Good Care for Helpless Animals
Sushmita V Gopalan 18 June 2013

PAWS treats and rehabilitates injured birds and animals and spreads awareness about their care

Twelve years ago, when an 18-year-old Nilesh Bhanage was flying a kite, he found a pigeon being viciously attacked by crows. He rescued it immediately and took the injured bird home only to find that it was completely blind. He was unsure of how to proceed after that; he did not know who to approach or where to take the poor bird. “My cousin told me about a girl named Anamika who treated animals in her house, so I took the pigeon to her. Her house was so full of birds and animals that I asked her if it was a zoo! She said they were animals she had rescued and treated as there was nowhere else for them to go,” says Nilesh. He worked with her for a few months to learn how to treat injured animals. In 2001, along with a group of friends, he started Plants and Animals Welfare Society (PAWS).

The main objective of PAWS is to help create a world where no living creature is left in distress. So it started the first ambulance service for animals in Thane, a distant Mumbai suburb, when Anil Kataria from the Ahmednagar-SPCA (Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) donated a van in 2001. PAWS now administers free on the spot first-aid, rescues and rehabilitates animals in need and has recently started performing minor veterinarian surgeries at its premises in Murbad (Maharashtra). In memory of the first pigeon Nilesh rescued but could not save, one of the earliest initiatives by PAWS was to build a pigeon shelter in Thane. “Pigeons are social birds; they need to be in large groups to thrive,” he says. Since its inception, PAWS has helped over 13,000 animals and birds. During the monsoons, PAWS organises tree plantation drives and also fights illegal felling of trees.

PAWS has made commendable efforts to spread awareness about the care of animals through camps organised in schools and colleges and through its website which provides simple, easy instructions and tips on animal care. Some of PAWS’ most significant achievements include enforcing the ban on illegal sale of birds like parakeets and mynahs at the Kalyan bird market, and ending snake-charming and parrot astrology in Thane. It also rescues ill-treated tigers and lions from circuses.

What is striking about PAWS is the passion that Nilesh brings into its work and his commitment to reporting its activities and utilisation of funds to donors and patrons. The PAWS website contains extensive, neatly tabulated information on its work species-wise. Donors can specify exactly what use they would like their donation to be put to.
Alternatively, they can choose from a list of medical and other supplies listed on its website. You can also help by purchasing from the small collection of eco-friendly PAWS merchandise including bags, caps and bookmarks that can be bought from its website.

Donors are thanked with photographs of the supplies they have donated and a daily report on PAWS’ activities. PAWS works through a large group of volunteers and interns. They are supported by a core group of salaried employees including a couple of caretakers, security guards and a para-vet. Nilesh says, “When we started PAWS, we used to go out to rescue animals on our bikes at night after our day jobs. Now, we are able to do much more work because of the ambulance and the rescue centre.” The PAWS Rescue Centre currently operates at Murbad, out of the unused premises of People for Animals, set up by animal rights activist Menaka Gandhi and editor Pritish Nandy. PAWS requires steady donations of money, supplies and volunteers to keep up with its growing reach and activities.

PAWS was featured in the Limca Book of Records in 2005 for being India’s youngest animal rehabilitation team. Nilesh Bhanage’s dedication has earned him numerous awards and accolades from Ingrid Newkirk of PETA and other social organisations.

Plants and Animals Welfare Society

A-18, Savitri Sadan,
Dr Mukharji Road, Near
Nehru Ground, Dombivli (East) 421201, Maharashtra.
9820161114 (Domestic Animals)
9920777536 (Wildlife)
[email protected]

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