CHENNAI: Sweltering days (and nights) of sweat-drenched clothes are back. While the summer of 2020 will remain unforgettable for all the wrong reasons, but it sure has also come as a blessing for humans — who can stay indoors, order in, or make a few glasses of chilled juice and relax in front of the air-conditioners. But let’s spare a thought for our four-legged friends on the streets who are left hungry and irritable.
In the past two months, while many Good samaritans have been doing their bit to take care of strays, yet there are several canines and felines — especially in non-residential areas — waiting for respite and some food. Recognising the immediate requirement for action, a team from Blue Cross of India began feeding strays in a few non-residential areas near Guindy and Velachery.
“Our Citizen Feeder Program started on the second day of the lockdown. We also changed our help desk announcement urging callers to feed the animals on their streets,” says Vinod Kumar, general manager admin, Blue Cross India (BCI). Apart from the 2,000 animals housed within their premises, the team has been feeding a cooked concoction of rice, toor dal, turmeric powder, ghee, soya powder and milk to over 1,000 animals on the streets as well, every day. Despite the powered efforts, the team couldn’t cover the length and breadth of the city due to lack of workforce.
“Overnight, we created a network of 140 citizen feeders around the city and began supplying food to them,” says Velu TM, manager of special operations at Blue Cross of India. Those who had volunteered with the Blue Cross earlier or have actively responded to the help desk are currently part of the programme.
They received positive responses from citizens staying around Puzhal lake, north Chennai, Tiruverkadu in the west, Sholinganallur along OMR and, Selayiur and Tambaram in the south. “We put together an outdoor team who would follow these particular routes and distribute rations to feeders who had signed up with us,” says Velu. Fortunately, the four routes they had planned to cover coincided with the areas from where volunteers called.
Of these feeders, Vignesh, a resident at Tiruverkadu, has fed over 3,300 animals. “I first began feeding around 50 dogs in my community. They would bark all night and the puppies would cry throughout the day. I realised how difficult it would have been for the Blue Cross to reach out to all the strays in need during this time, and decided to help them,” he says.
Devi S, a resident of Ambattur, has so far fed over 3,000 animals, including stray cattle, cats and dogs, in her area, with the rations provided by the BCI. “I have seen the dogs in my vicinity since they were puppies. A few days after the lockdown they seemed feeble and weak due to lack of food. This programme gave me the opportunity to help them out and see them energetic, guarding our streets again,” she says.
Although the distribution of rations is a weekly programme, the BCI team has been working every day. “We begin at 3 am preparing food for the animals. We finish feeding the animals before it gets too hot outside. Every available employee and volunteer has stepped up and is working tirelessly for the cause. Animals are very much part of our population. We have been looking out for them all these years and we must not forget them during this crisis,” says Dawn Williams, general manager, disaster management and rescue at Blue Cross of India.
The BCI has been funding the initiative with donations and support from Help Animals India, Four Paws International. HCL Foundation, Jain Trade Organisation, Aranya Foundation and Tamil Nadu Animal Welfare Board. They have also been supported locally by Aavin with dairy provisions. The team, along with the citizen feeders have fed around 70,000 strays. It has mapped out four routes along which they assign pickup points to deliver the rations. They seek to expand their area of coverage depending on the volunteers who sign up with the Citizen Feeder Program. One can enrol in the Citizen Feeder Program by contacting Vinod at 9884881355.
The BCI has been funding the initiative with donations and support from Help Animals India, Four Paws International. HCL Foundation, Jain Trade Organisation, Aranya Foundation and Tamil Nadu Animal Welfare Board.