In an overpopulated country like ours, humans are often disregarded and their lives not valued, which makes animals clearly the lowest on the priority list. But some people surprise us by their absolute love and display of humane spirit in making animal welfare count. Ruth Walsh and her NGO, Haven Of Miracles Enclave (HOME) speaks to DEEPA GEORGE about her passion of rescuing dogs and cats be it stray, abandoned, domestically abused, psychologically disturbed, hit and run or plainly in dire need of medical attention
A Goan married to an Irishman, Ruth Walsh is every bit the passionate animal lover. Her center in Camurlim has nearly over 100 dogs and cats collectively under its care in a 2000 square metre rented premises.
With three full-time kennel attendants and a shelter manager, Ruth and her trustees, Rishi Kawatra and Shaun Moitra along with their volunteers, have been a formidable team and pioneers in providing animal welfare and care in Goa.
Dismissing my opinion of there being so many human-related causes that need attention, Ruth indignantly says, “Then who will speak up for animals? There are many organisations doing work for children and the aged. I can’t save the world but can make a contribution in the area that I am passionate about.”
Explaining the nature of their work, Ruth says their reputation as the only NGO that would do what many others won’t in terms of the grave rescue cases handled, credibility of rescue team and ability to see a rescue to its natural end is a well known fact in the animal lover community of Goa. “Currently, we concentrate more on taking care of sick dogs and accident cases. We have a ‘no kill’ policy and believe that euthanasia should be utilized as a last resource.”
Given that most Indians are disdainful of street dogs and consider them a menace, it isn’t a surprise that the center gets it’s share of complaints from neighbours and the panchayat.
To this, Rishi, who handles legal and finance states that they were doing the panchayat a favour. “As per law, the panchayat is supposed to offer a place for an animal shelter. They should be happy that people like us are putting in our own money and using the NGO funds appropriately to provide this service,” he said.
Initiating sterilisation drives, educating laypeople on the importance of vaccines, rehabilitating and re-homing pups, kittens and adults, while providing a shelter to those who don’t find homes, HOME has literally a lot to lap up.
It is apparent that Ruth always had a predisposition to care for animals from a very young age. “As a little girl, I was inclined to pick up puppies, kittens even baby goats that I would find motherless around my school. After a stint abroad, I was appalled to see the number of strays on our roads. I would pick up those that needed medical attention but sadly none of the existing animal shelters at that time were able to take in my rescues since they were loaded with their own, including irresponsible drop offs of puppies and kittens at their gates, she says.
What started with seven puppies grew into a whopping number of 60, then 80. While I tried to find homes for many, a lot of them remained with me because of the preference we have for pure bred dogs. An experience of seeing a German Shepherd that I found a home for, being rejected by an animal shelter, for his apparent aggressive behaviour made me decide on starting my own shelter. In the process I met like minded people who were independent animal rescuers and were happy to come together as one team, the animal lover revealed.
HOME carries out regular fundraisers and acquires specific sponsors who need life-saving drugs and surgery. Citing the challenges they face, Rishi says they look forward to more volunteers coming in to play with these animals. We, in fact encourage children to volunteer, as it is a known fact that pet care can help children build empathy.
We are associated with a corporate, based in Verna that supports 50 children and they plan to get them in batches to the shelter. We hope this will be done consistently and not as a one of initiative, he adds.
If being fulfilled is the cornerstone in living a happy life, the team seems to have found their purpose in life.
“We rescued a paraplegic dog in Betim. She used to drag herself. Three doctors gave up but we persisted with her. Today, she is jumping around although with a slight limp. It makes us so happy to see her the way she is today,” says an emphatic Rishi.
As heartfelt as it sounds, we cannot escape from the fact that there has been an overpopulation of street dogs making it a perceived nuisance. Ruth insists there are solutions that can and should be implemented.
“We must learn to peacefully coexist. Humans cannot be the ones taking control because they can speak for themselves. Every panchayat should have a census of domesticated animals and make vaccinations and sterilisations compulsory. The clause of ‘no pets in housing complex is against the law’. If this is revoked, there is a greater possibility of adoptions. It is our Constitutional right to care for our streeties and anyone who intimidates stray feeders are in violation of the law and can be prosecuted for criminal intimidation. I would advice stray feeders to apply for ‘Stray feeders card’ issued by the Animal Welfare Board of India, which gives them their identities as stray feeders,” she pointed out.
Despite her recent relocation to Ireland, Ruth isn’t ready to give up on her pet mission in Goa. “I have a passionate team who I know will keep our good work going. Besides, I keep coming to Goa. In fact, sitting in Ireland, I have raised funds and have recruited volunteers over Skype. We can never abandon HOME,” she asserts.
Their organisation follows Mahatma Gandhi’s words as their guiding light, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
We obviously ought to do better.