During my travels in India I was aware of an animal clinic that was literally opposite where me and my friend were staying, well how could we not get involved?!
ASA is a local clinic vaccinating, neutering, medically treating and rescuing animals from its local areas in the South of Goa, Agonda, Palolem, Chaudi and Cola mostly. It is a charity ran from local donations and support from a couple of experienced Indian men and many volunteers who help daily with cleaning, feeding, walking and much interaction! But the lady behind the whole project was a lovely Belgium lady called Brendy. She had turned her home into a small clinic for cats and dogs, though will help with most animals that come her way if she can!
The clinic was small and friendly but the most admirable trait about the place was all the animals were happy! they could live and adapt amongst each other which is rare for so many street animas to come together into this type of community. Animals came to the clinic in many different sizes and with different injuries, some had open wounds, tumours, growths, some were missing limbs, had been in fights or hit by cars and some were extremely malnourished!
The aim of the clinic was to bring animals in for as little time as possible to allow room for more animals that needed the help, so they received treatment ASAP! before leaving they are all neutered and either returned to their owners or stay at the clinic waiting to be adopted. If an animal had lived its whole life on the streets or maybe the beach then it would be hard to have these adopted as they are happier to roam free so many might come in for treatment and then be returned back to the area they were spotted. The very young ones automatically go up for adoption and in the mean time volunteers spend much time interacting with them encouraging social behaviour which will better their chances of adoption. If the puppies do not get adopted then they stay at the clinic with the other dogs to roam free around the area and receive the occasional bath and daily food and water – not a bad life!
The great thing about ASA is they are working on neutering all the animals in the local areas bit by bit! The biggest problem with the street animals is so many of them are not neutered and for that reason every season we are seeing numbers grow vastly and if they are not owned dogs then this situation becomes out of control! A year ago during the winter season the army came around with guns and shot down any injured dog or dog that did not wear a collar to ‘deal’ with the amount of street dogs that had been living here – this is what we want to prevent happening! Dogs can live on the streets happily but as it starts to get out of hand we want to make sure it is people like the volunteers who are dealing with it and not the army! The clinic is slowly working its way through the beach dogs, catching them can be tricky if they are not used to the interaction but once they are in the clinic they are neutered and cared for after surgery and then released back to freedom as soon as possible.
As a volunteer here I was able to be hands on with the animals, helping to bath the puppies and walk the dogs who were in cages after receiving treatment, ensuring they still received plenty of exercise and generally help with the cleaning and feeding of the many dogs and many, many cats who just kept appearing from tiny kittens to old scruffy tom cats. The sights can sometimes be hard and may require a strong stomach, in these countries the treatment of animals can be a little shocking. We had a dog come in with his ear completely bitten off by a wild leopard, the dog was tied up outside its owners house and was not able to get away, the family were so poor they tried desperately to treat him themselves but this was not helping and the dog was in much pain and seemed very depressed. When the clinic was informed of this incident they went to collect the dog from the Indian family who were very concerned and it was clear that they did love the dog just didn’t know how to care for his injury under the fear of receiving vet bills. After much attention the dogs ear got better and better over just a matter of weeks and after a visit from the family the dogs spirit began to reappear! He will never get his ear back but he is now safe and no longer in any discomfort, he is a lucky boy! We also had an incident one morning where a couple of Dobermans had attacked a wild pig on the beach and Brendy had to go down in the van to sedate the pig and bring it back to the clinic to access the situation. Unfortunately the pigs eye had been completely torn out and it was not in a good way to keep alive, so after 10 bottles of injections (an average dog would only take half a bottle to put to sleep!) we sat with the pig whilst she sadly slipped away. It cant always be happy endings in a place like this sometimes it is the kinder act to let them go but in moderation most of these animals were worth a fight and many continued to live a happy and healthy life.
ASA is a Non government organisation and currently can only receive local donations, after 3 years they are able to have their figures calculated to insure all the money they have spend adds up with the costs of medicine, props and food etc. Once this has been clarified after 3 years running the organisation Brendy will be able to set up funding from overseas to allow people to make donations from around the world massively helping the organisation. The reason for this law enforcement of charity businesses is in the attempt to stop people channelling white money and possibly taking donations for a charity that might not even truly exist! So although for cases like ASA it means a long waiting time until this goal is possible in the bigger picture this law is a very good idea and makes these charities more trustworthy and genuine. ASA is looking forward to a bright future as this time next year Brendy has plans to move to a bigger clinic where they will also be able to treat cows, as the sacred animal here there are many that roam and need care, this way she will be able to bring them in to be treated and cared for properly as well as many more animals.
I sat and spoke to Brendy about her opinion on re-homing dogs overseas and she brought to my attention some very different views which I was very interested to hear about and completely appreciate her opinion on the matter. Though it is something I encourage, pairing these domestic creatures with a forever home and companion I also like Brendys view on supporting many dogs in your local area for the same costs of rehoming one. Brendy told me how when someone has lived abroad for many years and has a pet, like a dog and then decides the move overseas she completely understands the procedure as their is already a connection and bond between the dog and its owner and it would not be fair to separate them. Her concerns are when tourist come to a new destination, find a puppy on the street and believe they have become completely smitten with it, I mean its beyond cute and they might have always liked the idea of having a dog, so why not adopt it?! The problems that can occur from these situations is in a weeks time when the tourists have to go home and the puppy goes to a foster home whilst the procedures to transport this puppy overseas begins… The puppy did not have enough time to build a connection with these people so during the 6 – 8 months that is can take for the puppy to receive all its vaccinations and passport it is unlikely the puppy will remember those people. Then when the puppy does make it overseas, the people receive a dog rather than a puppy as they do not stay small for too long and it can become less attractive to people who remember this tiny bundle of joy. It costs a lot of money and can cause the puppy some stress with all the travelling to be reunited with people it does not remember, where as with the money spent on preparing the pup to travel, these tourists could have put the money towards helping many dogs in the local area where they can roam freely and still be cared for and given plenty of interaction. The other concern of Brendys was that when she re-homes an animal locally she can follow up on how the animal is settling into its new home and make sure the adoptive family are a good match, with oversea adoptions it is not easy for her to do this and dogs could end up stuck in an apartment all day whilst the owner works a 9-5 job, for a dog to be taken from an environment with woodlands and countryside to roam this is not fair.
I think Brendys best interests are in this organisation, she has spent her life dedicating her time and passions to these animals in a part of the world which is hard to gain respect in this area of work. But with support and hard work she has accomplished a programme which is helpings hundreds of street animals in the South of Goa. If you are ever in the area and would like to lend a helping hand be sure to pop in and get involved, it is so rewarding!
You can check out their website http://www.animalshelteragonda and also follow their facebook page ‘Animal shelter Agonda’ for more stories and photo updates.
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