Meet 8 Of Mumbai's Animal Heroes - They’re An Inspiring Lot

Meet 8 Of Mumbai's Animal Heroes - They’re An Inspiring Lot

Anita Shyam is a foster parent. Her genuine care and compassion for animals extends beyond the obvious mollycoddling, to getting the abandoned, weak, hurt and affected beings home, looking after them like they were her own, nursing them back to health, and then offering them up for adoption to equally affectionate people like her - or finding them ‘forever homes’ as the coined-for-social-media term goes these days.

Despite a gruelling fight for space, it would appear that the city’s also (thankfully) housing several people with hearts that are bigger than the issue, willingly dedicating their time and resources towards the welfare of animals. Indeed, a large number of animal lovers are involved in a gentle crusade to make the city a more conducive place for the co-existence of animals and people. Knowing several such people personally, we became involved in uncovering other such inspiring individuals who are on similar quests for a cruelty-free city for animals in need. Whether they are individually looking after stray animals in their area, fostering the helpless, or mobilizing more like-minded support for their cause, Homegrown salutes Bombay’s fur-friendly purveyors of kindness.

[We do acknowledge that we may have missed out on countless other such individuals and organizations so please tell us about them in the comments section below.]

The Individual Crusaders

We were overwhelmed to discover just how many individuals have taken up the cause with no outside help, focussing instead on doing what they can to help animals in need, in their own time and in the way they feel they can contribute best. Needless to say, they are all hugely instrumental in making our city a more compassionate place to live in. 

I. Jennylou Bhiwanibiwalla & Lorrine Abraham - Guardian Angels For Bandra’s Street Dogs

“We tried to form our own organisation, but there’s just so much red tape – we don’t have the time for that, we just want to help the dogs.”

“The idea is to make sure that these stray dogs are friendly, safe, sterilised, rabies-free and well-fed,” says Jennylou Bhiwanbiwalla. Since the sterilisation programme has begun in the country, Lorrine Abraham and she had been volunteering at the NGO Ahimsa – ‘in the very primitive stages of their involvement’ – for about three years. Jennylou has been working with stray dogs for almost 25 years now in total, driving around in her mini-van and using volleyball nets to ensnare difficult, injured and flailing dogs before taking them to the hospital. She likes to think of themselves as ‘dog catchers, but more humane’.

Having started off taking care of the 50-odd dogs in the backyard of her Bandra home, she has overseen 3, 500 sterilisations in her time of working with strays. “I started by feeding them and then picking them up and taking them to the hospital. Progress was slow initially, municipality was trying to stop sterilisation and bring back the norm of killing dogs at the pound. Today, a lot of people are feeding strays in Bandra, I feed about 350 dogs myself. I learnt how to administer vaccines and get it at a discounted rate from the pharmaceutical companies.”

But interaction with so many stray dogs, a lot of whom have diseases of various kinds, has its own downfalls. It is important to take precautions so as to not contract a disease yourself and Jennylou agrees when asked about this. “We’ve had a couple of scares in the past. There was a dog whom we suspected had rabies. I was syringing food into its mouth when it sort of spat up on me – rabies is contracted by saliva – and the dog unfortunately died that night. I just took the whole gamut of seven injections as precaution.

I have never been bitten by a stray dog before – all the time by my dogs at home, but not stray ones. Dogs do bite when they’re in fear, feeling threatened or when they’re defending themselves, though, so it’s important to take precautions.” Lorinne also provided Homegrown some context for the work she and Jennylou have been doing, “We’re basically a group of housewives who are animal lovers, and we started off working with Ahimsa helping out with sterilisation, feeding and walking dogs and relocating them back to the areas they were picked up from. First, as a part of Ahimsa, I’d drive around Bandra in my Qualis with a hundred food bowls trying to catch the dogs. The whole initiative is funded from our own pockets, although people do donate when they see us working. Back in our Ahimsa days though, where Jennylou and I met, she used to do all the cooking of the food for her dogs in her kitchen. We tried to form our own organisation, but there’s just so much red tape – we don’t have the time for that, we just want to help the dogs. We’re getting on in years though, now, and it’s hard to do all the running around that we did those many years ago. We’ve employed two people under us currently, one of whom is an absolute animal-lover who has a real knack for handling the dogs.”

II. Sailesh Mehta (AKA ‘Sailesh Bhai’) - Saviour Of The Sick

“He’s a real animal lover. If anyone calls him and tells him that a dog is sick, they give him a call and he picks them up and gets them to the nearest hospital.” 

In Bai Sakerbai Dinshaw Petit Hospital in Parel, Sailesh Mehta is affectionately referred to as ‘Sailesh bhai’, known by many as the person to call if they see a dog in need of help. Anil Pachupate, who works at the hospital, explained matter-of-factly to us, “He’s a real animal lover. If anyone calls him and tells him that a dog is sick, they give him a call and he picks them up and gets them to the nearest hospital. His work is very much a part of his life now. Although he has no official training and does not operate, he’s always been around the hospital so he knows how to carry out basic medical aid, so he does any malam-patti that’s required.”

[If you wish to contact Sailesh Bhai, you can reach him at the B.S.P.C.A on +91-22-24137518 | 24135285 | 24135434]  

III. Anjali & Aditi Mody - Initiators Of The Doggie Day Out Project At B.S.P.C.A.

“Animal hospitals here are not run exceptionally well, so we want to raise awareness towards the situation of these dogs, some of which have been there for years.”

Sisters Anjali and Aditi Mody are two other individuals in the city who are taking matters into their own hands with their initiative, ‘Doggie Day Out’ as a part of which they organise an informal volunteer group’s visits to an animal hospital. “The idea is to raise awareness about animal hospitals, and get people to interact with the animals. People come there every weekend and take dogs out for walks for four-five hours a day, sometimes helping with the feeding as well. We want to get people acquainted with strays, and to spread compassion. We have not been getting a lot of footfalls lately though. We’re trying to build a system, and create a sort of filter – by organising a training module before these sessions, we want to teach people how to deal with strays as it can be tricky sometimes, especially for people who haven’t interacted with them before. We hope to start this in the next few months, and this is a really important programme since animal hospitals here are not run exceptionally well, so we want to raise awareness towards the situation of these dogs, some of which have been there for years.”

[You can contact Anjali and Aditi Mody via email -]

IV. Bharti Shah (AKA ‘Bharti Ben’), Suresh Naidu & Krishna Raj - Crusaders Against Cruelty

“There’s a lot of cruelty towards animals. We’ve found dogs thrown from bridges or on train tracks, from where we rescue them. We also help cats, cows and pigeons in need.”

In Wadala, Sion, King’s Circle, Matunga and Dadar, Bharti Shah – known affectionately as ‘Bharti ben’ has taken it upon herself to feed the dogs milk, biscuits and pedigree, of her own initiative along with Suresh Naidu and Krishna Raj. The group is often joined by like-minded individuals as well. “There’s a lot of cruelty towards animals we find,” she shares with Homegrown. “We really need help from NGOs in terms of resources, such as medicines, which we generally get through donations. We’ve found dogs thrown from bridges or on train tracks, from where we rescue them and try and administer oral medicines. We also help cats, cows and pigeons in need.” Suresh Naidu, who has trained under Dr Siloo, a veterinarian, has been coming to the aid of stray animals for the past 18-19 years, helping out with first aid before taking them to the hospital. He works in an office in the mornings, but spends most of his evenings and his entire weekends helping these ailing animals.

The Organisational Crusaders

And then there are the few who’ve attempted to mobilize their individual efforts into full-fledged organisations with the power to impact more animal lives than they possibly could on their own.

I. World For All/ Save The Helpless Animals of Mumbai - Creating Foster Networks, Finding Forever Homes & Initiating Adoptathons Since 2006

“Over the years we have built a network of animal lovers, as potential foster homes, who cannot adopt for various reasons. Between social media and this network, we’ve done over 4500 adoptions till date.”

One of the organisations we’ve followed most closely since its inception, involved in an endless pursuit for the animals of the city is the non-profit, is World for All/Save the Helpless Animals of Mumbai. Founded by Ruchi Nadkarni and Taronish Bulsara in 2006, what started as a small network of animal lovers dedicated to care for the animals of Mumbai has now slowly grown to a large community-involved organisation. Anita, who left her job six months ago to join WFA full time, swears by the organisation’s commitment to the cause.

She explains, “We don’t have a shelter where we keep all the animals that are up for adoption. Instead over the years we have built a network of animal lovers who cannot adopt for various reasons (students / people likely to move abroad / people with pets and lots of free space etc.) We pick up the animal from the street, get it checked and groomed at our vet, send them over to the foster for it to get friendly around humans and start opening up to love and care. In the meantime, we start posting ads on Facebook, give them cutesy names, describe their personality, talk about where they came from etc.

These posts include our numbers / email ids. When a potential adopter calls in, we have a phone interview to ascertain whether they are a good suitable home, a home check to meet the people they live with and then we complete the adoption with forms. All adoptions are free, the only mandatory condition being a sterilisation at 6 months of age, regardless of the gender of the animal. We’ve done over 4500 adoptions till date.”

A picture from World For All's annual calendar shoot to raise awareness about animals in distress, featuring Soha Ali Khan and Kunal Khemu.

It is indeed this level of efficiency and care taken by WFA that has led many animal lovers to turn into benefactors of the organisation. Ambarin Afsar, a features writer, swears by the work done by WFA, as she recounts her story. Ambarin approached WFA to adopt two cats instead of one, so they would have each other to settle in much easier as well.

She asserts, “The WFA guys are the real heroes. You approach them, and express interest. They talk to you, do a background check, a home check too, since there are a lot of horror stories. They do the real work, even looking after pets abandoned by others. When people would return the pet, they would do everything that can be done, from convincing the parent to reconsider, to keeping the animal in foster and asking around for future adopters.” WFA also organises an annual festival Adoptathon, where they hold exhibitions and encourage patrons to adopt on the spot.

II. The Plant and Animal’s Society + The Bombay Society For Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals + Defence Of Animals

Various other organisations in Mumbai also look to secure the welfare of the animals in the city. The Plant and Animals Society is a people’s favourite organisation that has been involved in securing a more favourable situation for the plants and animals of Mumbai. In Defence of Animals and The Bombay Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are two other organisations that have taken serious steps to aid animals in need of help and concern. But most often than not, what troubles any organisation is the lack of funds. The community of animal lovers, however generous, is much smaller in comparison with the help that is required. The amenities often fall short, and since most organisations are non-profit, they are always on the lookout for funds.

A volunteer from Plants & Animals Society nurses an injured bird. Source:

III. Pet Santa - Securing Monetary Funds For Those Who Work For The Welfare Of Animals

“Pet Santa is aimed at is being a not-for-profit that raises funds for animal welfare, and distributes it among animal welfare NGOs, tracking their spending of the monies, and ensuring that donations are used well.”

It is to help all of the above that Pet Santa came into being. Founded by Abhishek Agarwal, it looks to secure monetary funds for organisations, both government and non-profit who work for the welfare of animals. Abhishek explains, “This initiative started out as a simple one time activity to raise money for the BSPCA, after I happened to visit the facility to care for a close friend’s dog. I saw the conditions there and recognised the dire need of funding. Since then, given the success of this one time activity that I initially attempted, and encouraged by the motivation and support from people - I decided to take this forward. What Pet Santa is aimed at is being a not-for-profit that raises funds for animal welfare, and distributes it among animal welfare NGOs, tracking their spending of the monies, and ensuring that donations are used well.” This surge of people willing to help has given the furry, four-legged inhabitants of the city much respite. But it doesn’t stop here. What is important is that there be growing levels of inclusiveness among the city’s people towards any animal they see scurrying on the street, or sleeping in their shed. And these animal heroes need to be commended at every level for trying to make this city a more compassionate place.

IV. YODA - Youth Organisation in Defence of Animals

“Without the gift of speech and the curse of malice, hate and jealousy, animals are by far the least fortunate in the world, with all the world’s evil deeds done to them. Their happiness only lies in good one deed towards them from us. LOVE. If you’re an animal lover but know that you cannot adopt a long-term pet, you can get in touch with us and you can foster one for a couple of weeks, until a permanent home is found.”

Mumbai-based NGO Youth Organization in Defense of Animals (YODA) works towards the benefit of animals, taking on various activities such as rescuing, re-homing, sterilizing, transporting, fostering, and medically treating animals, to name a few. Over four years, they have rescued approximately 3500 animals including dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, horses and cattle. It was co-founded by a group of visionary animal enthusiasts - Meenal Rajda, Priya Agarwal, Akarsh Hebbar, Pooja Sakpal, Abhishek Soparkar, Priya Mishra & Priyanshi Mehta. The organisation’s work includes them having to remove animals that have been abandoned, ill-treated, injured or neglected to a different location (shelter, kennel, foster home, permanent home) in their personal vehicles or via an animal transportation service which would benefit the animals’ well-being. For instance, Czar, a great dane was found in Lonavala. When we got him he was just skin and bones. After food, lots of love under fosters Czar showed great improvement and has finally settled down in his permanent home. Finn, a Saluki was a case of neglect and no care or love. They rehabilitated him with medical care and attention and he has found a caring permanent home with Amrit and family and showed major recovery.

*This image is for representational purposes only.*Priyanshi says, “During the monsoons, a lot of kittens get into the engines of cars to try and get warm, and dogs and puppies are often found injured or the lastborn of the litters at puppy mills are killed, because they are the weakest of the lot. We get calls from people, we find these animals and then try to find them homes. It’s surprising how sometimes all you need to do is ask for help - social media is the best thing that’s ever happened to us over the last five years. All we need to do is put up a photo of the animal, and other details, and there’s a network of NGOs that helps us find homes in farmhouses like Alibaug or Lonavala. Since we have day jobs, and are doing this as a hobby, we don’t have a shelter home or office which prompted the question - where do we keep these dogs? The foster system helped us deal with this, so people who couldn’t adopt a pet full time took care of the animals in the days leading up to them finding a permanent home with a suitable family.” Puppy mills are the sworn enemy of YODA, sites of forced breeding where dogs are made to mate to birth exotic breeds of dogs, which are later sold for high values. Unethical and cruel, females are sometimes made to give birth to 20 litters in about 3 years.  “Even the 700 Indian puppy mills we’ve mentioned (in the video) are not an accurate figure because those are only the registered ones,” Priyanshi clarifies. “There’s so much underworld activity that goes on with these that it would take a higher level of intervention than most NGOs or animal-loving individuals are able to accomplish.” YODA also makes sure that an adoption form is filled with every adoption, and they ensure that the dogs are neutered so as to not feed into the cruelty of the illegal breeding that is prevalent in the puppy mill system.

With that, we draw our list to a close but as we mentioned earlier, we do acknowledge that we may have missed out on countless other such individuals and organizations. So if you know of other individuals and organizations who have been making a difference for animals in need over the years, tell us about them in the comment section below.

[If you see an animal in need of help, you can call 9820521218, a private ambulance service based out of Sion that picks them up and transports them to the nearest hospital.]

[If you loved this story, we’re sure you’ll love this one too. It’s a photo story that captures days in the life of Kolkatta’s street dog doctor, Sandip Karan.]