogs. “The dogs like boiled rice and vegetables with chicken, pork and fish toppings for taste. We bathe them regularly. We also ensure pure drinking water for them,” Balan said. According to Balan, the animal shelter is cleaned and sanitised daily. Food and water bowls are cleaned regularly. “A veterinarian visits once a week and new rescued dogs are examined for general health and well-being,” he said. Dogs are socialised – new dogs’ behaviour is assessed prior to showing them to potential adopters. Geetha’s animal shelter has 30 good breed puppies, which are ready for adoption. Regularly, Geetha and her team, who hate calling them dogs, apply powder and medicine to deworm and keep them free from ticks and fleas. She calls them (dogs) her children.
Over the years, Geetha has been able to get more dogs spayed and neutered. She provides antibiotics to sick dogs. Geetha’s favourite is dog Kajol. Kajol’s previous owner let him on the street, which is common in Tamil Nadu. Kajol was hit by a car and suffered injuries. Now, Kajol accompanies Geetha during her trips.
A native of Kerala, Geetha’s family moved to Coimbatore when she was a child. The idea of starting a shelter home for the abandoned dogs started when Geetha was a child. “I was born to parents who were not from the same caste,” she recollects. This made it difficult for children in her family to accept her. Geetha also remembers how she was isolated by cousins. Her family owned more than 10 dogs then. Geetha spent most of her childhood playing with the dogs in the farm-land owned by her family. The dogs loved her unconditionally and literally filled up the gaps that her relatives could not.