The catastrophic monsoon floods in Kolhapur, Sangli and other low-lying areas in Maharashtra have left countless families without shelter, and caused insurmountable loss to human lives and belongings.
Then, there are the animals - cattle, pets and strays –that have been washed away, displaced or left behind in submerged houses and affected areas. However, various NGOs, rescue teams and animal-lovers across Maharashtra are now working round the clock, and putting their lives at risk, to ensure they aren’t forgotten amidst the calamity and chaos.
When the water levels were on the rise in Pune, many families left their pets behind and many street dogs couldn’t find their way out due to the speeding water in various areas of Aundh and Baner,” says Tina Mohandas, from RESQ, a charitable trust in Pune. “Hence, we started our rescue operations at various catchment areas with the help of our team. With the water levels going down in Pune, we have more cases to look after and have to even work 24 hours a day to treat them.”
While the situation is relatively better now in Pune, Kolhapur and Sangli are still facing the flood fury. Kalpana Bhatia, who runs a shelter, Jeevraksha, for pets in Shahupuri, has opened her doors for Kolhapur’s strays. She shares, “The situation in Kolhapur is bad, as thousands of people have been relocated, who need medical and basic first aid. But just like humans, animals like cattle, pets, street dogs and cats have also faced mayhem. With water everywhere, I have 150 dogs currently in my shelter. Every day, I get calls regarding street dogs that are stranded in water. However, it isn’t always easy for my helpers or me to rescue them, since we are surrounded by water. So, we have joined hands with the Kolhapur Municipal Corporation , who rescue street dogs and puppies for us.”
The Maharashtra-based organisation Animal Rahat, that offers animal emergencies and veterinary services, is also helping bulls, donkeys, dogs, cats, and other animals in need. Kaustubh Pol, Animal Welfare Inspector, Animal Rahat, Sangli says, “The team is working day and night to rescue the stranded animals. So far, our team has rescued over 30 dogs, including adult ones and puppies, besides pigs and piglets that were locked out in an enclosure surrounded by flood water.”
In addition to this, they also alerted more than ten animal owners in Sangli beforehand and convinced them to evacuate their homes with their animals, including bullocks, buffaloes, and cows, before the flood water started rising, and helped them shift their animals to safer locations. We have been collaborating with local volunteers to provide relief where it’s needed most, and in all, saved more than 80 dogs from going near the flooded areas by diverting them and feeding as well as de-worming them.”
It’s not just NGOs and animals rescue groups. Even locals have been pitching in to save animals. Kshitij Mane, an engineer from Kolhapur, has been doing this with the help of his friends. He says, “When the water levels rose, we had no time to get in touch with any animal welfare group. Where, on one side humans were being saved, animals were getting left behind. So, I started evacuating animals from my area with my friends. I rescued a lactating dog and her four pups and kept her near my house at a safe height. Then I involved the locals in taking care of her, while we were rehabilitating other animals stuck in water.”
PUNE VOLUNTEERS HEAD TO THE FLOOD AFFECTED AREAS OF MAHARASHTRA
Even Pune-based groups are heading to the affected areas to help out the animals in need. Tuhin Satarkar, Head of Rescues at RESQ, has been relocating animals with a team of 12 other volunteers in Maharashtra. Tuhin, from ground zero at Sangli, shares, “We have been providing aid to injured animals in different villages in the area. The water levels are receding and we have found many animals (mostly cattle) stranded and stuck in muddy areas. Most of the animals have bruises and injuries that need medical attention, and our team has been attending to this throughout the day. We will continue our efforts with the support of the State Animal Husbandry Department and their personnel, and hopefully continue to reach more animals over the days to come.”
Amit Shah, founder, Prani Seva Sanstha in Pune, another animal rescue group is making sure not just volunteers, but also vets accompany them to help with the treatment in Pune and other regions of Maharashtra. “There is an urgent need for skilled help, and so, we have directed five qualified vets to the areas, who have tied up with the locals in Sangli and Kolhapur, to help treat the animals.”
Apart from skilled help, in the aftermath of the floods all over Maharashtra, Tina Mohandas, from RESQ, says, relief materials for the animals are the need of the hour. “While people across the state have been sending relief material for humans, animals, and pets in the regions, the animals too are in dire need of aid,” she explains, while Amit adds that they are collecting funds for ropes, nets, tyres, and torches in Pune for the rescue operations all over the state, in addition to food, medicines and regular aid materials.