Hope for a better future – India’s street dogs

Hope for a better future – India’s street dogs

posted in: General News | 2
From our founder, Dawn: memoirs from her recent trip to India

Traffic, noise, pollution, chaos, colors and dogs everywhere. In America the sight of a dog loose on the street causes people to exclaim “Ohhh” and good Samaritans will either bring the dog to safety or the local animal groups will be notified. In India, it is common place and people just go about their business without a fleeting thought of the dog’s safety or well-being. That’s the way it seems at least, but many people do care and are doing amazing work to better the conditions of dogs in India. Dogs lying in the street, narrowly avoiding being crushed under the tires of speeding vehicles. It’s hard to witness coming from the West. I find myself constantly cringing and feeling overwhelmed with despair knowing that there is such vast suffering and so little I can do to help. Most people while visiting such places feel the same, the emotion is almost too much to handle and so it seems the body takes over as a self-preservation automatic response and pushes the thoughts and images out of your mind. Look the other way is what most people do. I did that too until I could no longer look the other way. Now I observe and I let the raw emotions run through me. I reinforce my commitment to help regardless of how small my contributions seem to the bigger picture.   Every effort counts and to look the other way helps no one especially the dogs. If only more people realized this and instead of looking the other way decided to do something to help. Through the small efforts of many – great things can be achieved.

The mentality towards dogs is fundamentally different in India and many parts of the world when it comes pet ownership. The concept of dog pet ownership typically means that the dog is fed but is free to come and go and roam the neighborhood streets as it pleases. The dog is often not taken to the vet and no ID tags or collars are worn. For example, I received an email from a young woman in India who offered to let me come and visit the siblings and the mother of a pair of dogs I was able to rehome from India into Chicago. She said that they still live with her and I was welcome to visit. I pulled up to her home at dusk and as I stepped out of the car 3 dogs rose from the sidewalk in front of the house and started to bark at me. They were protecting what they called home however, they lied just a few feet from the street and had no ID tags and were free to roam as they wanted in busy New Delhi. The young woman was from a upper class home, well educated, had traveled to the US, and has done a lot of work in her area to help the dogs. This woman truly cared for the dogs and wants to help them yet the dogs she claimed as hers were free to roam the streets. They were loved, fed and cared for as are many of the dogs you see lying on the streets. It’s a different concept of ownership. It is becoming trendy for young people to own dogs and treat them as family members as we do in the west. However, these dogs are usually purebreds that are imported into India. Street dogs are not commonly considered good pets.

Another example, I went with a friend to visit one of the street dogs she had recently placed with a “well to do” and educated family. When we arrived the dog was outside of the homes locked gate… again lying close to the street. She wore a collar but no ID tag. The collar was much too tight and no food or water bowls were set out for her. When asked why the dog was allowed to roam freely vs being kept within the safety of the gated yard the owner stated the dog prefers to have her freedom. When asked about food and water he explained that she is resourceful and can find her own… he had fed her the day before. When asked if he had complied with the adoption contract and brought her in to be spayed and vaccinated. He apologized and promised to do it soon. This is common. It is very hard to find street dogs good homes in India. The hardest thing to realize is that they don’t consider this bad pet ownership. This is the status quoi.


However, there is hope. There are many people that feed street dogs every day and work to better the lives of the dogs of India.  While I don’t have the time to recount all the amazing people I met and the important work they are doing, I would like to highlight the work of two organizations.. I choose to talk about the Choudharys and the Sai Ashram Shelter because they are doing truly transformational work that will have a large impact on the future of dogs in India. These people to me are like the Mother Theresa’s of the dogs in India. They have dedicated their life to helping these dogs with a passion that is rarely understood or witnessed in our day and age. There are countless others working to make a difference for the dogs of India which gives me such hope of a better future for the dogs of India.

Mr. and Mrs. Choudhary are both veterinarian’s in Delhi that operate the Choudhary’s Pet Clinic. What makes them unique is that their true passion is rescue work and I think they largely offer veterinary services to enable them to continue to help the street dogs of India. I could go on and on about the specific work they do to spay and neuter street dogs to help curb the street dog population and the work they do to educate the people of India …. It’s hard to figure out where to start. So I will start with how I came to meet these amazing people. The power of social media is powerful and connects people from around the world who just a decade ago would never have been brought together. I met them through a connection on the internet. I received a call from a woman named Heather Bruhn Worm who lives in Minneapolis and had been recently working in India. She started feeding the street dogs who congregated in her employers parking lot and they tore at her heart strings. She was planning to bring a litter of puppies back to Minneapolis to find homes. She needed help with transport from Chicago and found me through a search on Google. We instantly connected and I offered to help pick up the dogs from the airport and transport them to her. That’s how I came to know the Choudhary’s. Impressed by the work she was doing and wanting to help her cause I began finding homes for some of her rescues in the Chicago area. The rest is history so to speak.

I finally had the pleasure to meet her on my recent trip. Unfortunately she was under the weather so our time together was limited. A trip to her vet clinic revealed so much about her and her work and passion. The walls of the lobby are covered with ways one can help the street dogs of India. How to sign up to foster, how to sign up to participate and fund a spay/neuter clinic and information on Pet Fly. Her main message is everyone can do something to help a street dog. Foster and save a life. There is nothing more rewarding than giving time and affection to a homeless animal. It provides a safe haven until they find a permanent home and increases their odds of finding a home due to the socialization skills they learn in their foster home. Perhaps the most impressive and innovative work they have done is to create the company PetFly which was established to improve animal welfare by relocating homeless dogs from the streets of India to loving families in other countries. The Choudhary’ s have successfully rehomed thousands of “desi dogs” to loving homes around the world. Not only does this save lives but it is a very effective method of raising awareness about the plight of the Indian Street Dog.   It also helps highlight the wonderful characteristics of these unique and beautiful dogs. Desi means street in Indian.

More about characteristics of Desi dogs that make them wonderful companion animals. The Desi Dog is a primitive breed that is not genetically manipulated by humans and hence these dogs are very healthy and intelligent with no known genetic diseases. They are highly adaptable, quick learners and versatile and are known to be even smarter and definitely calmer than the intelligent Border Collies. They are very agile and excel at many dog sports such as agility and also make great jogging/running companions. While active outdoors, they are usually very calm and quiet indoors. They have tremendous stamina and hence need an active family who will take them for a daily brisk walk or a run. The Desi Dog needs an even tempered, gentle but firm loving owner who knows how to consistently communicate the rules of the home. These dogs love children and are known to have a calm and gentle demeanor around them. They bond strongly with their people and make an excellent family pet that is very loving, loyal and intelligent. These dogs do not bark much but are always alert; they are friendly yet wary of strangers and make good watch dogs. Desi dogs are low maintenance dog as they are generally very healthy and like to stay clean; they hardly shed and have virtually no doggy odor. Their smooth, fine short hair coat is easy to groom. They have an all-weather coat that allows them to easily adapt to different weather conditions.

Desi dogs are genetically healthy and extremely adaptable and intelligent; these traits are essential for them to survive the dangers of living on the streets for generations. On the streets it is the survival of the fittest, usually out of a litter some will get run over by cars while others will succumb to hunger and malnutrition. Only the most hardiest and intelligent ones will survive to produce offspring. Desi dogs are gaining popularity and have been adopted by homes all over the world largely thanks to the efforts of the Choudharys.

Another organization transforming the lives of street dogs in India is the Sai Ashram Shelter in New Delhi. I had the good fortune to to meet Rajiv Vij one of the Founders of the Sai Ashram Animal Shelter. Rajiv met Yashwant Kumar 16 years ago by chance as they were feeding street dogs. That’s when the plan was hatched to start a shelter for the homeless street dogs with nowhere to go. They opened the shelter in 2001 with just a dozen dogs and today they care for close to 400 dogs on just an acre of land in the Chattapur district. They operate with minimal help – just a handful of volunteers and the only funding they receive is through donations. Needless to say Rajiv and Yashwant do this out of a deep passion to help these dogs with nowhere to turn. The passion they have for these dogs is evident by the way they run the shelter and the sense of calm and harmony that transcends the Ashram. These dogs live without cages and are free to roam. Despite so many dogs in such a confined place they all seem to live harmoniously. They listen and obey the commands of their care takers. What struck me is that when I walked through the grounds the dogs followed me and vied for my attention. They all wanted pets and affection but they didn’t jump on me. They were better behaved than my own dogs. Each dog has a name and Rajiv can recount each of their stories. They keep adding more dogs to the compound but the resources are not keeping pace. It is truly amazing what passion and perseverance can achieve.

I’d like to say a huge thanks to all the amazing people I met on this journey that are working so hard to change the landscape for the dogs of India including Simmi Harding, Poorvaja Kumar, the Choudharys, Isobel Grant, Sonia and Dieter Heller, Aarti Bhardwaj, Yoav Karny, and Rajiv Vij.

2 Responses

  1. Annah Mayberry

    Hello, my name is Annah Mayberry and I am a sophomore at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis. I am attending to receive a bachelor degree in philanthropy. A month ago, I watched a very emotional video about the animal situation in India. Since then, my heart has been wrapped around wanting to help these animals. I am so happy you have created this foundation, and I hope in my future I can help as much as I can!

  2. i am staying in kolkata,Ballygunge area, in my area there are eight street dogs, pl rescue them, as one of my neighbour threats me he will give poison to finish them, pl treat this as urgent