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The pet project

A pro-active group of animal lovers scattered all over Goa has been connecting helpless critters to loving homes since 2017. NT BUZZ gets candid with the founder of the group, Nyra Azavedo

ANNA FERNANDES | NT BUZZ 

The number of strays and abandoned pets navigating through the chaotic streets of Goa is at its peak. With shelters stretched beyond their capacity and illegal breeders on the prowl, thousands of helpless animals are forced to fend for themselves or face a fate far worse. But a pro-active group of animal lovers (@lostpets_and_petadoption_goa on Instagram and Lost Pets and Pet Adoption on Facebook) is determined to protect these creatures at all costs and be the voice for the voiceless.

Founder of the group, Nyra Azavedo reveals that it all began in September 2017. “My pet cat had gone missing. And despite asking around in the neighbourhood, circulating posters, and searching for him in probable zones, he was nowhere to be found,” she says. Azavedo soon turned to social media to seek out animal welfare groups that could help. “While there were none specific to Goa, I came across a few Goan groups where I did seek help. But I never
managed to find my cat.”

Realising that the pain of losing a pet wasn’t exclusive to her; and that several others had had their pets go missing, she decided to create a platform to report lost and missing pets. The Instagram account came first, followed by the Facebook page.

Initially, Azavedo would post listings of lost pets but as the situation of dumping and abandoning of animals got worse she decided to take pet adoption under her wing as well. “My goal was to ensure that no family would feel the same pain and helplessness I felt upon losing a pet. I didn’t want any animal to die a miserable death owing to the pathetic actions of bad humans. I wanted the public to have a platform to ask for help and help others in their shoes as well,” says the 23-year-old animal rescue and adoption agent.

The platform soon grew with likeminded individuals and groups coming together in support. In fact, Lost Pets and Pet Adoption Goa is the only animal welfare group in Goa that works hand-in-hand with multiple registered rescues in the state as well as the general public to find animals homes. In particular, Azavedo credits South Goa Welfare of Animals and Rescue Group (SWARG) who along with other animal lovers scattered all over Goa has been instrumental in assisting in finding suitable homes and fosters for animals without guardians, supporting and promoting spay/neuter programmes, and educating the public on matters regarding animal welfare.

Till date, the platform has helped facilitate 162 adoptions and has had six cases of pets who were found. “One adoption that stands out would be of two little chicks who were adopted by a family who raised chickens. They had a brooding hen who took to the chicks within minutes,” says Azavedo. Besides connecting rescues to forever homes and finding lost pets, the group also began carrying out fundraising drives on social media for animal causes, says Azavedo, adding that followers on social media have been extremely generous with their contributions.

But the woes of animals continue to rise. “It’s not an easy life that animals live. Loss of habitat, starvation, people who harass feeders, animal abusers, animal breeders, animal sacrificers, people who dump infant pups and kittens in markets or water bodies as soon as they’re born, pet owners who do not give any kind of medical attention to pets, pet abandoners, are just a few of the problems,” says Azavedo. The overpopulation of strays is another very real crisis on the streets of Goa. Breeding among stray animals cannot be controlled and this results in the next generation of stray animals who are left to the mercy of fate. Sterilising and vaccinating the dogs who live in communities effectively and humanely is one solution to control their population, prevent rabies, and reduce human-dog conflicts.

And while the group leaves no stone unturned in striving to find homes for animals, the process has proved to be challenging. “There are people who refuse to neuter pets and keep coming back to ask for their pet’s litters to be homed. Requests to neuter fall on deaf ears,” says Azavedo. She reveals that breed mongers are another issue. “They will ignore posts of local cats and dogs, many whose lives are in danger, but have their doors open to breeds.” Similarly, some people’s idea of owning a dog is keeping it chained in the balcony, she adds.

And it is for this reason that once an adoption goes through, the group stays in touch with the family to assist with any hiccups during the transition. House checks post-adoption to ensure that the pet is well looked after is also part of the adoption process. Another mandatory rule is the sterilisation of adopted pets.

A strong advocate for the ‘Adopt, don’t shop’ ethos, Azavedo urges the public to learn to look past the breed of an animal while looking for a pet to take home. “Do not buy pets from pet shops and breeders when you can literally pick one from the streets or your local shelter. Very few people know animal shelters exist. Most shelters will provide vaccines and sterilisation for animals adopted from them free of cost. They will not charge a fee for adoption either.”

“If you dislike animals, leave them alone,” she pleads. “Do not harm them or harass those who take it upon their shoulders to care for them.” She draws attention to the anguish that snakes go through and the acts of violence committed against them when even the most harmless of them is sighted. “Most snakes killed are harmless and are in fact good for the environment. Instead of killing them, evacuate the room, and call the Forest Department to take action.”

Caring for animals, she says, is as simple as sterilising your pets, putting tags with your contact details on the collars of your pets, and reporting animal abusers to the authorities. “We need to be compassionate towards birds, animals and the environment as a whole. We should stop destroying nature in the name of development and put in more money into animal welfare. We have no right to complain that animals encroach on our land when it’s actually the other way around. Animal abuse laws need to be changed to ensure stricter punishment for offenders,”
she says.

The lockdown hasn’t been kind to animals either. While they can’t get sick from COVID-19, that doesn’t mean that the pandemic hasn’t been a threat to animal shelters, rescue organisations and the thousands of homeless, helpless animals they care for. Azavedo reveals that during the lockdown, a number of animal lovers online and offline banded together to form a WhatsApp group called Crisis Animal Feeding. “Since the lockdown was announced, this group has been tirelessly scaling several parts of Goa to ensure that animals go to sleep on full bellies. The group currently has 90 members,” she says adding that due to hard times, funds are tight, and any monetary aid or food donations would
help enormously.

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