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Combat for the cause of animals
Pet Passion

Nilanjanaa

One grew up in a family of animal lovers, the other in a family indifferent towards animals. Today they are both forerunners in the welfare of stray animals of Mumbai. Goodicia Vaidya and Fizzah Shah of IDA (In Defence Of Animals, India).

Goodicia has been attending to stray dogs and cats since she was 16 years old. Now she's 50 and still raring to go. All day in the sweltering summer heat, she does the rounds of Mumbai streets picking up sick and ailing dogs, accident cases and dogs for sterilisations. Her childish streak is palpable when she lets me in on a well-guarded secret. Goodicia was working in a shipping company. Every day for 18 years, she would step out during her lunch break to feed the stray dogs. Since she was low on funds she made them a meal of discarded pieces of bread slices (generously given to her by sandwichwallahs), a little milk (worth Rs 2) and a lot of water.

Today her commitment towards these animals has grown a hundred fold and she has long forgotten her promise to her husband of cutting down on the animal welfare work! Though she is a perfect example of a guardian angel for animals ' always by their side, she's sensible and practical enough to admit that if an animal is seriously injured or has a terminal illness, it must be put to sleep and not kept alive for sentimental reasons. These animals deserve a healthy and qualitative life and there's no sense in prolonging an ailing animal's deteriorating condition.

Though her family was not supportive of her love for stray animals, today Fizzah Shah has turned out to be the toughest crusader leaving no stone unturned to fight for the rights of animals. When her building society objected to the presence of stray cats and physically assaulted them, she took them to court. She fought a lone battle against the 60-odd flats and used her personal funds to fight the case. The ruling was in her favour and today the cats roam the building premises freely. Fizzah has faced a lot of flak from all quarters, be it neighbours, police officers or people who believe animals and their rights are frivolous issues.

Not anymore, because she has been given a special card by the Mumbai high court whereby every police station in Mumbai has to take cognisance of her complaint. Fizzah believes that for any kind of welfare one needs to have the 'fighting spirit' and ample funds. Fortunately for the strays of Mumbai, she has both. She works with missionary zeal, feeding 325 dogs and cats daily and is currently in the process of setting up an animal shelter for injured and old animals and abandoned pets on her five-acre plot.

IDA, established in 1995, has struggled hard to protect the rights of animals in Mumbai for eight years now. It is progressing by leaps and bounds. In 1978, 252 dogs were sterilised, while in 2002 the number was nearly 10 times more at 2,448! It has been working on other fronts too ' from running an OPD and ambulance service for sick and injured animals to organising adoption programmes, wildlife rescue and vaccination drives to educating schoolchildren.

PS: Please visit the IDA website at www.idaindia.org

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