Animal care Life & Style

The lockdown-affected stray animals in Hyderabad find their messiahs

Sarva Jeeva Society truck carrying food for street dogs   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Srilu Bhopal was on her way back home from the U.S. when she heard of the lockdown. “My first thoughts were of the street dogs,” she reveals. Srilu’s been caring for street dogs in Hyderabad, along with the well known animal rescuer T V Siva Prakash, under Sarva Jeeva Society, long before the pandemic hit us. However, during the lockdown, she realised that they may have to feed hundreds of stray animals “It’s a first time I had to plan an initiative of such a large scale,” admits Srilu, who geared up to face the challenge.

Siva Prakash, an engineer by profession, runs an automobile unit in Neredmet. With the lockdown, the space turned into the centre for animal feeding, almost overnight. The feeding programme that began on March 28 with 100 dogs in Sainikpuri area, has since extended to more dogs and areas.

Srilu Bhopal mobilised funds through her family and friends; very soon the money coming in was enough to feed a large number of strays. “Our 250 volunteers are reaching out to almost 5000 dogs through 180 outlets in the city,” says Siva Prakash, who starts cooking at 4.30 am along with a few friends. By 7 am the food is loaded into a truck that heads out to various locations and handed over to the volunteers who in turn start feeding the dogs.

Daily consignments

Srilu Bhopal, part of ‘Feed the strays’ movement in Hyderabad

Srilu Bhopal, part of ‘Feed the strays’ movement in Hyderabad   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Simultaneously, at 7 am another consignment with 25 dozens bananas, 20 kilos of tomatoes, 20 kilos of cucumber, 50 kilos of assorted vegetables and 5 kilos of dog food is sent to Keesaragutta to feed 500 monkeys, 10 cows, 40 dogs affected by the closure of the temple during the lockout. The birds too are being fed grains.

Srilu who coordinates the route maps with volunteers, says, “Our volunteers are mostly students, IT employees and homemakers, they all have the same compassion towards animals. In the process of feeding them they are also getting attached to them.”

Food for stray dogs being prepared at Mr T V Siva Prakash’s house in Hyderabad

Food for stray dogs being prepared at Mr T V Siva Prakash’s house in Hyderabad   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

What goes into the dog food? “It’s mostly chicken and rice,” says Siva Prakash. “We cook about 250 kilos of rice and 100 kilos of chicken, in five vessels that can accommodate 50 kilos of rice. We pack 10 kilos of rice into each container; that feeds about 25 dogs,” shares Siva Prakash. Dogs seldom cross over from their territories. The ones that live in residential areas, despite the lockdown, are able to sustain themselves. The situation is worse for dogs on the main roads, informs Siva Prakash. “With restaurants, cafes and street side vendors shutting shop, street dogs are left with no source of food and they don’t dare to enter other localities. That’s why we’ve been concentrating on feeding dogs on the main roads.”

Cleanliness due to leftover food is no issue. “The dogs are so hungry, they hardly leave out anything,” elaborates Siva Prakash.

Food and health

A volunteer feeding stray dogs

A volunteer feeding stray dogs   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

The volunteers have come to recognise the dogs they feed and often give feedback that so and so dog didn’t turn up that day. Sensing it must be unwell, either a digestive tonic or an antibiotic is mixed in the food for that particular dog.

“We have a medical rescue team for dehydrated, starved, ill and injured small and large animals and birds. As there are no veterinary doctors we have attended nearly 1000 rescue cases during the lockdown. We have also come across LSD (lumpy skin disease), the this affects cows and buffaloes. We are vaccinating cattle against the virus and treating them with antibiotics, pain killers and multivitamins,” adds Siva Prakash. Uppal municipal veterinary department and dog catching team is also working with Sarva Jeeva Society to distribute dog food at industrial and residential areas of Uppal.

Monkey is being fed by Sarva Jeeva Society volunteer at Keesara temple near Keesara Gutta

Monkey is being fed by Sarva Jeeva Society volunteer at Keesara temple near Keesara Gutta   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Siva Prakash’s tryst with animals began in his childhood, thanks to his father’s job with the forest department. Does he feel the absence of people on roads will have an adverse impact on street dogs? “On the contrary, they are happy and feel less insecure. Why do you think we keep hearing stories of animals straying on to roads and public spaces? They feel far more secure when people are not around. As long as they get food, they are more than happy,” he shares.

Srilu Bhopal says it helped that the High Court passed an order asking the police to provide protection to dogs and dog feeders and has made it a “punishable offence in case anyone restricts, prohibits or causes inconvenience to any person feeding a street dog or resorts to removal or dislocation or killing a dog.” Srilu also cites that under Section 503, IPC 1860, intimidation of dog feeders is a criminal offence.

Earlier, Srilu was at the forefront of a street dog sterilization programme in association with GHMC, where she shouldered a massive responsibility of documenting the adult dog population in the city with the help of a huge force of volunteers. With the focus now on feeding the strays, Srilu says her efforts will continue towards mobilising funds and a workforce to keep up the momentum. All the volunteers have been given passes to move across the city. However, the cops and GHMC staff pitch in to feed in the Red Zone areas.

With the daily expenditure incurred ranging from ₹12,000 to ₹16,000, how hopeful are they about sustaining the feeding programme? “We have the raw stock for another 20 days. We are hopeful we’ll be able to continue much after that,” says a confident Siva Prakash.

(To contact Sarva Jeeva Society, call TV Siva Prakash: 88855 77008; Srilu Bhopal: 99490 92194)

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2021 9:04:16 AM |

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