Stray dogs have finally found a voice in a “Papa” who is going the extra mile to rescue, rehabilitate,litigate and make this world a better place for man’s best friend.
Since he first rescued a dog named Lucky from the streets three years ago,Rakesh Shukla – who runs The Voice of Stray Dogs (VoSD) in Bangalore – has saved close to 200 canines,including dozens of trauma cases.
“When I first started rescuing dogs they stayed in my office. Now,there are five dogs at my home,10 at my office,including four that live in my office room and use my sofas for a bed,and 125 more that live in my home outside Bangalore,” Shukla said.
He built a new structure on the outskirts of Bangalore to home the ever-increasing number of dogs.
Describing the new home,he said it comprised “a few acres of land,completely designed bottoms up for dogs,double fencing,10 enclosures with double gates and each enclosure with its own water pond,a 1/4 acre artificially created lake for them to swim”.
“In that place,people are optional!” said Shukla,who also runs the VoSD helpline to help pick up stray and sick dogs.
VoSD has a trauma centre too that has between 20 and 30 dogs at any time.
“We use monitored helplines,GPS tracking… All services are provided free,including X-rays,MRIs,eco-advanced surgery for cancers and heart surgery,” he said.
Since the opening of the VoSD rescue lines on October 15 last year,people have sought help for 850 stray dogs and 600 have been picked up and treated.
Shukla describes VoSD as one of the largest legal and information repositories for issues related to dogs in India.
“Because of the principle involved,VoSD does not,and will not take any aid from any government or another agency,” he said.
All expenses to run the centre are paid by Shukla in his personal capacity,including operational expenses for medicines,food,salaries,development of the trauma centre and purchase of equipment.
Saving dogs isn’t the only thing Shukla “a telecommunication engineer by training and a manager by choice” — does. He also runs a successful technical communications company.
So how does he find time for the dogs? “I don’t. But there are people for what I can’t do – so there’s staff for feeding,cleaning,walking the office and the VoSD dogs,” he said.
Shukla has always loved dogs. His first pet dog was Kavya Shukla – the reason he became “Papa”. The dogs living in his home in Bangalore all share their Papa’s surname and the rest are called “Papa’s babies”.
The constant canine additions in his home and office and the sheer amount of time and resources engaged in developing and maintaining the infrastructure met with an obvious resistance from his wife Helen.
“But as she realised that this was not a hobby but something I do for a very personal reason,she’s become very supportive of my effort for the dogs,” he said.
VoSD was started in response to a specific situation.
“There was a child who was declared killed by a dog by the media in Bangalore. Within a couple of hours,an ex-gratia was announced by the mayor. An autopsy was performed within another couple of hours and the autopsy report confirmed it was a dog kill,” he said.
However,the situation did not add up and Shukla and his friends investigated on location. “We found that the dogs could not have carried the child’s body 700 m up from a basement and eat only the thigh. I got an autopsy report and the only original pictures with location video to two US experts who confirmed that this was not a dog kill.
“To this end I created VoSD virtually overnight and also a website since I did not want it to be a ‘person’ i.e. me taking an individual stand,” he said.
Unfortunately,Shukla’s rescue activities will be restricted to his home city for the next few years “because I feel we’re still running to maybe 10-20 per cent of the total requirement”.