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Pune residents barking mad over ‘unkempt’ animal shelters

Residents’ love for dogs and the rising number of Good Samaritans trying to help stray, abandoned and injured animals in Pune has led to incidents of quarrels and fights among neighbours.

pune Updated: Jun 02, 2018 15:39 IST
Shalaka Shinde
Shalaka Shinde
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,residents,animal shelter
Mission Possible animal shelter in Gurunanak nagar treats and takes care of abandoned, injured, sick, abused or maggot-infected animals. Due to its proximity to housing societies, many residents complain of filthy surroundings and foul smell.(Sanket Wankhade/HT PHOTO)

Residents’ love for dogs and the rising number of Good Samaritans trying to help stray, abandoned and injured animals in Pune has led to incidents of quarrels and fights among neighbours.

One such conflict is centred on Mission Possible, a shelter for dogs and cats in a residential neighbourhood at Gurunanak Nagar on Shankar Sheth road. Registered as a charitable trust and located in the property owned by Padmini Stump, an animal rights activist, the self-sufficient shelter for dogs and cats is run by Stump, along with Dr Ravi Kasbekar, an oncologist, and four to five workers, who live on the premises.

“We provide dogs and cats, who were abandoned, injured, sick, abused or maggot-infected, with a place to live. People simply leave them here. Some of them donate, but most leave the animals in our care,” said Stump.

During a recent visit to the neighbourhood, Stump’s neighbours Neeta Parikh and her husband Dr Bharat Parikh, both sexagenarians, spoke of their problems with the dog shelter next door. Their gardener showed a swab of bloodied cotton which had landed in their compound, shared with the animal shelter.

Claiming the animal shelter for their illness, Neeta said, “All three of us have suffered mosquito-borne viral infections, which affected our platelet count and joints, in the past two years,” said Neeta Parikh. She alleged that it was caused by the dirty water from the shelter and the filth left behind by stray dogs, who gather around the food for strays kept by Padmini at night.

While Stump is well known for her apathy towards stray animals, the nuisance suffered by her immediate neighbours has been trivialised and the people who raise concerns have been demonised, alleged Dr Bharat.

The animal shelter was recently taking care of an injured and maggot-infected German Shepherd, an injured dog with kidney failure; and cats, kept in seven to eight cages. One cat had lost her rear left limb, while a kitten was recovering from an infection. The cages of the cats were kept in front of the windows that open to the kitchen of another neighbourhood family, the Khans.

Jameela Sheikh, 47, who lives with her mother’s family, said that they have to bear with the stink and filth from the infected animals. She complained that the animals’ hair was cut and burnt in front of their kitchen.

“It is the month of Ramadan and we wake up to break our fast and find hair and smoke in front of our kitchen,” said Shaikh. “My brother Javed, who suffers from a heart condition, had to be send to Rampur (near Muradabad, Uttar Pradesh) to my younger sister’s house, after he contracted a lung infection from the pollution caused by the animal shelter,” she said.

“They have problems with having animals around them. Look at their (unkempt) backyard, which is also my land. How are they complaining about hygiene in the good work that we are doing?” said Stump after hearing about the complaints from the Khan family.

The workers of Mission Possible clean, administer medicines and pet and monitor animals in the area, a physically demanding job as the animals are mostly in pain. The labour of animal care takes most of the hours almost every day for the caretakers.

One can see the cages of dogs, including a Saint Bernard and a Rottweiler, located in the far end of the passage that begins at the entrance of the building. These cages are in front of the drawing room of a house shared by Cathreena Gulati, 65, and her daughter Sonia Gulati, 31. While Stump said that they do not pay rent, Cathreena said that she has a 45-year-old agreement and pays rent in cash every month.

In March 2018, a case was registered against Sonia for assaulting Stump. The incident was caught on CCTV cameras, installed by both Stump and Gulatis in an attempt to fortify the place, as a verbal assault turned into a violent fight between the Gulatis and Stump. The three women got into a fight after the Gulati mother-daughter duo said something offensive to Stump. A case was registered against Sonia for the incident. “I had sustained a spine injury in the incident,” said Stump.

According to Stump, the Gulati mother-daughter duo has not only been occupying 1,000 square feet of her land without paying rent, but are also spreading false rumours about her. Sonia rejected the allegation and said they too are animal lovers and vegans. According to her, what they were against was the disposal of plastic and medical waste in the area and the conduct of medical procedures in the open.

“All the activists and animal-lovers who are demonising us are welcome to live in our house for a month and experience the problem first-hand,” said Anil Kalra, owner of Shakti Sports, who lives in the area. The others who have registered their complaints, include Anil Kalra, Sanjay Khurana, Ramesh Khurana, Ajay Khurana, Vanita Paniwani and Dr Ramesh Khade.

The long standing issue has led to police action, local government intervention and media coverage earlier.

First Published: Jun 02, 2018 15:34 IST