A convivial companion: Veterinary student becomes saviour for stray animals in Delhi

With citizen donations, 23-year-old Vibha Tomar started giving soya chunks, bread, milk, and balanced food such as Pedigree to these animals.

Published: 22nd September 2021 07:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd September 2021 07:55 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

The pandemic brought about a paradigm shift in our lives — it changed the way we dress, work, socialise, and more. But, with support systems soon in place, we were able to adapt and cope with this crisis. Unfortunately, this was not the case with community animals.

When people stayed cooped up in their homes to avoid the virus, stray cats, dogs, and other animals had almost no one to fall back on. Of course, a few survived by foraging through garbage. But, a number of these strays stayed hungry. 

It was during this time that Vibha Tomar (23) decided to take matters into her own hands. A veterinary student at Arawali Veterinary College, Rajasthan, Tomar says, “I came to Delhi [her hometown] before the first wave of COVID. I realised that because of COVID, the number of rescues and foster animals in shelter homes started increasing. Many animals were also abandoned.”

With people moving back to their hometowns, a few strays that were regularly fed remained hungry. Tomar adds, “The strays were left with no one to feed them. There was no source of food available as colonies, markets, etc., were shut, and no one was coming out. The dogs would often fight with each other for food scraps from the garbage.” 

Vibha Tomar caring for stray animals

This is when Tomar, now a Lakshmi Nagar resident, started feeding stray animals in her neighbourhood. After preparing home-cooked food by mixing rice and chicken pieces, she would feed the strays near her then-home in Sarojini Nagar.

Tomar says, “I fed 50 stray cats and dogs on the first day. Slowly, I received messages on social media, with people requesting me to feed the strays they couldn’t help. Someone would request me ‘Please go to Janpath as I used to feed 10 dogs there’; someone else asked me to visit Ansal Plaza to feed 30 strays.” 

With citizen donations, Tomar started giving soya chunks, bread, milk, and balanced food such as Pedigree to these animals.

Tomar says, “In the first lockdown, I fed 350 dogs. Later, I also started feeding cats, monkeys, and stray animals across Delhi.”

During the second lockdown, Tomar’s friends joined in and they fed around 500 animals.

The team of three would drive in two groups to different areas: one towards Central Delhi, and another covering areas in South Delhi.

Once the lockdown restrictions were lifted, people were back to feeding strays.

Tomar, now, only takes care of a few animals, “I have eight strays at home (five dogs and three cats). Apart from that, a girl volunteered to feed a few cats near my home in Sarojini Nagar, so I send her food everyday as well. I also feed 15 dogs on alternate days near Sarojini Nagar.”

Earlier in June, a landmark judgment by the Delhi High Court stated that animal lovers have the right to feed community dogs in designated areas (within the territory of the dogs), which they will have to work out with local authorities or resident welfare associations.

Calling it a victory moment for many, Tomar says, "It's definitely a great move. More often than not, people who feed strays are ill-treated by residents who don't like animals. I was happy that at last, something good happened for those who feed and look out for these hungry, voiceless animals." 

Through her animal shelter Oscar For Life, which she started a few years ago in memory of her pet dog Oscar, Tomar has also launched a number of initiatives.

Apart from healing wounded stray animals and keeping water bowls in different parts of the city, she also makes tyre beds filled with sack for them so they can survive the Delhi winter.

Recently, she started putting reflective collars on stray cats and dogs so they’re visible to drivers at night.

As of now, Tomar is on a mission to create and distribute animal-capturing nets, which she’s crafted using hula hoops and heavy-duty containment nets.

She concludes, “There are many kids who want to help bruised animals, but they can’t catch them because of the fear that they might get bitten. The usual rope and stick method (mostly used by dog catchers) is uncomfortable for animals. The nets I make will be in different sizes (for big and small animals). Since they’re both soft and durable, there are less chances that an animal will panic because of it or is further injured."

India Matters


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