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Paws for a Cause—Babita Madhwaraj Raises Awareness on the Plight of Strays

On the eve of January 31, 2020, students and families flocked Manipal’s Pup Café to listen to Mrs Babita Madhwaraj as she educated the audience on stray dogs and their wellbeing. The founder trustee of the Madhwaraj Animal Care Trust Malpe, Mrs Madhwaraj, dedicates her time to the welfare of stray dogs, striving towards creating a safer and happier environment for the canines in the locality. “Dogs are voiceless, vulnerable, defenceless, and powerless. As the more intelligent species, it is up to us to take care of them”, stated Mrs Madhwaraj during her talk.

Mrs Madhwaraj began by briefly talking about a common reason dogs end up finding homes on the streets, drawing attention to the effects abandonment has on these furry creatures. Preference for foreign breeds and gender biases are among the significant contributors to increasing stray dog populations. The result of this abuse is a vicious cycle of hunger, malnutrition, disease, and brutal treatment. Another unsettling concern is the unethical experimentation being performed on these animals, often in dark and dingy basements. Crossbreeding trials and sexual abuse are among the sick realities that these creatures have to endure.

To curb the problem, Mrs Madhwaraj has taken it up on her own, setting up a trauma care centre for homeless dogs that require immediate attention. Under her care, numerous dogs that were found in disturbing conditions made a massive recovery with several of them making it to loving homes. However, dogs that struggled to survive the journey had to be euthanised to prevent further trauma or a painful end.

 Mrs Babita Madhwaraj talking about the state of strays.

Mrs Madhwaraj then commented on the dos and don’ts of taking care of strays. She drew attention to a common habit of people picking up puppies from the street, only to return them a month later. This, she remarked, can prove to be disastrous as dogs are territorial and creatures of habit. Nutrition is often a problem of concern as the common notion of feeding canines household staples does more harm than good—food items such as cow’s milk, cocoa, and sugar are fatal food groups for dogs.

Touching the subject of becoming a caretaker, Mrs Madhwaraj stated the importance of staying well protected. The saliva of dogs is a far more dangerous carrier of zoonotic diseases than a seemingly harmful dog bite. The responsibility that comes with caring for another being requires one to understand the tasks at hand.

The Pup Café, where the event was held, was started with the aim of providing the large student population of Manipal a healthier alternative to de-stress. When asked to state her opinions on the recently opened cafe that commercialises only in pure breeds, Mrs Madhwaraj mentioned her satisfaction with the care these dogs received. As the cafe has the means to provide for a variety of dogs, she hopes they tend to stray dogs around the premises offering food, water and aid.

In the spirit of awareness, Mrs Madhwaraj has organised a campaign at Malpe Beach Utsav, to shed some light on these topics while also including a free adoption camp. To improve the quality of life for aged dogs, she has plans to set up an old-age home in Goa, creating an environment for these dogs to meet their end peacefully. Her work is truly inspirational as she strives to make a difference in her own way.

While the works of one person make a difference in the community, solving the problem on a larger scale requires a collective effort. Mrs Madhwaraj spoke of the importance of activists being knowledgeable about laws in place and of organisations such as SPCA. A recent move by the Karnataka government has made it mandatory for dog breeders and marketers to have themselves registered, with stringent laws, hopefully preventing the illegal exploitation of animals. Varshini Kotian, a fourth-year student at Manipal Institute of Technology, has been working closely with Mrs Madhwaraj for the past few months. She stated, “I do what I can, whenever I can, for these innocent creatures. The dogs on campus are well fed by students, but it is the ones outside that need our care.”

There are nearly 30 million stray dogs in the country. If every individual made an effort to foster or provide permanent homes for these dogs, the world would be a safer home to our canine friends.