Suparna Ganguly, president of CUPA, talks about animal welfare in Bangalore

A starved, beaten, chained and neglected temple elephant. Cattle crammed into filthy little trucks, being transported across state borders. A mamma cat too weak to feed its babies. An eagle with a broken wing. A puppy that needs a home. Thoroughbred horses past their prime, abandoned by thoughtless owners. Incidents of animal marginalization and exploitation take place all the time but not too many people do much to counter it.

That’s what makes Suparna Ganguly, president of Compassion Unlimited and Action (CUPA) different. She truly does care, “We founded CUPA because there was a dearth of animal care in the city. Animals play such a huge role in the everyday life of human beings. From the food you eat, the handbag you carry, the clothes you wear, the foil on your sweets, the drugs you use—animal products are everywhere. And that makes the need to make animal welfare mainstream, a pressing one.”

CUPA, which was set up in 1991 and became active in 1994 was set up by Crystal Rogers, an Englishwoman who had made India her home. From the two tiny rooms that she started with to the seven centres that CUPA has today, the organization has come a long way, “We have an adoption centre, a geriatric centre, a medical centre, an ABC centre, a wildlife centre, a centre from large animals and a trauma centre. I find that having these satellite centres makes it easier to manage and adhere to standards,” says Suparna.

But for Suparna it simply isn’t enough. She has several more projects up her sleeve including a cattery, a centre of abandoned thoroughbred horses, setting up a new animal shelter and campaigning for better treatment of captive elephants,” Yes, we do have a lot on our plate and the pressure is high,” she says.

“CUPA is a large organization with a board, trustees, staff, volunteers and well wishers and we are affiliated to the Animal Welfare Board (AWB) and the Federation for Indian Animal Protection Organization (FIAPO). However, we do end up facing an overload of animals and funding is often a problem. Of course, the public of Bangalore has been very kind and somehow money does come in, but I think we do need more animal welfare organizations in the city. We also need better communication and coordination between the existing ones. Too many good organizations work in isolation and do not know how to come into the mainstream.”

Despite the many challenges however, the organization has bashed on regardless and has many success stories to its credit. One of their biggest success stories is their work with animal birth control in the city, “Earlier large scale culling of dogs was rampant in the city. Thankfully, that has stopped as the Animal Birth Control program in the city has been hugely successful. We joined hands with the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and they have been remarkably supportive of this programme. Rabies has been eradicated from most of the wards of Bangalore city. If any cases are reported today, they mostly are from the outskirts,” she says.

Yet not all is hunky-dory. Cases of abuse are rampant in the city and continue to be, “The moment there is a commercial value attached to something, it gets abused,” she points out adding that the dairy, horse-racing and dog industry are prime examples of it.

Talking about the dairy industry she says, “Cows are in a bad way. They are kept in miserable conditions, neglected and pumped with all kinds of hormones and steroids to enhance milk production. Norms of cattle transportation are not adhered to in all of South India and they are transported under deplorable circumstances.”

And if you thought the plight of Black Beauty was tragic, the reality of race horses in India are even more so,” These through bred race horses are used by riding schools and then later abandoned,” she says, adding that the sheltering and rehabilitation of these horses was another project she is passionate about. “We have identified and earmarked some land for this purpose. This is a pilot project and we hope that the whole of India will soon adapt it too,” she says.

That little doggy in the window with a waggley tale is also a victim of terrible abuse, says Suparna. “The pet industry in India is highly unregulated. Anyone can breed and sell puppies, even someone living in a slum. This leads to what is infamously known as puppy mills,” she says. Dogs are reared in horrific circumstances and bred indiscriminately, leading to a compromise in the health of both the mother and the puppy, “I advocate adopting over buying any day,” she adds.

Yet she does believe that there is hope, “There is an umbrella of animal welfare consciousness that has seeped into the system and increased awareness of their rights, especially among the young people. With good governance and regulations wonders can take place.

I see CUPA as an organization that not just does direct sheltering and rescue work but also finds a place in policy making bodies of the state and centre so that now we can understand trends and the way they can be moulded for both human and animal welfare and to make animal lives a little easier.

Because right now, they do live very hard lives.”