Meet Abodh Aras.

He’s a Mumbaiite who knows his way around the city, a blogger who puts up interesting posts, a staunch animal lover and a very kind man. Meet Abodh Aras – the CEO of the Welfare of Stray Dogs (WSD). Once when I pointed out at how popular he was among the animal lovers’ circles he said that its the organisation and the cause that must become popular, because they are bigger than the individuals that come and go. I couldn’t help but agree.

We get to know Abodh a little better.

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When was the first time you protested against a cruel act, how old were you then?

Don’t remember a cruelty incident specifically but I used to take dogs, cats and birds to the hospital for treatment since I was in school. I started volunteering with WSD in 1995 and after my MBA in 1996, I trained under a vet for 2 months and initiated the on-site first aid programme which treats stray dogs with maggot infestations, wounds, skin problems, minor injuries, eye and ear infections.

Being an animal rights activist from Mumbai, which is the cruelest incident you have witnessed?

There have been two that immediately come to my mind.
Some cruel person had tied a wire around the penis of the stray dog in Wadala. The whole area had become gangrenous; the dog could not pass urine and was in great pain. He was operated upon at WSD and luckily for him, he also got adopted into a good home. You can imagine how mild and trusting the stray dog must have been to allow a person to do that.

The second was an incident where someone threw acid on a dog at Zaveri Bazaar. This fat brown dog never got into anyone’s way. We treated him on-site for over two months and if you see him today you will still be able to see the acid burn scar on his body.

And the kindest?

Oh, there are so many. Just look around when you walk on the streets of Mumbai and you will see the chaiwala, boot-polishwala, the watchman, the policeman, the street dweller and the slum dweller giving strays all the love, affection and whatever little food they have. Stray dogs are mostly pets of the poor. You will see them snuggle against each other when they sleep at night on the footpath.

An interesting story is that of Arvind, the lame bootpolishwala (shoeshine man) who has kept many stray dogs as pets in his life. He lives on the footpath outside Eros theatre and he used to name his dogs after movies that were released at Eros. So he had a Pretty (Pretty Woman), James (James Bond), Tipu (Tipu Sultan), Hritik and Amisha (Kaho Na Pyar Hai). Arvind loves all his dogs dearly (only James and Tipu are left) and calls WSD whenever any of them is ill or wounded.

When there are so many strays to be adopted, how do you feel when you see people buying pedigree pooches?

I think that we need to try and convince people who want to keep pets to Adopt a dog and that too a pariah (the local Indian breed), rather than going and buying a pedigree or fancy breed. Our local dogs are as good looking, as loyal, as friendly and in fact less susceptible to diseases. I think that there are more people than before who have started adopting abandoned dogs or strays from WSD. WSD has also started the WSD Indian Pariah Dog Club, with an objective or promoting the adoption of the stray dog. This club already has more than 110 members

How do you see the problem of the stray dog population in Mumbai getting solved? How can I help?

Just walk around South Mumbai or areas that have achieved more than 80% percent sterilization and you will know. This can be replicated in the suburbs, if the BMC allots more spaces to start sterilization centers. This would result in bringing down the stray dog population and the problems (fighting, biting, barking associated with strays.) (Look up the Stray dog issue section on www.wsdindia.org)

How can you help: If you are a dog lover, instead of just feeding stray dogs in your locality, take up the responsibility of sterilizing and immunizing them against rabies every year. NGO’s like WSD do not charge for sterilization or immunization. If you are not a dog lover but a concerned citizen, you should write to the BMC to get all the dogs in your area sterilized or request an NGO nearest to you to pick up the dogs for sterilization.

During the rains, I often spot dogs with huge wounds running across the road. How can I help them?

The wounds that you see are maggot wounds and can be cured. We treat hundreds of dogs every month with such wounds. You can either do it yourself (after being trained) by attending WSD’s S.O.S. workshop’s (held twice a year) and volunteering with WSD’s on-site first aid programme.

Else you can call an animal welfare NGO like WSD. WSD reaches out to such dogs from Cuffe Parade to Juhu and Sion or co-ordinates with other NGO’s for areas beyond. You can call on our help line: 23733433/23891070

If I witness an act of cruelty what should I do? Should I call somebody up?

It depends on the nature of cruelty inflicted. Some cases can be solved with your own intervention. Some might need the intervention of an animal welfare organization or the local SPCA, which has police powers.

I am free on week ends, can I volunteer to help with WSD Activities?

Yes, of course you can volunteer. WSD has around 150 volunteers who are students, working people or homemakers and WSD depends on these volunteers to help out in different WSD activities. If you wish to volunteer, you need to meet us and fill a volunteer form which details the activities that you can volunteer for (you can choose the one you would be comfortable doing), including walking the dogs at the kennels, giving a presentation in a slum, administering first aid or fund-raising. You can call us on 23733433 or e-mail: wsd@wsdindia.org

I wish to donate some money to WSD, can I?

Though WSD does not charge any money for any of its services, WSD needs to raise more than Rs one and half lakh every month for the costs that it incurs on the sterilization, immunization, on-site first aid and other activities for stray dogs. WSD is always grateful for donations received. Donations are exempt from tax under Section 80-G of the Income Tax Act (1961).
People can also make in-kind donations like rice, dal, Dalia, milk powder, medicines, newspapers and other items that are required at the WSD kennels. For more details or if you want to come and visit our sterilization center at Mahalakshmi, Saat Raasta, do call 23733433 or e-mail wsd@wsdindia.org.

What is your message to the readers of this blog?

Like all problems, the stray dog issue too needs to be dealt with rational solutions and measurables in mind. Thus the sterilization programme needs to get adequate infrastructural and monetary support from the government, which is lacking till date. The mass sterilization programme will work better with government inputs (BMC does not give a single paisa to the NGO’s for sterilization) than the practice of killing stray dogs (BMC had a big budget) over a hundred years which was totally ineffective as the objectives of bringing down human rabies deaths or the stray dog population were never achieved. Do look up the FAQs, as a lot of your questions on the Stray Dog issue will get answered.

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See pets for adoption here.

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