SOCIETY: HYDERABAD’S ‘RESCUE GIRL’ – Journal
As far back as she can remember, there were always pet cats, dogs and chickens in Hira Khan’s house in Hyderabad.
She loved animals so much that when she went to the market with her family, instead of shopping, she was on the lookout for strays. Spotting them, she would do what she had seen her mother do: pick up the puppies and kittens and bring them home to tend to them.
So it’s no surprise that in 2018, Khan established Hyderabad’s first animal sanctuary in the Latifabad area. “It’s an extension of my feelings for these innocent creatures,” says the 29-year-old, who works as an accountant at a property company.
Earlier that year, she had started feeding strays in her ward, gradually moving to other units in Latifabad, followed by other wards in Hyderabad such as Qasimabad and Tilak Incline.
With a team of dedicated volunteers, a young woman opened the first animal shelter in Hyderabad
While feeding the animals, she also encountered sick and injured strays. She would bring them home for treatment and rehabilitation or take them to the vet. It wasn’t long before people started to recognize her and she became known as the “rescue girl”.
“On one of my rescue trips, I found an abandoned donkey with an injured foot,” Khan recalls. “It was the first donkey I saved. I fed him and tied him under a tree on a street near my house. Later, when I uploaded a video on Facebook, Huzur Bux Jamali, a veterinarian from Tando Jam, offered treatment and medicine for free.
Rescuing the beast boosted her confidence and she thought that if she could save a donkey, maybe she could organize a space dedicated to the protection and care of the animals. Later that year, she mobilized like-minded friends, organized a rescue team, and began looking for a place to establish an animal sanctuary.
“We found land in Unit 5 of Latifabad,” says Khan. “The area has many beef farms and the rent of Rs 25,000 is affordable.”
Khan’s initial investment for the 240 square meter shelter was two million rupees from his own savings. A small office was built and painted. The team purchased a water tank, office furniture, cages, dishes, food, accessories and medical instruments. Currently, Khan spends 60,000 rupees a month to run the shelter, most of it coming from her own salary, which she can afford as she lives with her parents.
Seventy percent of the animals Khan’s team rescues are accident cases. “They get hit by reckless drivers in hit-and-run crashes,” Khan says. “After rescuing animals we consult Dr Fahad who comes to the shelter for emergencies otherwise we bring animals to him in Unit 11 Latifabad for treatment.”
Over the past three years, the team has rescued around 1,200 animals and birds. Currently there are 45 rescues including dogs, cats and donkeys at the shelter. People looking for pets take some rehabilitated animals from the shelter, avoiding overcrowding, while other animals are released onto the streets after treatment.
Inspired by their personality or appearance, the animals are given names such as donkeys Jack, Chocolate, Bella and Jenny, dogs Roxy, Spike and Sheroo and cats Dolly and Coco. This allows them to be identified during their stay and treatment and to update their status on the shelter’s Facebook page, titled Animal Protection Hyderabad.
Khan spends 80% of his salary on the shelter. “When I decided to set up the shelter, I promised myself that I would do it at all costs,” says Khan. “If you are sure you can achieve your goal, you can achieve it. My relatives disagreed, as they feel that I am wasting my time and should be doing something lucrative instead. But my friends were always there to support me and even helped me financially.
Khan believes it was his team that made the shelter a reality. “All of the team members are volunteers,” says Khan. “But I’m arranging meals for the two team members staying at the shelter, alternating day and night.” One of the two who stays at the shelter also does odd jobs outside as an air conditioning repairman, while the other is currently unemployed.
Despite being bitten by a dog as a child, Sandes Leghari, a young member of Khan’s team, remains on the front lines while rescuing animals from the streets.
“If you want to control a street animal, you have to grab it by the neck,” says Leghari, explaining his newfound expertise. “It’s where the mother chooses her young, and it’s the weakest point to control any animal.”
Interestingly, Khan herself holds an MSc in Botany from the University of Sindh at Jamshoro. But, instead of flora, she chose to work with animals and spends four hours a day at the shelter.
“A lot of people work for human rights, but not for animals and birds,” says Khan. “People discourage me, don’t want to give me credit for protecting animals, and I’m accused of trying to promote myself through animals or selling animals,” she adds, shaking her head in the face. to the audacity of reckless words. people make it.
“I’ve seen people hand over their sick or injured animals to the shelter,” says Dr. Fahad, the shelter’s veterinarian, agreeing with Khan. “It’s heartbreaking to see that they no longer want these pets. But what is even worse is that they don’t offer to pay for the treatment or medicine or even make a small donation.
Rubina Sheikh, social activist and vice president of Humanity First Foundation in Hyderabad, believes that when institutions fail to fulfill their responsibilities, individuals show up for the good of society.
“Every living thing is important to our ecosystem, but we treat animals with brutality,” she says. “Hira Khan is a courageous girl, who tries to make our society understand that animals need care and sympathy, just like humans. Saving the lives of animals and providing them with food and shelter is one of the best social services.
For the past four years, Khan has run the shelter with meager resources. Crossing her fingers for government support, she plans to expand the shelter’s services to other towns in Sindh, such as Tando Allahyar and Larkana.
“The earth was created for all life, not just humans,” she says, stroking Jenny’s forelocks. The handsome donkey that Khan saved three years ago lovingly nibbles his hand, as if to affirm it.
The writer is a Sindhi fiction writer, blogger and journalist. He tweets @AkhtarHafeez
Posted in Dawn, EOS, June 12, 2022