Meet the 31-year-old animal lover from Bengaluru who left his job to care for over 300 strays
Every other day, we hear of stray dogs in India being subjected to atrocities, many of whom are left to die on the streets. In fact, the country has more than 35 million stray dogs, many of who die without any food or shelter or due to dog-related diseases.
Seeing their condition, Bengaluru-based animal rights activist Sajesh S, who was working as a branding consultant with a company, left his job to become a voice for these dogs.
So, as a first step, he got an ambulance in 2017 to pick up the injured dogs and admit them to a shelter. His first rescue was a black puppy who was, unfortunately, a victim of an acid attack. Sajesh tried to admit the dog to a shelter, but none of them was ready to take the puppy.
Sajesh (in blue) with one of the volunteers, and a rescued dog.
“Over a period of time, we realised that the atrocities that are happening towards the animals are probably too big for me, or for shelter in the city to handle,” Sajesh tells SocialStory.
This pushed him to start Animal Lives Are Important (ALAI), a dog rescue and rehabilitation shelter for injured, sick, and differently-abled dogs, in Bagalur, Bengaluru in September 2017.
Fast forward to 2021, the shelter now houses over 300 dogs and other stray animals like injured cows.
Rescuing stray animals
ALAI takes care of everything that an animal in distress would need – receiving emergency calls about dogs suffering from injury, hit-and-run accidents, torture, abuse, canine distemper, differently-abled, and abandoned dogs
Most of these dogs have been nurtured to complete health. As part of their protocol, ALAI also ensures that every dog rescued is neutered or spayed, and is given the 9-in-1 vaccine, which covers about nine different diseases, and also the anti-rabies vaccine.
Now, they have about two shelters in Bagalur – one for old dogs and those dogs that are still afraid of humans; the other shelter is spread across two acres of land and takes care of injured animals, having various sections for different treatments.
“In this shelter, we have about 350 animals, including cows, sheep, goats, pigs, and horses. At any given point of time, at least 100 animals are under treatment,” tells Sajesh.
The rescue process
Every rescue is coordinated via WhatsApp or Facebook, where the reporters tag the organisation, after which the ambulance, along with a team of experienced dog catchers, is sent to the location. They are usually caught with bare hands, or in the case of ferocious dogs, with nets.
The dog is then taken to the shelter where in-house veterinary doctors examine the dog. Other details such as the date of pick up, sterilisation record, the health issues, etc, are recorded for further medical treatment.
As part of the medical treatment, every dog is vaccinated with three rounds of vaccines and anti-rabies shots.
The dogs are then shifted to the appropriate section of the shelter. The shelter is divided into six sections – each housing distemper dogs, senior dogs, permanent resident dogs, spine injury dogs, dogs under treatment, and large animals
“We feed these dogs about two times a day, who are then examined daily and are nurtured to their full health,” says Sajesh.
Every dog undergoes animal birth-control surgeries, two rounds of the 9-in-1 vaccination, and anti-rabies vaccine. If the dog is healthy, it is dropped back to its pickup spot, but in case it is unable to cope in its original location, it becomes a permanent resident of ALAI.
These dogs are cared for by a team of about 18 volunteers, which includes doctors, expert dog-catchers, caretakers, and ambulance drivers who help take care of the shelter. Sajesh is also supported by his wife, Skyla, who helps conduct the operations at ALAI.
The organisation has been raising funds to support the operations on the crowdfunding platform Milaap. They have also received CSR funds from about four to five corporates in the last year.
Challenges and the way forward
Sajesh says that Bengaluru has a lack of shelters, due to which they receive a huge number of requests that they may not always be able to meet. Another challenge is the lack of space to house the increasing number of inmates.
“While I feel that the city has a concern for animal welfare, a lot of people in are not positively receptive to the animals who are dropped back to their location,” Sajesh shares.
He also shares that private hospitals should be more empathetic and reduce the rates of treatment charges, and give more compassionate treatment to street dogs.
One of the rescues suffering from Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency is now a permanent resident at ALAI, and is being treated for the same.
“Going to the nearest hospital should not be a financial struggle, because the cause will die down. If people are charged excessively, they may not come forward as much to rescue dogs,” says Sajesh.
He says that going forward, he wants to create more awareness about dog rescues in locations that are not covered under BBMP.
“We need to start focusing on these areas that are not covered by animal welfare organisations in Bengaluru. In addition, we have also started picking up dogs from the villages, and neuter and vaccinate them before letting them back into the villages,” he says.