Society

An ace to serve

Service dogs don’t have a great life post-retirement but VoSD wants to change that with a little help from all of us

Here is our chance to pay back. To ensure our safety, alongside a battalion of men in uniform, there are also brave canine soldiers. Trained from the age of two months, the canines perform dangerous jobs of detecting explosives, search and rescues, and guarding bases for the Indian Army, police and para-military forces. But these life savers mostly remain invisible to us. Now, VoSD (Voice of Stray Dogs), a non-profit organisation for stray rescue, wants to draw our attention to them through its campaign #Patriotdogs to raise money through crowdfunding. The funds raised will go towards creating a specialised facility for these dogs within the VoSD sanctuary.

An ace to serve
 

Beena Arjunan, Marketing Communications, VoSD states that while the sanctuary already has most of the facilities needed by these dogs they need to be upgraded and expanded to accomodate more dogs. “As of now, we have 16 patriot dogs but we are looking at 100 dogs to start off with,” says Beena.

Service dogs require different kind of attention which cannot be provided in shelters. Rakesh Shukla, the force behind VoSD, explains, “These are working dogs and they are used to a routine which includes exercise, food, and companionship. Most of the dogs reach us when they are retired or post retirement. They are close to 10 or more years. That is a very advanced age but it is possible because they are working soldiers they live with discipline, exercise and good nutrition. But that age makes them have all other medical conditions - kidney failure, liver failure, heart disease, cancer. This has been true for 100 % of the 16 #patriotdogs with us.”

An ace to serve
 

In the last one year, VoSD has got dogs from the Kerala Police, the Karnataka Police, the Railway Police Force, the Indian Army. Last month, a one-year-old Police dog who was declared unfit to serve due to a congenital heart condition has also come to VoSD.

VoSD aims to address it by creating purpose built facilities in addition to the ones it has to accommodate 1,000 dogs. This facility will have obstacles, walking paths and kennels and dedicated team for handling these dogs. VoSD has already inducted four personnel from an Army cantonment in North India.

In 2015, an RTI query revealed that army dogs including the decorated ones, were euthanised post-retirement. It was followed by Supreme Courts order ending this practice and instead rehabilitation of retired service dogs. “But shelters are not really equipped to take care of them. Their handlers love them but they also don’t have a very sound financial background that they can take care of them post-retirement. So not just organisations but also handlers have started to contact us individually to take charge of their dogs because they can’t see them suffer.”

An ace to serve
 

Arjun, a senior Labrador from the Karnataka Police was brought by his handlers brought from Hubli. “They left him with a garland around his neck, and a tearful farewell. We don’t allow people to visit them but in this case because we see such a strong bond, we allow handlers to come and visit and they actually visit them regularly.”

Through the campaign on Ketto, VoSD has been able to raise ₹ 7 lakh, the target is 25 lakh. “It costs us close to ₹ 2,000 a month to care for a senior dog, or one with special needs. This Ketto campaign will help us meet those costs, as well as the cost of building new infrastructure on our existing property. Every paisa counts, and at VOSD, everything goes to the dogs - there are no administrative costs or overheads,” states Beena.

Shukla goes on to point out another pertinent solution. “Timely discharge, timely diagnosis, and continuous treatment is a long-term solution. We have the capability for continuous treatment with a team of vets, para-vets, and full medical facilities on-site. We need to persuade more departments to not wait till the end and release the dogs as early as they can so they can have a decent retired life.”

(To contribute to the campaign visit ketto.org/fundraiser /patriotdogs)

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 6:33:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/vosd-launches-a-unique-campaign-for-service-dogs/article17811108.ece

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