Helping Street Dogs in India
25 million dogs live on the streets in India
80% of dogs will not see their first birthday
These dogs live with hunger, injuries, abuse and sickness
Dogs of the Ganges Society works with locals to ease the suffering of street dogs in India
When we visited Varanasi for the first time in December 2012, our hearts were immediately captured by the plight of street dogs there. They were everywhere – in the old alleyways, in the middle of traffic roundabouts, on the banks of the Ganges River, and in the garbage heaps. In a short period of time we witnessed a lot of hunger, malnourishment, injuries, mange, disease, overbreeding, and abuse – and immediately knew that we had to do something to help.
Known in the Hindu culture as the Holy City or the City of Temples, Varanasi lies on the banks of the Ganges River in northern India. Varanasi has a population of 1.2 million people; however, with festivals occurring throughout the year, Varanasi hosts 3.2 million tourists each year, many of them from outside India. Locals carry out their daily rituals on the banks of the Ganges. Hindus believe that taking a dip in the Ganges washes away one’s sins and being cremated on the banks of the Ganges River will lead to salvation.
Varanasi is a city of contradictions. It is beautiful and dirty; it is loud and serene; there is the constant peddling of everything from boat rides to pashminas amidst a rich practice of spirituality; there is extreme poverty and wealth; and there are glimmers of compassion among a lot of human and animal suffering.
Street Dogs in India
The Indian pariah dog (also called the INDog or Indian Native Dog) is estimated to have existed for 14,000 years or more. Given its tendency to be a street dog, it is not recognized as a breed by many Indian dog clubs, although it is the known descendent of many recognized breeds. Affluent Indians have tended to value western purebreds and keep them as status-symbols, leading to the name pariah dog for the native dogs in India.
India has an estimated 25 million dogs, the majority of which are street dogs. This creates an environment where millions of dogs and people live together in close quarters; accordingly, India accounts for almost 40% of all rabies deaths worldwide.
Pariah dogs are known to have an adaptable, friendly nature, high intelligence and trainability and overall good health, as they have evolved for survival. Although a very tiny percentage of pariah dogs in India are kept as family pets, many are treated as neighbourhood or community dogs – in villages and city slums, they are very often free-roaming pets of specific individuals or families, given food and usually even names. For many of the dogs, however, a life of living on the streets often means that these dogs must forage in garbage heaps for food scraps, suffer from starvation, extreme heat and cold, and are sadly abused by people who find them to be a nuisance.
Pariah dogs usually breed only once per year (compared to many other breeds that can breed twice per year). A rough estimate is that one female pariah dog who lives to be 10 years old and who has 7 litters in that duration can create almost 18,000 other dogs over her lifetime alone, when taking into account the litters of her offspring. This has resulted in a huge street dog overpopulation issue, which only intensifies the suffering, abuse, and incidences of rabies.
Dogs in Varanasi
As many as 150,000 dogs live in Varanasi, the vast majority of which are street dogs. Street dogs survive on hand-outs and on scraps found on the streets. There is no government funding for Animal Birth Control or rabies vaccinations, and very minimal support from locals for street dogs in need.
When we (the founders of Dogs of the Ganges Society) visited Varanasi for the first time in December 2012, our hearts were immediately captured by the plight of street dogs there. They were everywhere – in the old alleyways, in the middle of traffic roundabouts, on the banks of the Ganges River, and in the garbage heaps. In a short period of time we witnessed a lot of hunger, malnourishment, injuries, mange, disease, overbreeding, and abuse – and immediately knew that we had to do something to help.
VISION & MISSION
Our vision is that all street dogs in India have access to medical care, are spayed/neutered, and are treated with compassion by the community in which they live.
The MISSION of Dogs of the Ganges Society is:
- to reduce the street dog population in India through spaying and neutering
- to provide medical care to all street dogs that require it
- to educate the community about the importance of caring and controlling the population of dogs
- to create and maintain a presence in the community and provide an opportunity for people to care for dogs
Dogs of the Ganges Society is an entirely volunteer-run not-for-profit organization based out of Toronto and incorporated in Ontario, Canada.
The leadership team of Dogs of the Ganges Society include animal lovers who have travelled to India and have felt compelled to do something to better the lives of the dogs there, as well as professionals with strong management skills to ensure that donor funds are effectively and efficiently spent. Our collective experience includes not-for-profit management, fundraising, volunteer and community engagement, strategic planning, and financial management.
How Dogs of the Ganges Society Hope to Accomplish their Mission
Dogs of the Ganges partners with local animal charities in India to provide medical care to sick and injured dogs, provide educational resources about animal care to people in India, inspire children and adults in India to show compassion towards animals, and to build the capacity of local animal lovers to help the dogs in their neighbourhood.
We are an entirely volunteer-run not-for-profit organization based out of Toronto. We raise money in Canada through donations and events, which fund medications, vaccines, veterinary costs, educational material, and other costs related to rescue and care of the dogs. Our current project is in Varanasi, India.
Dogs of the Ganges Society has partnered with the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) to build an animal protection movement in Varanasi and to enable individuals to reduce the suffering of animals in this city.
This project is delivered by local staff and volunteers that:
- facilitate training workshops
- organize community events to encourage compassion towards animals
- conduct outreach/education programs in schools, and
- set up a network of locals who are trained to identify, treat and refer injured or sick street dogs.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Vinyse, Co-Founder of The Dogs of the Ganges Society. Thank you Vinyse for speaking with me about your incredible organization and responding to the following questions:
How often and by what means do you communicate with your team in India?
We get formal project updates on a monthly basis but communicate regularly with our partners to provide direction and to make decisions together. Technology such as email, Skype and What’s App have made it really easy to feel like a team despite the distance.
Derek and I (the founders) visit Varanasi every other year, and every year we have volunteers who spend a few months there each time.
The main goals of our project are to inspire compassion for animals in children and adults through outreach and presentations, and to build the capacity of locals to provide care for street dogs through first aid training, first aid kits and the creation of a volunteer community. While we know that we provide immediate help to street dogs through our first aid efforts, the vision we have of a society that looks out for its animals is undoubtedly a long term goal. That said, we measure the success of our activities through surveys on the condition of the dogs, the number of calls we get on our helpline, and the number of locals who attend our training sessions and participate in responding to calls for help. We also track the number of vets who are willing to help street dogs (which is surprisingly few) and the number of presentations given at local schools – each of these are seen as improving the future.
What positive changes have you seen since starting this project?
Since our project started last October, we have seen a significant growth in the number of volunteers who have attended our first aid training and who actively perform first aid and community outreach with our staff member Amit. Some volunteers have even taken the initiative to replicate the project in their neighbourhood with our assistance. Through our outreach efforts we’ve also seen an increase in the number of calls received on our helpline. In the past, people haven’t had an outlet for their concern for street dogs, but with our project they can now turn their compassion into action by calling us when they see a dog in distress.
Meet the Team:
Derek Barber – Derek traveled to India in late 2012 with the intention of sight-seeing and volunteering. He was in awe at the history of the city but was shocked at the lives of street animals – not only the plights that they face in daily life, but also at the sheer number of them. Upon returning to Canada, he simply wanted to help – to make a difference in the lives of dogs who live each day with hunger and fear. As someone who grew up with dogs and has volunteered with them, he knows that the best way to help the dogs is to empower and teach the people who surround the dogs to make a difference.
Outside of the Dogs of the Ganges Society, Derek has spent the past 20 years working in the financial industry and has volunteered with several groups such as the Pacific Assistance Dogs Society, Canadian Cancer Society, Transition Toronto, Toronto Green Community and Paper Kite Foundation. His passions outside of work and volunteering include vegetable gardening and woodworking.
Vinyse Barber – After visiting Varanasi for the first time in December 2012, Vinyse fell in love with this beautiful city full of contradictions, but more importantly, her heart was captured by the street dogs there. She left Varanasi immediately knowing that she and her husband had to do something to help. Vinyse feels strongly about turning passion to action, and that everyone has the ability to make a difference in the lives of others.
A lifelong animal lover, Vinyse shares her home with her husband, their two dogs, Teaka and Claymore, and they foster palliative cats. After starting a career in the corporate sector as a Chartered Accountant, Vinyse followed her heart and completed a Master’s degree in not-for-profit management. The shift in focus led her to find her calling in the field of volunteer engagement, and she finds nothing more inspiring than going to work every day, speaking with people who want to make a difference.
Manmeet Bhatia – Manmeet’s trip to India and Nepal in 2009 was eye opening in many respects. He had not been to the country of his birth in nearly 20 years and was overwhelmed with how much had changed during those two decades. While there were significant improvements in technology, there remained rampant pollution and poverty. The starving children and animals in the streets were memories that he found difficult to escape. When approached by Dogs of the Ganges Society to assist with the escalating stray dog issue in the region, Manmeet was eager to assist.
Outside of the Dogs of the Ganges Society, Manmeet has worked for nearly twenty years in the financial industry. He has been featured in several publications and is an avid supporter of sustainable investing.
Sara Parmar – A huge animal lover and a vegetarian for over 12 years, Sara shares her home with her husband and their two furry friends, Shadow and Simba. Sara has a huge passion for helping those in need and currently works at a not-for-profit organization helping cancer patients. Her love of animals started at a very young age, so when given the opportunity to join Dogs of the Ganges Society, she joined the team to make a difference in street dogs that live day by day hungry and abused. Sara believes in speaking for those that can’t speak for themselves, and strongly believes every single person can do something small to make a difference. In her spare time she loves to travel and have movie nights at home with her family and friends.
How We Can Help:
Dogs of the Ganges is entirely volunteer-led and volunteer-run, and we rely on the kindness and compassion of supporters to make a difference in the lives of street dogs in India. To follow, is a list provided by the team, outlining all the different ways you can help!
Dogs of the Ganges Society and Mayhew International (UK) are the primary funders of this project.
The objectives of our Varanasi project are to create a culture of compassion towards street dogs through community outreach events and school programs, and to train and build a network of locals to provide first aid and care to street dogs in their community. The primary costs for this project include staffing in India, infrastructure, printing of outreach and educational materials, and first aid supplies.
Foreign donations go a long way in India. Dogs of the Ganges Society is an incorporated not-for-profit based in Canada. Please note, we are not a registered charity with the Canada Revenue Agency (yet) and are therefore not able to issue tax receipts for your donation. We will, however, give you our sincere appreciation and gratitude, and you’ll know that you’re making a difference in the lives of street dogs in India!
As we are an entirely volunteer-led and volunteer-run not-for-profit organization, we rely on the generous donations of time and talent by individuals who want to make a difference in the lives of these dogs. We have opportunities for you to volunteer on a short-term or long-term basis, utilizing the skills that you want to contribute.
Contact us to volunteer your time. We look forward to hearing from you!
Organize a Fundraiser
If you’d like to host your own fundraising event in support of Dogs of the Ganges, we’d love to hear from you! Ideas include bake sales, garage sales, clothing swaps, dinners, and anything else you can think of. Support provided!
Sponsorship, Pro-Bono Services…Be Creative!
If you would like to explore sponsorship opportunities, make in-kind donations, provide pro-bono professional services, or have other creative ideas on how you can help, please contact us!
Learn more about Dogs of the Ganges Society here.