All living creatures are God’s gift to us. He has given us umpteen reasons to cherish…and our pets, especially pooches top the list. Still, there are incidents of abandonment and torture…by the pet owners themselves. Such shattered furry angels find ultimate refuge at the soothing surroundings of “Prem Chaaya”, which means “Shelter of Love”. Clifford D’Souza, founder of Prem Chaaya, a Mangalore – based animal welfare trust, gets candid with D&P and shares their journey so far…so good!
The age-old adage, “Once a dog lover, always a dog lover”, doesn’t always hold true. As there are numerous incidents when the dog is abandoned, once he falls ill or is old. But there are people, like Clifford, who have devoted their lives for the well-being of animals, who are just left all alone in this big-bad-world. Serving the mute creatures might be an animal welfare for some, but for Clifford, it’s the motivation that keeps him going. “I take up the task of animal welfare for my own satisfaction…I feel more content and happy, when I help someone, who cannot help himself,” D’Souza explained.
This compassion and unconditional love for the animals was the driving force that helped in the establishment of Prem Chaaya against all odds. “I was blessed with two GSD – Ginger and Honey, who were an integral part of our lives. This pet bonding filled our entire family with deep compassion for animals. One day, while on my way home, I found an injured puppy and took him home. And as they say, rest is history. This cute, l’il angel marked the beginning of Prem Chaaya in the backyard of our house in the year 2002,” he said.
Started in a car-shed, today, it has carved a niche for itself as one of the most trusted animal welfare trust. But the journey so far has not been a bed of roses; there have been struggles, financial difficulties and opposition. It’s the will that makes all the difference, and strong-willed team of Prem Chaaya, collectively sailed through it. “We have faced the rough sea, but now it’s a smooth sailing and we hope it to remain so in the future as well,” D’Souza envisaged.
This shelter presently houses 89 dogs and 115 cats, of various breeds, age, size and colours. “These are what we refer to as “Permanent Inmates”, and in addition, we receive puppies, kittens, dogs and cats almost daily. Some of these who are terminally ill or aged stay behind,” shared D’Souza.
Telling more about their functional areas and projects, D’Souza elaborately explained, “Our primary focus is on educating the general public. It is our belief that if one is not capable of looking after a pet, one should not own a pet. When the basic needs of food, shelter, medical aids coupled with love and care are not provided to pet, the right to a decent and dignified life is breached. The other areas of focus are sterilisation to ward off unwanted population, vaccination to prevent rabies and air-borne diseases, extending nutritional and medical assistance and providing shelter to abandoned pets and strays.”
“There are several initiatives that have been taken over the past few years. We started with the “Birth-in-Dearth” programme – a sterilisation programme to reduce the stray population and get pet owners to operate their dogs and cats to avoid unwanted litter. This programme went hand in glove with the “Need-a-Needle” programme, which was a vaccination drive and fight against rabies and air borne diseases. With the count of stray puppies and kitten moving upwards, we introduced the “Home-not-Alone” programme – an adoption plan to give away the young ones to good homes after educating the people,” D’Souza added.
But for Prem Chaaya team, it’s not just superficial efforts to sweep the matters under the carpet, they are truly dedicated to “Create a Heaven For Pets.” Even after achieving so much in a short span of time, Prem Chaaya is committed to do more. Some of the plans for the future are to open veterinary units to extend medical care to cattle in rural areas; and to conduct awareness programmes in schools, colleges and offices.
Prem Chaaya, after having established itself as a healing place for animals, went a step further by opening a City Veterinary Unit in Mangalore, which boasts of a fully equipped medical facility to cater to pets and strays. Prem Chaaya has indeed stood the test of time and is going great …Kudos! To this noble cause!
“The main reason for increased numbers of animals at the shelters is the sheer indifference shown by pet owners. People who supposedly looked after their pets for many years, one day just come to us and surrender their pets with exceedingly lame excuses. They should remember that a dog or cat is a life form and not an object. Respect the rights of an animal, especially their right to live. On the other hand, there are numerous animal lovers, whom I wish would adopt a stray pup/kitten and give them a good home. This would solve the problem of stray animals roaming on streets and very often, meeting a gory end. It does not matter, if you already have a pedigreed pet in home. The quantum of love, affection and unquestionable loyalty that you receive from an ordinary mongrel is equal, if not more. Indian dogs are more resilient and have better immunity to diseases. They require far less pampering. So, do adopt a stray animal and you too can contribute in alleviating their suffering.
Animals may be mute, with the inability to express joy and suffering. But that does not give us the right to ill-treat them and show disrespect. This is my appeal to the people – if you cannot provide the basic needs of ensuring a decent life to an animal, please, do not look after one. They are better left alone. Please do not add insult to injury and make their life hell on earth,” says Clifford.