Have you ever come across an emaciated or sick stray and wished you could do something to help? While you and I merely think, there are people who are working hard to improve the lives of these unclaimed animals.
Meet Sanika Janwalikar, the co-founder of Stray Connect. In a chat with indibeat, she talks about her Mumbai-based community and how she plans to expand her tribe of animal lovers.
IB: What is the story behind Stray Connect?
I have always been fond of animals since a young age, and used to bring abandoned or in-need strays home.
One day, my husband and I saw a lady feeding a couple of stray dogs in our locality. We observed for a few days and noticed that she would feed them regularly at a designated time.
Looking at their sheer excitement, a thought crossed our mind. What if we could bring together a community of such people, capture their stories, and connect them to the help they need? And Stray Connect was born.
IB: How do you do things differently from an NGO or an animal shelter?
Stray Connect is a growing community. What we do is capture stories of various animal lovers, vets, animal behaviourists, and anyone who is engaged in animal welfare to spread awareness about how to take care of strays.
Only good inspires good — and that is the purpose of our stories.
We have also tied up with various doctors and animal behaviourists to give us insights on how people can tackle what they term a menace.
For e.g., our canine behaviourist partner Niti Bavishi believes that animals have a language in which they communicate. It is we who do not take the effort to understand them and consider them a nuisance.
Our major aim is to educate all humans so that we respond to these behaviours, not simply react.
IB: What is your mission? What challenges do you hope to overcome in the future?
Mumbai has one lakh strays and a population of two crore humans. If every animal lover looked after at least two strays, there would be no animal cruelty or rescue cases, and probably no need of a designated organisation to shelter them. Our mission is to build that level of awareness.
A sustainable platform for this strong a community to function is one of our challenges.
IB: Do you think we do enough to save our strays?
Mumbai is a densely populated city with major encroachment on natural habitat. Having said that, I feel we do have lot of people and organisations engaged in good work.
There are active WhatsApp groups, society communities, and even NGOs that are on their toes to help any stray in need.
However, catering to each and every stray is not possible for these NGOs. And that’s when we as human beings should take accountability and help those in need.
IB: What’s the most heartfelt story of an animal lover you’ve come across?
Every story we have covered so far has been inspiring and commendable in its own way. However, there are two distinct stories that need a mention.
There is a resident in Chembur, Mr Kishore Pethad, who houses about 10-12 strays on a big plot that would otherwise be considered a precious reality in a prime area. But for this gentleman, their life is much more valuable, and he refuses to sell his land.
The second story is about Mr Rajat Choudhary, who once hated the sight of strays to such an extent that he would drive them away. Today, he is a parent of two stray pups, who were run over and left to die.
IB: How can animal lovers help your mission?
Our message to all animal lovers is: adopt, don’t shop. Join our community on Facebook, link us to people who are helping animals in any way, and help us capture their stories and share them to encourage others.
Let the word spread — it is time we connected with nature.
Image Credit: Stray Connect