Bengaluru-based Sarvoham Trust looks after 200 sick and abandoned dogs
Supported by individual donations and CSR from companies like Infosys, Sarvoham Founder Haris Ali hopes to look after 600 dogs and abandoned farm animals.
Lucky is a plucky Pomeranian who likes to spend her days lounging in a mud pit she has dug under a tree at the Sarvoham Trust Shelter where she lives. At 11 years old, she is one of the oldest residents at the home, and has been living there almost since the Trust was founded in 2017 by Bengaluru resident Haris Ali. Her friendly and trusting personality belies the horrific abuse she suffered before she was brought to the shelter. Her leg was injured and the wound was festering with maggots, which meant it had to be amputated. But being a tripod has not slowed her down, says Haris, in conversation with Social Story.
Lucky is one of 200 dogs that Haris and his team look after at Sarvoham Trust.
Haris’ love for animals was instilled early in his childhood by his mother, who would feed dogs and cows in the neighbourhood. However, as finances were tight, he was not allowed to have a pet at home. But Haris knew early on that his true calling in life was to look after animals that were sick and abandoned.
In April 2017, Haris, now an entrepreneur with his own cybersecurity company, Orcaza CyberSecurity, started the Sarvoham Trust, dedicated to looking after injured animals.
“The early days before starting Sarvoham weren’t easy. I was part of a WhatsApp group where people reported animals on the street that needed medical care. A lot of the rescue organisations in the city are very short-staffed and have limited funds. So, I would go and take them to hospital and pay for their care from my pocket,” says Haris, in conversation with Social Story.
Haris says that the people who alerted him that there was an animal in need were often reluctant to contribute any money for their care. He says he doesn’t fault them because they really had no reason to trust him as he was an individual and not part of an organisation.
“I would take the animals to hospitals like Cessna, but care was very expensive. A single night at the hospital can cost Rs 6,000 and I was often rescuing two dogs a day. Luckily, as I ran my own company, my work hours were flexible.”
The idea to start Sarvoham came when Haris realised that he could help more dogs and get them dedicated care without paying huge medical bills at private hospitals. But even then it was a considerable expense, which Haris managed entirely out of pocket.
“I spent close to Rs 1 crore in the first one-and-a-half years I was rescuing dogs. After that, money started coming in through small donations from people who realised I was doing genuine work and trusted me with their hard-earned money,” Haris says.
Today, Sarvoham is also getting CSR funds which help look after the 200 dogs at the shelter in JP Nagar. One of the biggest contributors has been thewith Sudha Murty taking a personal interest in the welfare of the dogs.
“Infosys Foundation extended a lot of support in the rescue of sick and injured street animals in the city. During the first lockdown in 2020, we were able to feed 600+ dogs every day for three months. Even after the lockdown was lifted, we continued feeding on alternate days as these dogs were waiting for us at the same spot around the same time we used to feed them,” Haris says.
Infosys also donated a new ambulance, which made the feeding possible, as the old ambulance was in a state of total disrepair.
In 2021, the Foundation built an isolation ward for animals with contagious diseases like canine distemper, which can spread to other healthy animals. “The donation also helped us pay our medical dues, which were close to Rs 8 lakhs, and staff salaries on time,” Haris says.
In 2022, a donation of Rs 7 lakh helped buy a new X-Ray machine.
“Prior to this, we had to run from door-to-door, seeking X-ray facilities for our dogs. This was very traumatising for the dogs as they had to travel for an hour in the hot sun inside the ambulance when they were already suffering from broken limbs, injured spine, and jaw dislocations,” he says.
Sudha Murty's daughter-in-law Aparna Krishnan has also personally adopted two indie dogs from the shelter.
“Both dogs are completely paralysed and need full-time care. They may not have survived if they had been left at the shelter because their immunity was so low,” says Haris, who explains that even today, most people want to adopt dogs they can show off. He also says that the number of pets abandoned during the COVID-19 lockdown grew exponentially.
Haris says that looking after the really sick dogs can be challenge. “There are 200 dogs and I work with a team of 12 people, including me, two visiting vets, five caretakers, one rescuer, three para vets, and one supervisor. It is a very hard job to provide individual care.”
The team became even smaller during lockdown. “A lot of the staff are from Assam and they had to return home prior to the lockdown. So, we ran the shelter with a team of four volunteers and myself. We took care of all 200 dogs, went out for rescues, and looked after abandoned dogs that were being dropped off at the shelter,” Haris says.
An additional challenge was that there are dogs who come from extremely traumatic backgrounds and are very difficult to handle.
One of them is Rocky, a Labrador, who was trained by his owner to be an attack dog, and then abandoned. “Only one of the staff members can approach him and take care of him. He will bite anyone else who approaches him, including me. Dogs like Rocky are strictly kept away from both volunteers and the other dogs.”
Speaking about volunteers, Haris says that while people may be interested, very few have the time to spend at the shelter. One of the regular sources for volunteers is Christ College in the city, which makes volunteering for a few weeks a mandatory requirement for graduating.
“They can choose any organisation and a lot of them come here. We give them a certificate for their time, which they have to submit at the college.”
Haris says that he understands that while most people have very little time to volunteer with their busy schedules, there are those who literally go the extra mile.
“In 2020, we had a volunteer come from France. He stayed for six months without taking a single day off. Incidentally, the couple who is sponsoring Lucky the Pomeranian is also from France,” he says.
Feeding 200 dogs is also a mammoth task. “We need 38 kg of rice and 20 kg of chicken each day to feed them in the morning and evening. The shelter also runs through a gas cylinder every two days,” he says.
Challenges aside, Haris dreams of moving to a space that can home 600 dogs at any point of time. He also hopes to take care of cats and farm animals like cows, donkeys and pigs at the shelter.
“Many of these animals are abandoned or sent to die once they are no longer of use to the owner. I want to give them a home,” says Haris.
“I am a great believer in Shirdi Sai Baba and Gautam Buddha. Sai Baba used to say that feeding people in need was the greatest service to the Supreme Spirit. He once fed a hungry dog with a roti that was given to him as alms. I am just following his teachings.”
Those who are interested in volunteering can go to the Sarvoham Trust website and fill in a form that details their area of interest.
Edited by Teja Lele