Mumbai's only animal hospital struggles to survive

The three-storeyed structure creaking under the weight of its age could well be from an abandoned textile mill perfect for a horror series shoot.

Animal lover from Bandra Sarina Lopez with Colonel (Dr) J C Khanna, hospital in-charge
Animal lover from Bandra Sarina Lopez with Colonel (Dr) J C Khanna, hospital in-charge.

Deserted for more than 25 years, it was once the heart of Mumbai's only animal hospital, Bai Sakarbai Dinshaw Petit Hospital for Animals in Parel. The 100-year-old structure was a pathology laboratory, now derelict and unsafe for the staff and animals that the hospital’s four-acre campus houses.

A demolition request has been kept on hold by the BMC for close to eight years, says Colonel (Dr) J C Khanna, secretary and in-charge.

Staff handle an injured dog
Staff handle an injured dog

It’s not the only structure in urgent need of attention and repair. A two storey building used as temporary accommodation by some staff members is calling for help too.

Run by non-profit, The Bombay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA), the hospital was built in 1883 to render medical care for sick and injured animals and birds. The campus houses a cardiac centre, an ICU with 18 kennels for dogs, blood bank, isolation ward for animals with contagious disease, an electric crematorium and shelters for ownerless or abandoned animals. Sultan is one of the ‘long-stay’ residents at the facility.

The 100-year-old pathology lab at the Bai Sakarbai Dinshaw Petit Hospital for Animals in Parel is in a dilapidated state PIC/Onkar Devlekar
The 100-year-old pathology lab at the Bai Sakarbai Dinshaw Petit Hospital for Animals in Parel is in a dilapidated state PIC/Onkar Devlekar

Found tied to the hospital gate a few years ago, he suffers from a long-standing injury to the joint of a rear hoof which tends to remain swollen. At any given time, the hospital treats close to 500 animals, half of whom are abandoned like Sultan.

It’s their upkeep that the Trust is finding tough to fund.

Their annual fundraiser — The Woofs and Hooves Carnival — scheduled for today at Mahalaxmi’s Turf Club, will look to raise money.

In addition to allowing the Trust to use their space for free, it has also donated Rs 5 lakh towards upkeep and maintenance of the facility. Last year, the hospital raised Rs 15 lakh through the event, including holding an adoption drive for abandoned animals, expected to be this year’s star attraction too.

A walk around the largely industry campus that carries the smell of medicines and dung are a reflection of funds arriving in fits and starts. While the dogs’ ward and shed for the cattle looks newly renovated, the horse ward is looking to add new stalls and the paddock, where the horses roam, needs a makeover.

Khanna says that often, the funds they receive are for specific needs, say food or medicines. These they cannot divert towards other requirements like renovating an enclosure.

"The hospital’s monthly electricity bill is R5 lakh, while the total cost of running the facility and paying staff costs us over R40 lakh a month. We are hoping the fundraiser is a success," he says. While the idea of solar panels to reduce electricity bills is on Khanna’s mind as is a new gas-based crematorium, building new wards to replace a few crumbling ones is the hospital’s main worry.

"The number of abandoned animals has gone up over the last few years, making it difficult for us to feed and care for them all," he adds. The hospital currently houses 60 dogs and 80 cats.

Bakul Khatau, executive committee member of the Trust, says, "There is a lot more awareness against animal cruelty, and donations are coming in, but more needs to be done."

Bandra resident and animal lover, Sarina Lopez, who routinely rescues strays, says, the size of the facility makes it a money drainer. "There is a severe shortage of funds. Without help from private and public sectors alike, it’s unlikely to survive."

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