Ground Reports

Kashmir: These Good Samaritans Are Protecting The Dignity of Local Animals

By Haris Jeelani Toogo, 30 Apr 2023

Anise Shreen, a 28-year-old animal activist hailing from South Kashmir's Anantnag district, is making waves in the region with her passionate advocacy for animal rights. As an engineering graduate employed in the power development department, Shreen has taken it upon herself to champion the cause of animal welfare, firmly believing that all creatures should be given equal rights to live alongside humans in a peaceful society. Her efforts have earned widespread praise and admiration, as she works tirelessly to make a positive difference in the lives of animals across Kashmir.

She also has experience of bringing parrots into her home. However, her father reminded her that birds are meant to fly freely and not be kept in cages for human entertainment. He encouraged people to respect the natural habitats of birds and refrain from caging them. Now, years later, she continues to live by her father's teachings, treating animals with love and care, and inspiring others to do the same.

Shreen joined 'Animal Aid Kashmir', a voluntary group founded in 2020 by Beenish Shabir and Fayik Riyaz from South Kashmir's Anantnag District. The group, now consisting of seventeen volunteers, rescues, feeds, and provides foster care for dogs, cats, and horses in and around Srinagar.

The Anti-Rabies Clinic at Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital received reports of 6,875 cases of animal bites between 1st April 2022 and 31st March 2023, with the majority of cases originating from Srinagar. Activists like Shreen warn that as the population grows, conflicts between humans and animals are likely to increase, leading to a rise in cases of cruelty towards animals.

Amidst concerns of increasing stray dog populations, animal welfare advocates are urging the administration to prioritize sterilization programs. According to experts, sterilization can effectively control animal populations and prevent over-breeding, which can lead to the spread of diseases and cause human-animal conflicts.

Dawood Mohammad, founder and head of "Animal Rescue Kashmir", has been making a positive impact on the lives of animals in need, in Kashmir since 2018. After returning from London, he was struck by the poor condition of stray animals and the lack of resources available to help them. Fueled by a desire to make a difference, he decided to take matters into his own hands and founded "Animal Rescue Kashmir".

Since its inception, the organization has been dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating animals in need throughout the region. With each successful rescue, the frequency of their missions has increased, leading to the organization's expansion into a full-fledged operation.

Dawood, along with his partner Maria, has been successful in expanding "Animal Rescue Kashmir" by appointing over five individuals to the team. With their joint efforts, the organization is able to routinely perform over four rescues each day.

He has highlighted a lack of knowledge and awareness among the people of Kashmir when it comes to animal welfare issues. Dawood shared that their organization often receives both positive and negative responses on social media. "Usually we get good wishes from people across Kashmir, and sometimes we receive negative comments as well, but we always try to ignore the negative part," he added.

Despite the challenges they face, Dawood and his team remain focused on their mission to rescue and rehabilitate animals in need, while also raising awareness and educating people about the importance of animal welfare.

According to Dawood, the monthly expenses of "Animal Rescue Kashmir" amount to approximately 2 lakh. However, the organization only receives about forty thousand in donations. As a result, Dawood and Maria have to pay more than 1 lakh every month out of their own pockets to ensure the operations of the organization can continue. In 2022, "Animal Rescue Kashmir" was awarded the prestigious Shining World Compassion Award for their outstanding efforts towards animal welfare in the region. The award recognizes acts of kindness towards animals and comes with a grant of US$10,000.

Upon receiving the award, Dawood and his team utilized the grant money to purchase an ambulance that is now instrumental in rescuing injured, sick, and distressed animals in Kashmir. The ambulance has greatly enhanced their ability to provide timely and efficient aid to animals in need throughout the region. The recognition and support from the Shining World Compassion Award have not only provided financial assistance to the organization but also served as a source of encouragement and motivation for their continued efforts towards animal welfare.

Shafat Yousuf Shah, a 26-year-old graduate, is currently serving as the social media head for Animal Rescue Kashmir. In his role, he is responsible for keeping track of the number of animals rescued, creating impactful social media videos, and managing the daily call volume received by the NGO. In 2020, a paralyzed dog that was in pain was found near Shah’s home in Habba Kadel, Srinagar. Upon learning about the animal's plight, Shah reached out to Animal Rescue Kashmir. Through social media, Shafat contacted the organization and requested their help. Within an hour, the team from Animal Rescue Kashmir arrived and rescued the dog, providing proper medical treatment and care.

Moved by the dedication and efforts of Animal Rescue Kashmir, Shafat Yousuf Shah continued to stay in touch with the organization and soon began volunteering with them for animal rescues. Given his love for videography and photography, he started contributing to the NGO's social media efforts and eventually took on a full-time role as the social media head. Through his work, Shah creates awareness about animal welfare and rescues by utilizing the power of social media to reach the masses.

Despite the financial challenges, "Animal Rescue Kashmir" continues to make a positive impact on the lives of animals in Kashmir. Through their hard work, dedication, and selflessness, Dawood and his team have rescued and rehabilitated countless animals, raising awareness and inspiring others along the way.

Their story serves as a reminder of the importance of supporting animal welfare organizations and the need for greater awareness and education in communities about the value of animal lives. With continued support and recognition, organizations like "Animal Rescue Kashmir" can continue their vital work in making the world a better place for animals.