By Catherine Torbey
Founded in 1979, Friendicoes is an animal shelter and veterinary clinic which provides sanctuary to the sick pets and street dogs of Delhi. According to Geeta Seshamani, the Vice President of Friendicoes, about 20,000 dogs pass through their shelter on average per year. Despite only having room to provide shelter for 70 dogs at one time, there are always many more in their care.
Everywhere you go in Delhi, street dogs can be seen wandering the streets or searching for food. Geeta says this is due to a problem with people buying dogs as status symbols. Many people wish to buy dog breeds such as labradors, due to the high pedigree of the breed. However, the new owners are not informed of the particular problems the dog is prone to, and as soon as the dog is forming skin problems or becoming ill, they are dumped on the street.
Geeta says, “it is quite sad because it’s happening in a country that already has adequate challenges of poverty and other kinds of misery. So when you start talking compassion for animals, and you start talking about regulations and standards for pets and pet sales, people think this is not really a priority subject, and so the problem just gets compounded”.
Some of the issues that result in the dogs being brought to the shelter include being attacked by other dogs, malnourishment, maggot infestation and injuries due to monsoons.
As Friendicoes receives no funding from the government, they are constantly relying on donations from the public to allow the clinics to continue running. Geeta says that the shelter is short staffed, receiving 60 to 65 calls per day from people about sick animals and only being able to respond to up to 20 of them.
Friendicoes has a wonderful group of workers who tend to the dogs, including 14 vets throughout their three centres in Delhi.
The Friendicoes centre we visited has an outdoor area for the dogs to play, run around and be taken for walks, allowing the dogs to enjoy fresh air and preventing the spread of infections in a crowded shelter.
According to Geeta, the only way to help solve the problem of sick street dogs is to try and prevent breeding, in order to reduce the numbers. Friendicoes performs neutering procedures on some dogs before returning them to their territory. However, despite this, the number of sick and injured animals in Delhi’s streets is immeasurable, with NGOs such as Friendicoes working tirelessly. Geeta says that in order to continue their work and sustain themselves, their focus for the future will be to organise dedicated and regular fundraising.
Friendicoes work has helped saved the lives of thousands of animals in Delhi for over 35 years, and hopefully can continue this for many more to come.