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Saving the stray from Streets

Although Khan would prefer that all the stray animals have excess to decent food, but he is able to feed only 100-150 dogs with proper food on regular basis.

Post by on Thursday, December 16, 2021

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 While he is speaking about his social work, Moomin Bilal Khan, 23, a B.com graduate and an owner of a popular pet store in Srinagar, namely Breeder’s Hub, receives a call. On the other end of the phone, a 12-year-old child named Sahiqa is speaking. She is in class 4th student and lives in District Anantnag’s Seer area. Her desire: adopt a free cat.

Subsequently, she is thrilled to hear that Moomin, among many animals, has also a three-month-old black kitten that can be given in adoption. The cat has recently recuperated from injuries that it sustained after getting stuck into a car bonnet at the meteorological Department in Srinagar. Khan had gone to a great length to rescue the said lucky kitten.
Pertinently, Khan asks Sahiqa a very responsible question. Although it merely sounded as “Why do you want to adopt a cat?” to my ears, but he wants to make sure that the person that he hands the animal in adoption is completely up to the task and can take good care of the rescued cat.  When the little girl answers satisfactorily, Khan tells her that food for a cat can cost anywhere between 500-600 Rs. a month and whether or not she would be able to manage that?
 Shaiqa, little as she was, had already thought it through and says that she receives a thousand rupees in pocket money from her parents and would manage the expenses incurring on the cat’s food out of the said money.
In the end, after a detailed conversation with both the girl and her father, Moomin cheers young Shaiqa by offering her the cat and tells her to come to collect the animal on any day that suits her and her parents.
For Moomin, calls such as these are an everyday occurrence. For the last three years, he has given almost a thousand stray animals in adoption after having rescued them with great effort. 
Moomin particularly favors giving the animals in adoption to children over adults. Moomin says that adults tend to have a busy schedule and cannot therefore properly care for the animals.
Another reason why he prefers to give the rescue animals into the care of the children is that he says the screen time for the children has immensely increased and "putting a pet in their care would decrease their screen time."
“Putting a pet into the care of children also inculcates good habits and human virtues in them, including empathy and affection,” Khan adds.
Khan’s rescue drive started in 2019. Ever since he has rescued nearly 1000 stray dogs and cats. Mostly, he found these stray animals in a bad position: injured or ill. Khan tends to these animals himself and whatever expenses incur on medication and recuperation items, he pays from his own pocket.
Once the animals recover and gain health, he doesn’t send them back to the streets.  He finds good families that are willing to adopt them. From his own pocket, he pays for the three months’ worth of food for the animal so that the adopting family would not feel burdened.
He also vaccinates these stray animals at his own expense so that the adopting families do not resort to the inhibition of catching vermin or disease from the rescued animals.
Khan runs a pet store namely Breeders Hub in Srinagar’s Zampa Kadal area of Chattabal. He has a significant following over social media and it’s here that he encourages the people to give him the whereabouts of the injured or ill stray animals. Accompanying him, there are four more people who also respond to SOS calls. They use Khan’s recently purchased car during these rescue trips. 
Khan wishes that more people engage with him and help him extend the stray animal rescue work to other pockets of the valley. At the moment, his operations are based in Srinagar only.  
“The thing that encouraged me to do the rescue work was my love for the animals. I have always felt deeply for stray animals. The kind of brutality and neglect that they are subjected to has always seemed unfair to me. When I was in tenth class, I picked an Injured puppy and walked all the way to my home in ZampaKadal Chattabal with him. I took care of him for almost many days but unfortunately, he couldn’t survive,” Khan adds while speaking on the subject of inspiration behind his animal activism.
The rescue calls that Khan receives have no proper timing. Sometimes he receives calls in the middle of the night and sometimes on rainy Sundays. But always, staying faithful to his mission, he closes his pet store and heads out for the rescue with a handful of volunteers who share his love and passion for the stray animals.
“We tell people to just give us a call. That is all they need to do for the stray animals that are ill or injured or in some other sort of suffering—beyond that we take care of everything. From rescue to proper medication, everything is our responsibility,” Khan adds further while speaking with Rising Kashmir.
For Khan and his team, the adoption part is the hardest bit in their work. They encounter serious glitches while looking for good families for the rescued stray animals.
“We do not hand the rescued animals to anyone asking for it, but rather, our focus is those good families adopt these animals that are capable of providing care and love to them,” Khan told Rising Kashmir.
According to Khan—though a widescale adoption culture is lacking, nevertheless, the same is gaining a fast pace. He says that the Pandemic has deepened a bond between the animal and a human. “In Kashmir, the pet-culture has been particularly fueled by the Pandemic,” Khan says.
Khan laments that stray animals are largely neglected in the Kashmir valley and are not getting due care or responsible treatment. 
Srinagar alone has 100,000 stray dogs. Earlier they used to kill the dogs with poison but then, when the cruelty of this method was realized, a more radical way was resorted to by the administration: mass sterilization of the dogs. 
“People in Kashmir shoo the stray away in disgust, particularly the dogs. I don’t know if they are aware of it, but their behavior is morally and ethically wrong. In Srinagar, we have opened sterilization centers where dogs are castrated to keep the population in check. Again, this is a cruel way to treat animals with. As a society, we should come up with kinder ways to treat the animals and find more humane solutions to problems that concern the animals in our neighborhoods or cities,” Khan says.
There are no stray animal rescue centers in Kashmir valley and Khan wants to open one, where those animals that are broken or in bad shape, can find a home. “We have winters here, so we need a proper stray animal shelter home in Kashmir valley, where we can provide heat in winter and a cooling facility during the summer. Also, food has to be made available as well,” Khan speaks further while expressing his concern for the stray animals.
 Although Khan would prefer that all the stray animals have excess to decent food, but he is able to feed only 100-150 dogs with proper food on regular basis. All these dogs are from his own locality in Chattabal’s Zampa Kadal, and he wishes that he could feed more around the city—alas, he is unable to!
The only deterrent that is preventing him from spreading his ‘decent food mission for the stray animals to the rest of the parts of Srinagar city is a paucity of funds. Whatever he is doing, he is doing from his pocket.
 “Earlier people would put some part of their meals aside for the stray animals. This was part of the culture and no matter what religion or sect you were from, you knew that one part of your food had to be put aside for the stray animals in your locality, whether be it for a cat, a dog, or a bird. This culture is non-existent nowadays and I wish we could bring it back somehow,” Khan wishes while speaking on the lost tradition of the yore.
Khan wants to convey to the people that they should not put the leftover food in polythene bags or directly hand it to the sanitary staff in their locality because the result is that the food goes directly to the dumping site where it does not reach the stray animals.
“I think everyone should develop this habit to put aside some part of his/her meal for the stray animals because in this manner we can ensure that animals in our locality do not suffer due to the scarcity of food,” Khan comments. 
Khan always conveys to his friends and followers over social media handles to give him calls or send him text messages regarding the animals in distress. He also helps those pet-owners who want to give their pets in adoption, find good families for their pets. He wishes to continue his job and one day, open a stray animal rescue center (the first of its kind) in Kashmir valley. Khan apparently is a noble soul and its people like him that detox the society from all the evils that ail it. All we can do to encourage these heroes is say ‘Bravo…!’ and pat them on their shoulders once in a while.  

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