Nilufer Irani has always been an avid animal lover. We get in conversation with her about her bond with her pets, and the change that the country desperately needs with respect to animal laws and welfare
HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN A LOVER OF ANIMALS? CAN YOU TELL US HOW THIS CAME ABOUT?
My earliest memory of loving dogs goes back to the age of 3 or 4. It was of my 2 Irish Setters, Bernard and Busy. It was a cold morning in Delhi. Our dogs were sunning themselves. Bernard, the bigger of the two, got up and came towards me so I could cuddle him. He was a large dog and I was tiny. I was shorter than him and when I hugged him, I used to pull myself up. I must have been very young. Secretly Bernard was my favourite! He had the most beautiful nature. My parents always had dogs and I was brought up with strong values of showing empathy and kindness to all animals. They imbibed in me an understanding that all life on this planet is precious and should be respected.
DO YOU BELIEVE ONE HAS TO BE EITHER A CAT PERSON OR A DOG PERSON, OR CAN YOU BE BOTH?
Of course one can love both! Love has no boundaries. We can love cats, dogs, horses and many other animals! It’s just a matter of preference. I have a nephew who loves frogs. He plays with them and then puts them back where he found them. He shudders to think that the French actually eat his beloved frogs. I have had dogs and cats my whole life. So I am definitely a lover of both
DO YOU THINK PETS ARE BETTER THAN HUMANS?
There are many good humans. And there are some real nasty ones too that create havoc, are cruel and senselessly take life whether it be of another human, animal or our environment. Their vile actions are mostly for profit or for sadistic pleasure. On the other hand, animals show unconditional love to their owners. You are their world and family/pack for their short lives. It’s a pity that the same can’t be said for some of their human counterparts who abandon their pets due to some inconvenience. Even animals in the wild don’t kill for sport or entertainment or any sociopathic tendencies. The carnivores kill solely to eat and feed their young. Animals don’t know malice, hate, greed, jealousy or vindictiveness. So yes, animals have better hearts than human beings.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT WITH YOUR PET?
I’m blessed to have quite a few pets. Each one of my dogs has enriched my life with joy and laughter. Each has brought their unique personalities, quirks and all, to brighten my day. One common thing they have all gifted me with is unconditional love. So rare in a human, but so free and natural for our pets. I have had so many wonderful memories with all my pets and animals. My recent most memorable moment was when my rescued Boxer, Leo, who had an aggression problem as he was an abused dog, climbed onto the sofa and put his head on my lap and went to sleep. It showed me that he had probably forgiven humans and laid his trust in me.
WHAT IS YOUR VIEW ON ANIMAL RIGHTS AND TREATMENT OF PETS?
In India we have laws for everything, including animals. However no one follows these laws and no one can implement them. We as a country flout all laws. Animal rights are possibly the last agenda on most people’s list. I have seen rich/literate people neglect their pets badly. Then when they are too sick or have some issue that takes time to be solved, they abandon them or put them to sleep. We have terrible puppy farms in India. We have laws here, but who will implement them? Most of the police are clueless on Animal Welfare Laws. We have to inform them under what IPC code to note a complaint against an animal abuser/criminal. I have seen people hurt animals with the police standing and doing nothing. I don’t know if it is lack of empathy or pure ignorance; either way it is sad state of affairs. I am a part of an NGO called People for Animals headed by Mrs. Maneka Gandhi. They rescue a lot of animals; they save cows, goats etc from illegal slaughter houses, or from overcrowded trucks that are used to illegally transport them. They also fight court cases for the ban of the horse carriages in Mumbai, push for implementation and interpretation of Animal Welfare Laws across India among many other things. The Mumbai arm of our organization is in the nascent stage of building a state of the art animal hospital. Mumbai is the only big metro in India without a proper, wellrun animal hospital. We don’t have basic medical care and facilities under one roof. If your pet has any emergency at night, god help you, as there is no 24 hour care in Mumbai. With this hospital, we are trying to create a Centre of Excellence for services in 24 hour care, critical care, diagnostics & specialty procedures. We aim to develop a sustainable model wherein the profits are used toward the welfare of stray animals and creating a large social impact. We plan to have a comprehensive cancer treatment unit; it’s the only one of its kind in the country. Our hospital will take care of all your pets’ needs and issues, with properly trained vets and medical staff. We aim to bring about a huge change for all animals in and around Mumbai. This hospital will be for pets as well as all stray animals, big or small, birds, reptiles and aquatic life.
HOW CAN PEOPLE WHO DON’T HAVE PETS STILL BE INVOLVED IN SOME WAY?
There are plenty of ways to help animals even if one is not an animal lover of doesn’t have a pet. You only need to have empathy and care for all living beings. If you do, you are a boon for all animals and birds. You can be their voice. If you see someone hurting an animal, you can make sure you stop them or report them. You can get involved in raising money and awareness for animal NGO’s. It just takes a willing mind and a kind heart. You can leave water on your balconies or building compounds for birds in summer when it gets very hot, and leave water in bowls for the local dogs and cats in your area. You can spay and neuter your local dogs or cats. You can help an injured animal in need by calling the help line of many animal organizations or you can take them to the vet. Social media has played a big role in creating an awareness of Animal Welfare in India. I do hope it continues with more people joining in to help and spread this to all corners of the country. With education, change will come. We need to push for this to happen and everyone who speaks about it and shares a post is helping in their own small way. I am sure if this happens, there will be a big change in India and Animal Welfare laws will be followed. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
PLEASE SHARE YOUR MOST SATISFYING EXPERIENCE HELPING AN ANIMAL.
There are too many to list here. Last year a few friends who are animals lovers and I formed a group called Animal Adoption Crusaders. Animal Adoption Crusaders are committed to the adoption of homeless animals. We organized an adoption event last year in South Mumbai which was very successful. We had 30 puppies and cats that got adopted through this event. We had another one a couple of weeks ago which was also quite successful. We raise animal awareness and help raise funds for other animal NGOs to aid them in the process of fostering, adoption and any other help that they need. We raise money for feeding programs for animals as well as neutering and spaying. We have lots of cats and pups and adult dogs that have been abandoned and are now up for adoption. You can find more information about us from our Facebook page. There is so much satisfaction from just being around animals and helping them in all ways possible with love and care and time.
We plan to have a comprehensive cancer treatment unit; it’s the only one of its kind in the country. Our hospital will take care of all your pets’ needs and issues, with properly trained vets and medical staff. We aim to bring about a huge change for all animals in and around Mumbai. This hospital will be for pets as well as all stray animals, big or small, birds, reptiles and aquatic life.