Blue Cross of India, India
Madhurya Sai Amirapu on November 26, 2018 in Animal Welfare
From a tender age, we’re taught that dogs ‘bark’ and cats’ ‘meow’, that cows ‘moo’ and the birds ‘chirp’. What our curriculum often doesn’t test us on, are the whimpers and moans that animals let out when they are lost, injured or sick on our streets or in our own neighborhoods. Somehow, their sounds of despair have been lost in an unconcerned translation.
Man is not just a social animal but is also socially responsible for the animals in and around his environment. Their signs of distress are something we shouldn’t just be able to recognize but are also something we should actively look out for. As the higher species, we owe it to them to be their voice, their guides and their rescuers.
Blue Cross of India is one of the pioneers in animal rescue, healthcare and welfare in our country. They stand for all of the above ideals and are champions of the truly voiceless.
Founded in 1959, the birth of which began one rainy day when the founder Captain Sundaram rescued two pups struggling to stay afloat in the flooded roads of T. Nagar. That rescue was followed by so many more with the support of his equally compassionate wife, Usha, and eventually the animal shelter at home housed 60 cats, dogs, goats, bandicoots and also a pair of baby mongooses at one point.
Vinod Kumaar, General Manager at Blue Cross of India, shares with us how the quality of care only improves and how the same compassion and values have been carried forth till date, decades later, at Blue Cross of India, “We are quite well known in and around Chennai now, and receive around 150 calls a day, sometimes for animal rescues even outside the city. We do our absolute best to attend every call and email as well, and send a special rescue teams complete with equipped ambulances to retrieve the animals called for.”
What sets Blue Cross of India apart from other animal shelters and welfare organizations is the quality and magnitude of its operations and the multidisciplinary approach to animal care. They efficiently carry out a number of activities including but not limited to - Maintaining large shelters- over 3,000 rescued animals pass through their shelters during the year; Rehoming of animals such as cattle. They also hold regular Adoptathons for animal adoptions from their shelters; Hospitals- The healthcare provided to their animals is another example of their exemplary standards. They refuse to compromise on medical attention and rehabilitation no matter the species.
No sick or injured animal is turned away or released without completely being healed, nursed to health, given regular health check-ups and vaccinated. They conduct regular surgeries, most commonly for dogs and cats, including required amputations that give them a new lease of life.
Of the cattle they’ve rehomed, a considerable number required rumenotomy operations wherein the surgeon can access the digestive tract and on doing so they often would find 25-40 kg of polythene from their ingesting of plastic covers thrown in bins and on the roads. This hampers their digestion and if the cattle are not saved, they then starve, fall sick and die a slow death. This brings us to another point Blue Cross emphasizes on- waste management, environmental cleanliness and responsibility.
At the heart of their organization lies the ABC or Animal Birth Control programme, which they believe is the safest and most efficient approach to curbing the population of street dogs while not causing undue harm. After the sterilization procedures, the animals are housed and fed till the sutures are removed, de-wormed, vaccinated and released from where they were picked up.
This Chennai based organization also oversees its own Mobile Dispensary, Ambulance Services along with coordinating multiple projects with other NGOs. They are also a major driving force behind a number of beneficial/protective central animal policies.
Among their more innovative projects are the Water Bowl project and Dr. Dog, wherein friendly dogs like Dr. Tulsi and Dr. Lakshmi are taken to old age homes and homes for intellectually disabled children. The response given to them is wondrous and the experience is therapeutic. People with mental illnesses and social disabilities open up and enjoy themselves in the presence of the dogs. The dogs and the affection they bring with their wagging tails is respite for the caregivers as well.
On being asked about how the efficiency is maintained while catering to so many animals and so many facets of welfare, Vinod Kumaar answers, “We have a group of well trained and hard-working individuals, along with our tried and tested protocols for various situations. We believe in the scientific approach, being prepared and being accessible. Our efficiency stems from our empathy, we see these city animals not as inferior creatures but as friends.
But at the end of the day, despite our efforts, one organization cannot cater to each and every stray animal. What we request from the public’s side is a little cooperation and proactive care, such as being kind to your neighborhood strays, feeding them, or at least seeing to it that they aren’t badly treated. 8 out of 10 individuals will walk past an injured or wounded stray, not sparing them a second glance. We should understand that the animal is helpless and cannot nurse the wound itself, and eventually it turns into an infection and many a times becomes infested with maggots. This is when we get the call and it is often too late or if treated, the recovery period is long and painful. So, our efficiency truly depends on and starts from society itself. Dogs, even strays, if taken care of, fed well and vaccinated, can be protective and friendly assets in the neighborhood.”
Blue Cross of India also holds campaigns and awareness programmes regarding the same. They believe the key is to educate the younger generations about the symbiotic nature of life. By tending to our animals, we end up making the environment a healthier place to live in as a whole. Our welfare and happiness are interconnected with the animals’ we share our environment with.
“We often conduct educational programmes in schools. Just last month we celebrated World Animal Day on October 4th. We conducted outreach programmes in a couple of schools, wherein we talked about a basic animal laws and animal welfare, prevention of animal cruelty and the benefits we reap by including pets in our life. Often children are taught to look at animals with disdain or even unintentionally harm animals in the name of fun. We try to undo these practices by creating vital awareness and empathy in them. We teach them that as the human beings they should feel powerful in a manner that is beneficial to these animals and that they have the power to impact their lives in a positive way. Compassion is a virtue, and kindness begets happiness.”, says Vinod Kumaar.
Knowledge and awareness about domestic animals are major pillars of Blue Cross of India’s. “Even during the Adoptathons, it is our duty to make sure the potential owners are completely aware of their responsibilities towards the animals. We remind them that it is a big commitment and that they need to be a 100% willing to adopt. We ask them to come check-in with us for medical care and so on. One of the cruelest acts is the abandonment of a previously housed dog. From sleeping in their owners’ beds to being dropped in a street one fine day, they are at a complete loss and unable to live on their own. They are attacked by wilder animals, are unable to scavenge food, navigate routes and even suffer from mental depression”, he says despondently.
One incident of cruelty that comes to Sir’s mind is that of their recent most inmate, a male dog named Sunface, whom a butcher cruelly attacked with his knife as punishment for the simple act of eating a fallen piece of his meat. His face was half cut off and the wound was bleeding profusely and he was in a truly critical condition when rushed to Blue Cross. Their talented veterinary surgeons and staff worked tirelessly to save his life. He is being nursed and retaught to eat without half his jaw as well as being showered the love and compassion denied to him as a street dog. Now is a healthy and loving companion, he often likes lying down near the front registration desk.
Every welfare organization or NGO faces a number of constraints and animal welfare is considered as one of the lower rungs on the ladder of social issues and thus faces significantly greater difficulties in the procurement of funding, support, policy making and resources, especially in our country. Vinod Kumaar, who recently retired from the Assistant Secretary post at Animal Welfare Board of India, speaks from years of experience in the field, “There is usually a significant gap between the projects planned and the funding available, and here at Blue Cross of India the scale of our operations is relatively larger and we are always falling short of resources. Bridging the gap takes a lot of planning and innovation on the organization’s part, but we believe in continuing to set high standards no matter what. Most of the staff here doesn’t draw any salary for the immense work they put in. But our work gives us great satisfaction. The animals can’t speak but when you show them some kindness, the gratitude and love that they show you back is wonderful, joyous…and addictive to be honest. It’s one of the best feelings in the world.”, Vinod Kumaar says in happy tones that reflect happier experiences. And that seems to be the fuel the organization runs on.
For their take home message, Vinod Kumaar reiterates, "We should stay proactive in the care of animals, react positively to them and slash stereotypes regarding them for a healthier community. Our organization is proof that we can live in harmony with them and we emphasize that small acts of kindness go a long way with these mute creatures."
On being asked about the biggest lesson he learnt working with animals and his favorite part of the job, he answers buoyantly, "Animals are so innocent and pure, they cannot ask for anything and in fact don’t expect things from us. Yet when we provide support or love, they reciprocate in a beautiful way and they are forever grateful. And it is truly elating when an injured animal, who has been treated and cared for by us, is now healthy, trusting and loyal. My favorite part is when I wouldn’t have had previous contact with a certain shelter dog, but on seeing me they come complete with their tail wagging, jumping up to try lick my face. The fact that they instantly recognize me as a friend and feel safe here is rewarding in itself and I’m grateful for such experiences."
We are grateful that the people of Blue Cross of India have battled the odds and brought animal welfare to the forefront in their community, with their larger-than-life hearts, holistic approach to care and a perspective of animals that we all should learn to see.
We appreciate their innovative approach and hard work for the betterment of society. If you wish to know more, donate, or volunteer then visit Blue Cross of India right now!