COVID No Bar for Chennai’s Shravan When It Comes to Saving Animals
Shravan Krishnan runs the Besant Memorial Animal Dispensary in Chennai, a rehabilitation centre for injured animals.
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
Cameraperson & Producer: Smitha TK
Shravan Krishnan is no stranger to Chennai or the world of animals. ‘Snake man’ is how someone introduced him to me back in 2015, when floods ravaged the city. People were panicking as reptiles entered their homes.
Shravan didn’t just respond to numerous rescue calls during the floods and over the past decade, but kept reiterating his words – “be kind to animals”.
Today, the 30-year-old is running the Besant Memorial Animal Dispensary in Chennai for the Theosophical Society , a rehabilitation centre taking care of injured, ill and abused animals.
A Natural Habitat for Furries
The facility once run by Blue Cross Chennai located in Besant Nagar, Chennai, was taken over by the activist over four years ago. With just one vet and 60 animals, he built a loving shelter, with the help of the help of the society and public support, for dogs, cats, cows, sheep, goats, horses, camels, pigs and even hawks!
If you are in Chennai and want to aid any injured animal and your calls to the forest ministry has gone in vain, then Shravan is your man.
“We had a little bit of crowdfunding to revamp it with the help . Initially, we had about 60 animals, one veterinarian and one caretaker. In the last four years, we've grown into a pretty big organisation. We have 30 people and close to 200 animals, 4 full-time veterinarians, an ambulance,” he said.
Nestled in the 150-year-old lush green of the Theosophical Society, the facility is not just a hospital but a natural habitat for the animals.
Trauma, Abuse, Neglect
Chennai’s beaches are known for their horsehides but the coronavirus pandemic has shut down all activities for over seven months. Knowing that many were unable to feed and take care of the animals as they had no income, Shravan offered them some money in exchange for the animals.
“Race horses are kept in stables most of the time. They get into boredom, psychological issues. So this horse, Captain, does crib biting where he bites the bars of the stable and sucks the air in. We are trying to get him out of it. Grazing helps, as does interacting with other horses,” he said.
Naachiyaar was a camel that was given up by a temple near Chennai. Once malnourished and worn out, she is now a magnificent healthy animal, who loves her green treats.
The caretakers once got a call about a cow with an ingrown horn. She was in great pain. The veterinarians performed a surgery and today she’s hale and hearty.
A Shelter for All
The dispensary has about 22 in-patient units. They rescue dogs that have been injured due to road accidents, have maggot wounds, tumours, require amputations or are suffering from kidney failures.
Once they are treated and recovered, an Animal Birth Control surgery is performed to neuter or spay them. They are then released where they were picked up from.
“To find compassionate veterinarians was the biggest challenge. Not many work at shelters as one, it is not a highly paid job compared to what it is in other places. Secondly, it is a lot of dirty work. You see a lot of traumatic cases every day.”Shravan Krishnan, Animal Activist
As for the bigger animals, the dispensary and the forest is their forever home. The space is also home to over hundred dogs that have been residing in the space.
The main objective of the space was not just to create good facilities for stray animals, Shravan explained, but also to help out people from economically backward communities who want to ensure their furries are healthy.
“We have people from fishing hamlets, autowallahs, ironwallahs who cannot afford treatment in a private clinic. Vaccination costs a lot of money. So we try to do it at a subsidised price and for those who can't afford; it is absolutely free,” he said.
Working Through The Pandemic
Shravan’s team has been on their toes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic as many pets were found abandoned.
“We raised some funds and distributed dog food to people around the city so that they could feed stray dogs. We mobilised close to 2,000 kgs of dog food. For horses, we helped out by giving some wheat bran, grass,” he said.
The team has rescued several dogs from the houses of people who tested positive and left for quarantine, leaving their pets behind
“During the lockdown period when there were no cars or bikes going around the dogs started relaxing on the streets. But every time there was a lift in the lockdown then the cars and back and the dogs don’t realise there is no lockdown anymore. And they get hit by cars. So we got a lot of fracture cases during the initial lockdown period,” Suraj Mohan, the veterinarian said.
“When you have a pet animal with you, it is a lifelong commitment, it is like a family member,” the humble animal activist said, urging people to create a kinder world for animals to live in.
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