By the time you finish reading this post, five new dogs from Pune will be arriving at the three-and-a-half acre sanctuary on the outskirts of Bengaluru, taking the total count of dogs to 740 at a single place.
For the 45-year-old techie, Rakesh Shukla, sheltering these dogs have become part and parcel of his life. He spends at least half of his week in the farmhouse among these little bundles of joy with their gleaming eyes, wagging tails and cheerful barks. Most of these dogs are strays, while others are abandoned by their owners. Rakesh has vowed to rescue as many dogs as possible and provide them with all the necessary care. His foundation — Voice of Stray Dogs (VOSD) — is the world’s largest citywide dog rescue centre.
Speaking to The Logical Indian, Rakesh says, “Most of the rescue operations in India or even the world run on a very small scale. If you rescue 100 dogs, you will be keeping a maximum 10 of them in your house or your garden. That is why I have built this vast enough sanctuary so that I don’t have to leave any of these dogs and dedicatedly take care of them,”.
The sanctuary houses varied breeds of dogs including Rottweilers, Labradors, Pugs, Beagles, Saint Bernards, Great Danes and Mongrels where they have a large open space to run around and ponds to swim in, and also there’s double fencing that keeps them safe. Rakesh proudly calls himself their “Dog Father.”
It all began in 2009 when Rakesh brought home his first dog, a 45-day-old female Golden Retriever, whom he called Kavya. The warmth and connection he felt with Kavya made him realise the value of taking care of the abandoned dogs. By 2012, he had so many dogs that keeping them at home was no more an option. It was then he bought this sanctuary. Unfortunately, many of these canine residents are no more cute and cuddly, they have been suffering from several diseases or disabilities for quite some time now and have to be taken care of entirely.
“These dogs have no other place to go. So I have never even tried to send them back. I take the entire responsibility of their check-ups, medicines and food and all sorts of nourishment. Some of them have cardiac failures, some of them are blind, some of them don’t have limbs. So taking care of them is expensive. They need lifelong support which I am fortunately able to provide.”
His farm today has ten employees, including trained veterinary assistants, who look after these dogs cook food for them and feed them. The dogs eat 200kg of chicken and another 200kg of rice daily, and many of the sick ones need regular medicines and attention. The daily cost of running the centre is somewhere between Rs 45,000 and 50,000. Rakesh has also built an app called The VoSD Stray Dog Rescue App that is available on Google Play store. This app enables a user to arrange the rescue of any stray dogs or abandoned dogs which need medical help. “Through this app, we first check the genuineness of the person who posts about the dog that needs to be rescued, then after all the verification we go and rescue the dog and bring it into the sanctuary.”
Rakesh gets aggrieved by the fact that many of the owners buy dogs just to show off. When these dogs contract any disease; they are abandoned by the owners. He has worked in Delhi and moved to the US later. Ten years later after coming back to Bengaluru, he founded his software company with his wife. Despite achieving so much success he wasn’t much happy. These dogs give him ultimate solace, and he feels lively around them.
Rakesh has faced problems from many animal activists who have demanded that they be allowed inside the sanctuary. Many have also blamed his dogs for creating public unrest and asked him to shut down the farm. But he doesn’t pay heed to such demands because he knows no one will be able to look after these dogs and take the same care for them.
You can follow his work on VoSD’s Facebook page.
The Logical Indian applauds and thanks Rakesh for helping these abandoned dogs and giving them shelter and love.