How to Make a Difference in Animal Welfare.
More and more people are coming forward to join the animal welfare movement. But they have no idea of what to do. Even after becoming members of organizations, they are left mainly on their own, or asked to help the local shelter. But, the issues of animal welfare increase by the day and we really need lots of people to multitask, whether they are in organizations or not. Every colony, every building, every institution needs a group to protect the local animals and to teach the laws to local policemen and the local authorities.
First I would suggest that you join an existing group. But if there isn’t one, make your own. If there are just two of you in a building, institutionalize yourselves by giving a grand name to your group XYZ Building Animal Protection Group. The moment it is made, you will find more people joining it.
Then learn the laws. You will find them on my site www.peopleforanimalsindia.organd I would also like you to read all my articles on it as they will give you an understanding of the animal issues. You can also look at the site of the Animal Welfare Board of India to learn the laws www.awbi.org.
The next thing is to apply for the Colony Caretaker card from the AWBI site. This will empower you to look after animals in your area.
Now let’s get on to the really helpful stuff you need to do. These are the things that really make a difference.
Knowledge is half the battle won. Schedule a speaker from a shelter to talk to your clubs, school, college, neighbourhood group, religious gathering. If you work in a company, let the speaker come to your company employees. Basically a gathering of 20-30 people is a good place to start. People don’t know much and until they get to know why an animal is important and how to deal with the local animals, you will never get to win your local battles.
Place donation boxex of an animal group wherever you do business (or pleasure), such as your office, grocery store, dry cleaners, restaurant, gym. Even if you do not make much money, the cause is highlighted and becomes important.
Volunteer to feed, bathe and walk dogs, play with cats, design an exhibit, spearhead a special event, or otherwise volunteer at your local shelter. If you are a computer person, make flyers for the shelter and distribute them – even if it is only to 100 people at a gathering about their services – do this in your apartment complex, office or educational institution. Offer to make and run their Facebook and other social networking sites and do it everyday.
Think of and coordinate small fundraising projects, like bake sales, tables at melas, T Shirt sales. Give yourself a target of how much you will earn per month.
Get the dogs in your colony sterilized. This includes the owned dogs as well. Feed all the animals in your area and explain to disgruntled neighbours that if you do not feed them, they will get aggressive and that the law mandates that you feed them. Put collars on them. Do not throw food around, especially not meat.
If your company, school, college, club donates to charities, add animal welfare organizations to their list.
Find out if your local shelter could use any of the services or products your company produces and then provide them. You will be surprised at the things a shelter needs. Even paper and pens would help a lot, good working second-hand computers , old fans, cupboards, tables and chairs, kitchen equipment, light bulbs… there are hundreds of items.
One of the mistakes made by the animal welfare lobby is that we do not tap into our representatives. You need to know who your corporator is, your MLA, your MP and your local state minister. You need to meet them and ask them for help. You need to make friends with the local police station head and the DCP and possibly the commissioner. You need to know at least two local media reporters. Without this backup, you will be paralysed in an emergency. Animal welfare is not only about looking after local cats and dogs. It is about: slaughterhouse reform and stopping animal smuggling, catching poachers and stopping shops that sell birds and illegal animals, stopping dissection in educational areas which do not need to do it, stopping the display of cruelty in films and TV, getting SPCAs set up and the local government vet to come to work, stopping animal sacrifice in temples, removing pesticides, starting sterilization of dogs in your area. For all these things, one MP and MLA can be of tremendous help. But if you do not ask them they will never consider it on their own. You need to make your municipality animal sensitive, and if you do not meet your municipal commissioner regularly you will never do so. One lone poor woman in Nagpur who supports herself as a teacher has managed to get the municipality to put land and money for a shelter, get an ambulance, start the forest department working, stopped the illegal bird markets. Every MP, MLA and corporator knows her. The media writes about her all the time. When I went to Nagpur she got the local education officer to get 600 teachers to come and listen. If she can do it, anyone can. A single woman of absolutely no power in Uttarakhand has done more than that and, having engaged the best lawyers in Uttarakhand has stopped animal sacrifice in the entire state, got the dog breeders to stop, has had SPCAs made and now is building her own shelter. If she can do it, you can.
Start with these simple tips. Each one who is sensitive to animals remember this: compassion without action is of no use. One action has very far reaching consequences. So start any of these today.
Maneka Sanjay Gandhi
Pl. add: To join the animal welfare movement contact firstname.lastname@example.org, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org
*Proper wildlife rehabilitation is an extremely biologically and ecologically responsible attitude toward all living things.*