Thanks to a group of four good samaritans, stray, abandoned or injured animals in Assam’s Bongaigaon district have a chance at life.

Chirang-based Action for Animals (AFA) is one of the few animal shelter homes in Assam that rescue dogs, cats and goats, as well as bigger animals like cows, buffaloes, horses and other injured wildlife. The NGO and its community workers cover not only Chirang and Bongaigaon, but also nearby areas.

AFA’s founder president Nadeem Mehedi, who is a lawyer by profession, said the NGO has rescued more than 400 animals till now, of which half are stray dogs with many successful rescue and adoption stories. 

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Other members of the AFA are co-founders Kunal Kumar Sinha, a postal development officer from Goalpara, Kalyani Mandal, a white collar worker, and Barnali Narzary, a teacher. 

The founders may belong to totally unrelated professions, but their love and compassion for animals is what brought them together to form AFA on March 23, 2020.

The AFA is a registered non-profit organization working solely for the welfare of animals, protection and spreading awareness about wildlife, street animals and nature. “At the AFA, we believe that as human beings, we should try to do the bare minimum for any animal that is suffering through pain or injury,” Mehedi told EastMojo.

Their selfless act has attracted a host of supporters. As the AFA does not rely on government funding, the contributions made towards the organization are solely by the founders, its active members and mostly by the Marwari community of Bongaigaon town. 

Saroj Agarwal, an active community member of the AFA, said she supports the cause of animal rescue and the need of shelter homes for all stray animals. 

Moti Lal Samsukha, owner of Karni Clothing Store in Bongaigaon and an active member of the AFA community, said, “We support the cause of the organization. We are immensely happy to be a part of it. To help the organization further, we shall help them with collecting funds by placing fundraising donation boxes at the counters of our store. We believe this will help people be aware of the organization and its noble cause of saving animals from suffering.”

In order for more people to pitch in this initiative, the organization also takes a very unique and innovative way to collect funds and raise money, through lottery events. 

Co-founder Kunal Kumar Sinha told EastMojo, “The idea of organizing a lottery event has been very helpful in collecting funds. Other than our regular contributions, the lottery draw helps us set our yearly targets. A ticket costs around Rs 100 but the people are very kind and generous. They buy multiple booklets of tickets not to win but for the sake of the well-being of our animals. We are grateful, and hence, we also give away as many prizes as we can through the lottery event.” 

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Despite the lottery and other fundraisers, the AFA continues to face financial challenges that affect proper medical treatment and other facilities for the rescued animals, their medicine supplies, shelter and space, etc.

Founder president Mehedi said, “While all the rescued animals undergo medical treatment, the NGO provides a permanent shelter to those that have lifelong injuries like amputations, or survivors of deadly diseases like Canine Distemper. But due to shortage of space, we release the animals into safer environments or give them away for adoption after they have received proper treatment, and are completely healed/cured. We also try to give on-spot treatments if we come across animals that are in need of an instant relief from pain.”

To enhance their knowledge, the AFA team has also taken part in a 14-day basic animal rescue and volunteering programme under animal rescue organization ‘Animal Aid Unlimited’ in Udaipur, Rajasthan. 

The AFA is now looking at hiring a full-time doctor for regular treatment and checkup of the animals, and to get a rescue van for the organization to carry out rescue tasks efficiently.

The team also attributed and lauded the help of Dr. Gautam Sarkar, an agro-veterinary doctor at Bongaigaon, who has always helped the NGO treat rescued animals. 

“It is because of him that we are at least able to identify the possible issues and symptoms that an animal could have after we rescue them,” the team said.

Lamenting the absence of proper veterinary facility,  a doctor from the state animal dispensary at Bongaigaon told EastMojo, “When it comes to the treatment of animals, normal cases like viral fever, flu or minor injuries can be cured by medical prescriptions and treatment from the clinic. But severe cases like bone fractures, cancerous tumors or highly contagious diseases like parvo or canine distemper that require the animal to be admitted in the hospital is nearly impossible, and those have to be shifted to the veterinary hospital at Khanapara, in Guwahati. It is mostly due to lack of resources and facilities.”

“There are more animals but fewer clinics with no adequate space or facility to keep them under observation, and very few doctors,” the doctor added.

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The NGO recently celebrated Kukur Tihar and Gopashtami on November 11, where they bathe the animals, offer them garlands and food, and worship them, appreciating their existence and presence. AFA members and community helpers actively participated in the celebration. 

Co-founder Kunal Kumar Sinha spoke to EastMojo about how veterinary hospitals should be lenient towards animal treatment and charge a nominal fee.

“We are grateful that we could start an initiative of saving animal lives by forming a non-profit organization. Even though we have always worked as individuals for animal welfare, forming the AFA despite the lockdown stretch being a major setback was indeed a very constructive and purposeful idea the four of us could come up with.”

The AFA founders dream of establishing a fully-functional animal care hospital with extended dorms and treat the rescued or stray animals at bare minimum charges, making it a part of their long-term goals.

The NGO, which also has social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram, believes that animals should not be kept as pets for status symbol purposes. 

“We do not support unethical breeding and selling of animals. We completely support animal adoption because our local animals are equally deserving to be loved and cared for. But people should be responsible for their actions,” co-founder Barnali Narzary told EastMojo.  

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