Horrified by cruelty, this animal lover started an NGO that has rescued more than 6,000 animals in Karnataka
Ballari-based Humane World for Animals (previously CARE) was started by Nikhita Iyer after personally witnessing animal cruelty, and is now safeguarding stray and wild animals in many places around Karnataka.
Not all inspiring stories have a happy beginning. Some are born out of a personal tragedy and the need to address pain.
When she was in Class VII, Nikitha Iyer moved to Ballari, Karnataka from Chennai with her parents. Her family took care of a pregnant dog, who gave birth to six puppies. However, almost all the puppies, and the mother, succumbed to a disease called Canine Distemper (CD) – except for one lucky pup.
Even though he suffered from the disease for about three months, the puppy managed to recover and grow into a healthy pup, whom Nikitha named Gundappa. Four years later, he was even diagnosed with testicular cancer, but the strong boy proved to be a survivor again.
All was well until one fateful night in November 2012, a group of drunk men came into the locality and started injecting poison into the dogs that Nikitha and her family used to feed. Though she tried to stop the cruelty, she was horrified to find a limp Gundappa lying on the street.
“No one cared about animals and their struggle; their pain didn’t matter to anyone. They just suffered in silence. On that day, I took a serious vow to work hard and improve the quality of the life of animals. That was the start of CARE – Conservation And REscue in 2012 (now Humane World for Animals, or HWA, since 2021),” Nikhita tells SocialStory.
A small team of five people came together, and have rescued over 6,000 animals to date - including dogs, cats, cows, pigs, birds, and sometimes, wildlife (macaques, snakes, and bears) with the help of the local forest department, stabilised them, and shifted them to Bengaluru for specialised care if required.
Humane World for Animals (HWA)
The NGO was founded by Nikitha and co-founded by Bindu Rani, Shivendra Prathap Singh, and Akash Kumar as a rescue and rehabilitation centre for sick, injured, and abused homeless animals. It is working to create a compassionate community by encouraging people to take care of the animals in their surroundings.
“We do this by supporting animal feeders who often get badly harassed, especially for feeding dogs. In fact, they have even been assaulted physically in some instances. So, most of them back off from feeding animals in fear. We make sure we extend our support to them by spaying the dogs they feed and by educating the public in their area,” Nikitha says.
The organisation is also working on animal birth control and an anti-rabies vaccination programme for stray dogs. It also started its own veterinary clinic for pets where a basic fee is charged for the services. The profits from this clinic are used for the treatment of the rescued animals.
Apart from all these, the team also regularly conducts awareness programmes about animal welfare in schools and colleges and gives guidance to local bodies to help them with issues related to animals. It also works with the police department to keep a check on animal abusers and those who harass animal caretakers.
“As there are no organisations anywhere nearby, we get rescue cases from Hospet, Raichur, Guntakal, Hubli-Dharwad, Kurgod, Hassan, etc. We are also supporting a group from Mallapuram who are rescuing animals,” she says.
At present, they are using an old abandoned building to house rescued animals and perform activities – right from cooking to treating the dogs. However, since the government has plans to use that building, they are working on procuring land and build a rescue centre.
Anantya, a 3.5-month old pup, was sleeping under a car and the car ran over his face, inflicting serious injuries.
“The local vets tried to do their best, but they had never seen a case as bad as this and told us he wouldn’t survive. But he was a fighter. He was wagging his tail and cooperating fully,” she says.
They contacted hospitals in Bengaluru, Chennai, and other cities. That is when Vandana Anchalia of Kannan Animal Welfare from Delhi extended support. A veterinarian from Max Vet hospitals was ready to operate on him, and he was immediately taken to Delhi.
Nikhita says the pup recovered from his injuries not only because of the treatment but also because of the team, which grew very organically. All the team members were already working on an individual level for animals and “we slowly came in contact with them through some rescue and started working together,” she adds.
“I always wanted to work for animals but never got a chance or knew what to do. When I started working with HWA (Formerly CARE), I could see myself working here full-time. I will be soon quitting my job and join here full-time,” says Lokanna Gouda, a lab tech-volunteer.
Nandeesh, a student volunteer, shares, “I stay in a slum-like area where people totally lack compassion. I used to get harassed very badly and once, I was even kidnapped and locked up and physically assaulted when I was trying to rescue a cow with serious injuries. Without our team’s support, it would have been very difficult for me to continue working for animals.”
“I never thought about the sufferings of animals. But after being introduced to HWA and moved by the plight of one of the resues, I have been spending all my free time with HWA,” says Panduranga, another volunteer.
Challenges along the way
The team requires Rs 2,33,000 each month to operate. While they do get donations, it is not enough for the team to make ends meet. In fact, they even have a debt of Rs 3 lakh.
“Medicines are very critical and many times, we can’t wait to raise money to get the medicines. We have few good souls who give us on credit we can continue our operations. At the same time, we have to pay the bills eventually,” says Nikitha.
Another challenge is the lack of an ambulance to shift the animals to the rescue centre. Most public transport vehicles do not allow animals due to their smell.
During the lockdown, the number of rescues had gone down, however, the team cooked close to 75 kilograms of rice, and bought 200 litres of milk and 50kg of rusk and bread every day to feed 1,200 dogs in the locality. The district collector was very supportive in giving the team passes to feed the animals around the city.
The road ahead
HWA plans to set up a fully integrated Rescue Center cum Super Specialty Hospital in Ballari for all stray animals. The Center will have a team of doctors from every speciality. Further, it will have a diagnostic laboratory, operation theatre, in-patient facility, recovery ward, isolated wards for infectious cases, pool for physiotherapy, among many other things. An ambulance will also be on standby to rescue animals in distress.
It also plans to set up a cruelty response team that will closely work with the police to keep a check on cases concerning cruelty to animal and file complaints against offenders. Dog behavioural trainers will be employed to tackle aggressive dogs or dogs with any behavioural issues, to help reduce human-animal conflict.
“Given the fact that veterinary facilities are very poor in Ballari district, and to address the plight of pet owners travelling to nearby cities for advanced treatment, the idea of a veterinary hospital seemed most apt,” says Nikitha.
Edited by Kanishk Singh