KARACHI: After changing four shelters since July, 2013, the Ayesha Chundrigar Foundation (ACF) continues to raise the dampened spirits and change the fates of the troubled animals of Karachi with the launch of their new animal shelter in Malir Cantt on Saturday.
Spacious, well thought out and colourful, as you enter the shelter, you will most likely be greeted by Robbie and Henry, two Labradors who were rescued by ACF, playfully leaping at you as if to invite you into their new palace, but meaning to inquire who you are at the same time.
Robbie had maggots all over his body, which gave him a severe skin infection, while Henry had a skin infection, lost eye and arthritis. After a long time, they are now settled, happy and on the road to recovery.
Terriers, labs, spaniels, hounds and various other dogs and donkeys freely roamed the grounds clad in their winter warmers, excited to have so many visitors.
Further ahead was a spacious new cattery that allowed the felines to nestle into their little spaces with various types of toys scattered around for when they got bored of their perpetual state of napping.
“Legally, there is no place for an animal shelter in the city, which is why we had to come out here [in Malir] to a farm,” Ayesha Chundrigar told The Express Tribune, adding the last three years of her life have been the most difficult in working towards building a proper shelter. “Animals need a big space so it is actually the perfect place.” It’s quiet and peaceful, too. Our horses and dogs can easily go out for walks, she adds.
Robbie eagerly waiting to greet visitors.
“Can we go to the kittens one more time? They were cute,” seven-year-old Zarrar hopefully asked his mother. In another corner of the yard, 11-year-old Azka could be seen desperately trying to convince her mother to let her adopt one of the white Persian kittens.
A passion project, the shelter is not the only thing Chundrigar is up to. She has her own private counselling practice, too, where she works with acid burn survivors. “This [animal shelter] is just the first project, I’m planning on doing more once this is actually lifted up and is a bit more settled,” she shared.
Azeem Raza Khan and Wajiha Ahmed, the shelter managers, tend to all matters in Chundrigar’s absence. “We have a big team, around 15 people, and everyone is dedicated,” said Chundrigar, informing that with two vets, two managers, one accountant, eight to nine cleaners, two vet assistants and a driver, there are around 15 core team members working for the shelter.
Meanwhile, ACF also hires volunteers from time to time. “It’s my first day here today and I am loving it!” exclaimed student and ACF animal shelter volunteer Bismah Gul.
“I treat them [the animals] like I would treat my pets at home. They’re given the best of everything,” said Chundrigar. “Sometimes people hear of a shelter animal and think ‘oh poor thing’ but they’re not poor things, they’re spoilt brats!”
“At 2,000-square-feet, our new shelter is currently catering to [over] 235 injured, abandoned, abused and stray animals, including dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, horses and kites,” said Ahmed, who was wearing a black shirt showing off Zeus, a wheelchair dog rescued by ACF.
“We have also invited children from the Kiran Foundation in Lyari and children and adults from Darul Sukoon and The Karachi Downs Syndrome Programme to spend the day with our little ones today,” she said.
“Logoon kay liye karne waley bohat hain, ye tou bol bhi nai saktey [There are already many people to do good for humans while animals can’t even speak for themselves],” said Khan.
Champion rolling around the yard in his wheelchair.
“We have around 94 abandoned cats of which around 18 are in quarantine as they have infectious diseases and are under treatment,” informed ACF animal shelter junior admin manager Hira Nehal. “Animals have a place in society, too, and it is wonderful that these animals have a place to move around and play.”
A day spent with royalty
“I am trying to find the cats that were rescued through me,” said Nilofer Maqsood, one of ACF’s fond followers who has helped them with many rescues, while excitedly pointing towards a furry little feline she had rescued who had a neurological disorder.
“I spent my last birthday at their old shelter because being here brings me peace,” she said, adding that it is a great space to connect with animal lovers.
Co-founder of a production house, The Big Picture, Haya Salim who was scouting for good shots for a movie on animals believed that more of similar spaces are needed where animals can interact and feel at home.
“This place looks like heaven, especially for Pakistan,” said Salim, adding that not many people stay committed to such a cause in the long run but Chundrigar did. “Our society badly needs an animal police, too. It is so important to fine those who mistreat dogs, donkeys and other animals,” asserted Salim.
Meanwhile, 11-year-old Hoor-e-Hina aspired to contribute to the cause. “When I grow up, I will open many shelters like this one,” she said, adding that every animal deserves to be taken care of in a good home.
“Internationally, animal rights are as important as human rights,” said Mujtaba Khan who was visiting the shelter with his family. “This girl [Chundrigar] has courage,” he said.
In a small corner of the main shelter yard, ACF had setup a stall selling T-shirts, mugs, calendars and cards – all with stories of the rescued fellows printed on them.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2017.