True to its name, CARE, started by Sudha Narayanan in 2013, shows unlimited compassion for animals. Gone are the days when dogs would be butchered ruthlessly in the city dog pound. Today, Sudha’s hard work has paid off, and the centre has grown beyond expectations into a trauma care centre, where the animals bask in the healing love showered on them
Bobby – an electrocuted cat with a charred face; Tara – an old dog hit by a vehicle and then thrown carelessly into wet tar; Matilda, a rooster rescued from a slaughter truck – these are only some of the animals with sad tales living in CARE, a wonderful home to animals with not so wonderful pasts. Today, two pigs, five cats, 10 ducks and geese, 12 rabbits, 27 guinea pigs, 86 dogs and counting – Charlie’s Animal Rescue Center, affectionately called CARE, is also a temporary home to 85 dogs being treated at its trauma centre.
The shelter is unlike any other. While happy wagging tails and alert eyes are common across many, CARE is one of the very few animal homes that help you see beyond the sad stories. Spread over half an acre of land on the outskirts of the city, the centre is the result of years of hard work, love for the voiceless and the powerful vision of a woman, Sudha Narayanan, who might appear little in stature but certainly not in accomplishments.
Sudha, an ex-Income Tax officer by profession, says love for animals runs in her genes. “My parents were compassionate towards animals and I learnt that watching them. Even while growing up, I used to pat every dog on the road,” recalls Sudha, whose initial days in animal welfare were like being in a cleft stick.
“Bangalore was not the way it is today with animals. The only way to keep dogs off the road was to take them to the city run dog pound and electrocute them, using an old electrical apparatus from British days. Many a times, due to power failure, the belt would move, slitting open the throat and the dogs would die of bleeding,” Sudha recalls the horror.
Being one of the pioneers of animal welfare movements, Sudha witnessed much inhuman treatment inflicted upon the animals. “We would cry seeing the dead bodies and bloody floors during out visits to the pound, but then we also had to look for solutions. We made multiple trips to Mayo Hall, waiting for the corporation officials to get started on sterilisation programmes, rather than killing poor animals in such brutal ways,” recalls Sudha.
Hard work and perseverance paid off, when the municipal body, then called Bangalore Municipal Corporation, finally reached the same page as animal welfare workers and the dog pound space was converted into an operation theatre for Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme. “Along with the pound, we also inherited piled up animals’ bodies, blood covered floor and sacks of bundled up puppies which had been beaten to death. We spent days rubbing the floors, taking care of the dead animals and setting up a workable operation theatre for ABC,” explains Sudha.
“When you work for animal welfare, there are a lot of miraculous moments that become a turning point in your life. Mine was meeting Crystal Rogers, the founder of Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA). I learned so much from her about animal welfare.”
After being associated with CUPA as trustee for 17 years, Sudha along with her like-minded friends – Wing Commander Lingaraj, a retired air force personnel; Megha Vijay, a civil engineer by profession and an animal welfare worker at heart; Dr H D Lohith, a veterinarian who was also taking care of Charlie; Mallika Menon, a compassionate human being and an animal welfare worker, M C Vijaya Lakshmi and Chitra Narayanan the two cat experts of CARE – got together and founded CARE in January 2013. That was when Bangalore had nothing in the name of animal welfare except Karuna. The group started CARE with a piece of land and no money. But with their hearts in the right place, CARE grew beyond expectations.
“We started CARE with our volunteering experience at Karuna and our learning at CUPA. We began with just 6 dogs. We knew that the only way to do it was to be on the ground, helping the animals. Only visibility could have gotten us funds to run the shelter. Moreover, none of the animal NGOs in India has or had government support. One day, someone donated us a second hand vehicle and we started reaching out to animals is distress, pick them up in the vehicle and getting them to the shelter. We evolved a system that accounted for every dog and animal. Little by little, we were able to build up and put every bit of money earned back for the welfare of the animals,” recalls Sudha.
CARE as the best trauma centre for street animals
Sudha aspires to create the best possible trauma centre for street animals. She dreams of CARE equipped with the best medical facilities for street animals to ensure correct diagnosis and speedy treatment and recovery.
“If your pet animals are sick, you take them to a private hospital and avail world class facility and care. But the question is, can an animal from streets afford treatment at all, leave alone private hospitals? What happens to the animals on the roads that get injured in accidents, develop tumours, suffer from spinal injuries, and fight mange or distemper? I want to provide these animals with world-class care. We plan to buy equipment and gradually, give them the best treatment because they deserve better than our pets do,” says Sudha.
However, it’s a long way to go before her dream comes true. Every piece of medical equipment is a huge mountain to climb, especially when public donation is the only source of money.
“We recently bought a blood analyzer worth Rs. eight lakh. Now we are aiming at bringing in a digital x-ray. That will mean another huge sum,” says Sudha.
BBMP needs to pull its socks up
With street dogs’ population on the rise, the number of rabies cases is swelling too. According to Sudha, on an average, CARE receives one rabies’ case per week and around five to six cases every month. With just a handful of animal shelters taking care of the city’s street animals, Sudha feels it is about time that the city’s municipal corporation realises its responsibility and works towards it.
“The BBMP has to carry out the programme in a systematic way. There should be a monitoring committee with members of animal welfare NGOs. Doctors should be trained enough to avoid botched up surgeries. Tenders should be floated ward-wise and the funding must come from the government. No NGO can do an ABC program on its own. We have reached out to BBMP but it has outsourced these programmes to contractors who are no less than butchers. They throw back the dog on the road after a shoddy job,” says Sudha, stressing that ABC is the only way to keep a check on the number of street animals and ensure safety of human beings too.
Whether it is enforcement of pet shop rules, ignorance of need for puppy shelters or tightening the noose on illegal breeders, Sudha feels BBMP’s attitude has been lackadaisical. “All NGOs have been pushing for adoption of street dogs, instead of buying a breed dog. While the situation has improved owing to the hard work put in by NGOs and individuals alike, it is the BBMP that has been sleeping over the issues. The new pet shop and illegal breeding rules are right to the point, but unless strictly enforced and monitored, no good will come of it. BBMP is not equipped to do any of these. Probably it does not have the willpower to do it,” says Sudha.
While she dreams of having a sanctuary for ‘unwanted’ animals, Sudha signed off with a piece of sound advice. “Don’t turn your face away from an animal in distress. When you see something suffering and cannot lift or touch it, call CARE helpline numbers. But if you don’t even call, then it’s a life lost.”
Charlie – the common factor
Among the five pioneers of CARE, there’s a common thread – Charlie. The three-legged rescued street dog became Sudha’s companion from her days in CUPA. Also fondly remembered as ‘India’s best therapy dog’, Charlie helped over 250 children with various issues before he rested in peace in 2017. “He showed people that a dog is a dog and need not be a labrador, a beagle, a golden retriever or a dalmatian to become a therapy dog. There have been physically challenged street dogs that have been able to understand therapy environment better than pet dogs. Charlie helped over 250 special children in his lifetime. Special children are very unpredictable and animals do not generally like unpredictable movements. But Charlie fitted the bill. The otherwise naughty dog would completely transform in a therapy session. He had this rare quality; it was his calling in life,” remembers Sudha.
CARE is involved in canine assisted therapy in special schools in the city. Today, Charlie’s legacy is being carried over by Stumpy, another physically challenged street dog rescued by Sudha.
Starting just with some land on lease, a compound wall and a shed to shelter six dogs, CARE grew with every passing day. The organisation is currently providing shelter to animals, treating injured strays and arranging permanent homes for abandoned and stray animals. With the help of sponsors and volunteers, CARE now runs a cattery, a shelter for rescued animals and an isolated puppy area for vaccinated pups that are given up for adoption. Reach out to CARE on 9483911110 / 69999372 to report any animal in distress.