Compassion with a vision

Run by Abodh Aras, a management professional, WSD is an organisation that is committed to the welfare of stray dogs. Meet Abodh Aras, the young, energetic and dynamic CEO of Welfare of Stray Dogs (WSD). Professionally highly-qualified with a hotel management diploma and an MBA from Institute of Technology and Management, Mumbai, it comes as a little surprise that he is the CEO of WSD. As he puts it, “I have worked with DHL earlier, but my passion and love for dogs made me quit my job and join as the CEO of WSD in 2000. Infact, I was working as a volunteer since 1995.” Abodh feels that the best stress buster is to have a pet! Interestingly, he never had a dog, even though he had cats. However, his favourite dog is Tommy at the WSD kennel, who was abandoned.

A humble beginning

Abodh told that WSD was formed in 1985 with a group of people, headed by Alim Chandani, with the sole purpose to convince Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) not to kill stray dogs. Daisy Sidhwa and Rajashree Khalap, the present honorary project managers, were among the first five members of WSD. “It was only in 1989, that the efforts of WSD started giving results. It was then that BMC relented and gave half a pound of their killing centre to WSD to sterilise dogs. In 1994, BMC handed the whole pound to WSD, which is today the sterilisation centre at Mahalaxmi, Mumbai,” he added.

Organisation structure

This highly systematic organisation has 18 people as well as 150 active volunteers to help the stray dogs. The staff consists of three project managers, two veterinary physicians, ten animal attendants, and two visiting veterinary surgeons. Abodh told, “Volunteers are selected carefully. We try to find out what the person likes to do, what skill and time he has and how the same can be best suited to the needs of the organisation. Today, we have volunteers from all walks of life and they are very committed to their work.”

Objectives

Abodh told that WSD aims at eradicating rabies, control stray dog population, educate public about rabies prevention and promote the adoption of stray dogs. Mass sterilisation and vaccination: WSD is engaged in mass sterilisation of stray dogs, who are caught by BMC, WSD volunteers or general public. Around 150-200 dogs are sterilised every month.

On-site first aid: Abodh initiated the on-site first aid system in 1995-1996. “Earlier, a lot of dogs who did not need to be housed but needed first-aid, used to end up coming to the hospital. To overcome this problem, we started on-site first aid for which I took 2 months training under a vet,” he told.

Today, the volunteers are trained to treat stray dogs on the street for skin problems, maggot wounds, injuries and other problems, which do not require the patient to be housed. It is a total team effort and inspite of their busy schedules, the volunteers report for their weekly meetings. “It also helps as a training ground for new volunteers,” he added.

WSD also organises Save Our Strays (SOS) workshops, wherein people are trained to recognise basic diseases and how to handle emergencies until a vet or an NGO arrives. “The next workshop is scheduled for November,” he added.

Adoption programme: WSD promotes the adoption of pariah dogs and pets who have been abandoned by their owners. “We have recently rescued 100 dogs from airport runways and are currently looking for a home for them,” informed Abodh.

“Our adoption process takes care of both the dog as well as human point of view. We perform strict screening of potential owners– and only when we are convinced, we give the dog to the family and then follow-up how they keep the dog. On the other hand, we also get the behavioural assessment of dog done before adoption and only when we are sure that the dog is adoptable and can adjust with a particular family, do we hand him over,” told Abodh.

Abodh further added, “We have products like T-shirts, collars, pillows and mattresses for dogs. In Mumbai, if people think of adoption, they think of WSD. We also conduct adoption melas. Even though the adoption becomes instantaneous in such places, we still follow the same procedure,” told Abodh.

Besides, they have formed WSD Indian Pariah Dog Club. “The idea is to promote the pariah as a loving breed, who is hardy and accustomed to the Indian climate, and also to show that currently a lot of people are adopting them. At present, we have 105 members,” told Abodh. With a smile, he added, “Pure breeds are not a member of this prestigious club!!”

Education and awareness programme: “We conduct awareness programmes in various schools, colleges, adult groups and public places. After every presentation in a school, we do a follow up with a project/ art competition and kids make amazing projects, which makes us feel great,” told Abodh with a twinkle in his eyes.

WSD also aims to bring down rabies in the city. “We educate people living in slums about rabies, dog bite prevention and sterilisation. We do this in tandem with other NGOs. Even at public places like railway stations, we run awareness booths. People have certain myths that all strays carry rabies and that scabies is rabies. We try to educate them about it,” elaborated Abodh. Coming on a humorous note, Abodh told that they once had a dog who had no hair on his body. They treated him and soon he started getting back hair. One bald hawker used to watch them and when he saw that the dog has started getting hair, he asked them if the same treatment could help him grow hair back on his head!!

Food for thought

Strays are a problem but killing them is not a solution. Abodh believes that strays will continue to exist because there is enough garbage/food for them to thrive on and they are the pets of the poor. Besides, strays are the part and parcel of socio-urban scenario of India. “We as an organisation need to ensure they are safe, non-rabid and the their population decreases due to sterilisation,” told Abodh.

Finances

“We work on donations of cash or kind. We have individual as well as corporate donors. Last year, SBI sponsored vaccination of dogs at Nariman,” he added. Abodh, however, feels that they need to do much more by increasing the number of sterilisations. On asking about what drives him, Abodh replied that the stray dogs and the people who go out of their way to help them, inspire him a lot.

For more info, contact WSD at Ph:(O) 23733433, (R) 23891070 or e-mail at wsd@rediffmail.com

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