[Monday Motivation] This engineer turned social entrepreneur has rescued over 65,000 animals in the last 15 years

Mini Vasudevan returned from the US to Coimbatore in 2004 and found animals being ill-treated in the city. She decided to work on it and started Humane Animal Society in 2006.

Mini Vasudevan and her husband Madhu Ganesh were in the US for 13 years and returned to Coimbatore in 2004.

“I was shocked to see the number of street dogs in the city and there were no organisations to take care of them,” says Mini.

An engineer by profession, Mini decided to form a group of like-minded people to help injured dogs, feed the strays, and conduct similar activities at a small scale.

Mini with a resident cat

“I love animals and I can’t see them suffer,” says Mini, who formed the Humane Animal Society (HAS), an NGO, along with her husband in Coimbatore in 2006.

In the last 15 years, Mini has helped in rescuing, vaccinating, and rehabilitating over 65,000 animals, including dogs, cats, ponies, and cows.

Love for animals

Mini, who grew up in a family without pets, loved animals since childhood. She turned vegetarian when she was 11-years-old after she saw a chicken being killed while she was playing with her cousins in a farm.

“While I have loved animals all my life, it was only when I was in the US that I learnt how an animal is supposed to be treated. But I also saw dogs being put down if they are not adopted after a certain age,” she says.

Volunteering at protection homes in the US was an eye-opening experience. She was, however, very clear on what she wanted her shelter home to look like after starting HAS.

To channel her helplessness and frustration in the right direction, Mini formed a shelter where the aim was not just to alleviate the sufferings of animals, but also introduce the concept of companionship and respect through awareness. Mini also hired a veterinarian and built an operation theatre for large and small surgeries.

Veterinary doctors in HAS's operation theatre

Starting up

A key milestone for HAS was in November 2006 when Mini was volunteering at a place where the Coimbatore Municipal Corporation (CMC) was carrying out the Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme.

She saw dogs being tied in chains, and were inside the cage sitting in their own urine and faeces. “We realised that though the intention of launching the programme was good, the Corporation did not have the requisite expertise,” Mini recalls.

Appalled by these conditions, she wrote an email, attached some pictures, and sent them to animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi. However, Menaka reverted with a stern response upon learning that Mini had just returned from the US.

“She told me to stop complaining and start working. Her words haunted me for a few days, so I decided to go back to the CMC - this time with a clear agenda,” Mini narrates.

Meanwhile, Menaka reprimanded the CMC for their actions and directed them to cooperate with Mini. A few days later, Mini approached the corporation with a proposal to handle the programme. Ultimately, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between HAS and the CMC in November 2006. HAS handled the programme and also established a shelter home on the land provided by the corporation.

After handling the ABC programme, HAS eventually ventured into vaccination, birth control programmes, rescue, and rehabilitation of abandoned animals. It also started creating awareness among people on what to do with hurt or distressed animals. HAS also started adoption services.

Getting the support

What started off with Mini, her husband, and two other trustees, is now a big family with 21 full-time staff, including veterinary doctors, caretakers, animal handlers, an ambulance driver, shelter and sanctuary staff.

HAS, which treats about 100 pets every day, also has an outpatient facility for people who cannot afford treatment of their pets. It owns a 1.5 acre sanctuary, about 25 kms away from Coimbatore city, in Valukkuparai, on the way to Pollachi.

Team at HAS

“We have around 70 animals - dogs, cats, ponies, and cows up for adoption. If one cannot adopt, they can also sponsor the upkeep of an animal,” Mini says.

Talking about the funding, Mini says that initially she funded the organisation with her own money. After two-three years, she started raising funds and was surprised to receive support from many people. Eventually, independent donors, clubs, and corporates started showing interest in funding HAS. Today, Mini says the organisation is getting over Rs 1 crore funding every year.

While she is happy about the support her organisation has received, she wants to minimise the increasing number of shelter homes in the country.

She says, “If you care and show empathy to the animals, there should not be any shelter homes needed.”

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Edited by Megha Reddy