Srinagar: On a rainy day, a phone at the Animal Rescue Kashmir rang frantically. A caller from Aluchi Bagh sought help to rescue an injured dog from a large puddle.
A few volunteers immediately rushed to the spot and launched a rescue operation. After much frenetic effort, an injured dog was rescued and taken to the rehabilitation center.
“We saw it was a lactating mother. Her legs were tied by a rope and it was paralyzed. It was raining heavily so we could not trace its puppies,” said Dawood Mohammad, co-founder of Animal Rescue Kashmir, an NGO working to save stray animals.
However, the volunteers searched for three days. “On the third day, we found the pups and brought them to the mother. They ran towards it to suckle from her. It was such a happy reunion,” he said.
In another heart-warming rescue operation, a defective horse was rescued by the NGO a few weeks ago. “We received a report of an injured horse. Its legs had been tied up by the previous owner for a long time. The rope had cut into its flesh and broken the pastern bone which couldn’t be mended,” a volunteer recalled.
However, the horse was soon nursed to good health. “Somehow, we convinced the doctors and we amputated the leg. We are glad we found the horse on time otherwise its chances of survival were bleak,” he said.
Many such heartwarming stories can be heard from Dawood Mohammad and Mariya Mushtaq, a caring couple who have devoted their time and life to the welfare of the animals. In 2017, when they shifted to Kashmir from the UK, they were appalled to see the wanton neglect of stray animals and decided to immediately take matters into their own hands.
Thus was born Animal Rescue Kashmir, a self-funded NGO which conducts rescue operations and feeds as many strays as possible. In 2020, it was formally registered. Recounting their inspirations, Dawood, who also runs a clothing business said: “We are inspired by Noah’s Ark and determined to work for the betterment of stray animals.”
With a team of 100 volunteers and nine employees, the NGO has conducted around 1000 animal rescues since the pandemic broke out. On average, the volunteers rescue 5 animals and feed around 800 strays daily.
“During the lockdown period, we joined hands with the Kashmir Animal Welfare group and made sure we did our bit by preparing meals and serving the food to street dogs on a regular basis as the hotel and restaurants were closed. There was no leftover food, which they usually relied on,” he said.
Presently, the NGO operates from Srinagar and has two centers—Tengpora and Shuhama.
“Both of these spaces have been provided by Srinagar Municipal Corporation. Also, each district is supposed to have a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). However, there is no such society in Kashmir. We are working closely with SMC to set up this organization in the future. Once set up, it will be run by us,” Dawood said.
The NGO is planning to do more than just rescue and feed stray animals.
“We want to rehabilitate injured dogs to a better place. Currently, we have 30 permanently paralyzed dogs with us and they need proper shelter with soft ground. We can do better if we have our own space and it is in the pipeline,” he said.
That said, Dawood noted that people also have to shift their attitude towards animals by not ill-treating them. “The seed of kindness in students should be sown right from childhood as it is crucial to imbibe the quality of in them,” he said.
He said children, who are cruel to animals, often grow up to be insensitive. “Government shelters and NGOs should provide temporary homes to animals who are abused, injured, or sick and need time to recover,” Dawood said.