​Hope for India’s forgotten street animals

Through this nonprofit's tireless work, India’s street animals are rescued, healed, loved, and returned back to their neighborhoods.

When volunteers visit the Animal Aid Unlimited (AAU) rescue center, they are greeted with wagging tails and wet noses everywhere they look. This nonprofit, located in Udaipur, India, is home to hundreds of rescued animals who are receiving treatment and loving care. The animals who reside at this specialized shelter range from cows and goats, to dogs and donkeys, and any other animal in need of rescue.

The organization was founded by Erika, Jim, and Claire Abrams-Myers, who originally hail from Seattle, Washington. When the family visited India on vacation back in the 1990's, they were heartbroken by the sight of all the injured street animals with no available veterinary options.

founders of animal aid unlimited Jim, Erika and Claire Abrams-Myers (top three, left to right) are the founders and managing directors of Animal Aid. (Photo: Animal Aid Unlimited)

“We started to realize that for the street animals, there were no resources for their medical care,” said Erika. “Although there is a vet clinic for farmed animals, it requires that the animals have owners."

"The street animals had no one, and this became apparent to us when we started looking for veterinary help for the puppies who lived around our rented house in a village just outside Udaipur City.”

On a return trip in 2002, the family decided to start a rescue shelter focusing specifically on India’s homeless street animals. There are millions of homeless dogs who live on the streets of India, with an estimated 10,000 just in the city of Udaipur.

Although the animals are fed by kind strangers, there aren’t many organizations or government resources to take care of these animals when they became sick or injured. AAU knew they could make a real difference in the lives of these unwanted castaways.

group of Indian people with dogs AAU's mission is to replace apathy and neglect with protection. (Photo: Animal Aid Unlimited)

In 2003, AAU opened their very first veterinary hospital dedicated to treating the rescued animals who arrived at the shelter sick and injured. Even though the center had a small budget and just a handful of staff members, they never turned away an animal in need and tried to answer every rescue call.

Slowly but surely, the rescue center grew by leaps and bounds, and word began to spread about this wonderful shelter in Udaipur.

founders of animal aid unlimited with two dogs There are millions of homeless dogs who live on the streets of India, with an estimated 10,000 just in the city of Udaipur. (Photo: Animal Aid Unlimited)

By 2015, more than 50,000 rescued animals had come through the nonprofit’s doors, and the organization was finally able to acquire a much-needed rescue ambulance. Now, as soon as a call came in, a specialized team could be dispatched to try and locate the distressed creature and bring them to safety.

The organization has rescued animals from the most dire circumstances, including deep wells and dangerous tar pits. The dedicated rescuers often risk their own lives to save an animal that needs help.

vet works on injured dog in India Thousands of dogs, cows, donkeys, and other animals live on the street in Udaipur alone, and millions across India. (Photo: Animal Aid Unlimited)

When the rescued animals first arrive at Animal Aid’s hospital, many of them are in a very delicate state. Many of these animals are terribly sick or suffering from severe injuries. Some of them are afflicted with paralysis from accidents, or extreme cases of skin conditions like mange.

AAU believes there is always hope and recovery for every creature that comes through their door, and the dedicated team of staff and volunteers never give up on any animal.

Today, the nonprofit focuses on street animal rescue, spay and neuter, humane animal education, outreach, and much-needed veterinary training programs. Although most of the animals treated at the shelter are returned back to their neighborhoods with a clean bill of health, many of them are too frail to go back into the streets. A special group of animals, such as the dogs in wheelchairs, permanently reside at the rescue shelter on a four-acre sanctuary.

The organization’s goals for the future are to make an even bigger impact throughout India.

dog in wheelchair smiles at camera AAU operates one of India’s most active rescue services, responding to more than 50 calls on their helpline daily. (Photo: Animal Aid Unlimited)

“Animal Aid Unlimited holds first aid intensive training courses, and the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations holds regular workshops to teach skills about fundraising, sheltering animals, political advocacy, and vegan outreach," says Erika. "Together we hope to build a support network so that new activists don't feel alone, and experience that strength in numbers advantage.”

“This is our future focus: creating more and greater opportunities for people to enter the animal protection movement feeling inspired, happy, useful, and getting the thrill of leading a meaningful life helping the most vulnerable among us.”

Animal Aid Unlimited logo

Animal Aid Unlimited is a charitable organization that runs a busy animal hospital and shelter in Udaipur, Rajasthan India. Through this non-profit India’s street animals are rescued, healed, loved, and returned back to their neighborhoods. Animal Aid’s mission is to bring relief to suffering animals, and to awaken compassion among people and show everyone a path for action.

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