PAWS (Plant and Animals Welfare Society), was founded in 2001 by the young and dynamic Nilesh Bhanage and his college friends. However the journey began three years earlier in 1998, when Nilesh first saw an injured pigeon on his rooftop, his eye injured and crows attacking that helpless pigeon. Nilesh and his friends intervened and rescued the pigeon, but they were clueless on how to treat that bird or the nearest place where they could take it for medical help. It was then, that Nilesh’s eldest cousin brother Vivek who runs a Photo Studio shared with him the details of a young lady named Anamika who used to come to his photo studio to get her photographs developed featuring animals. Following this, Nilesh decided to take that pigeon to Anamika’s place and that was the beginning of a new chapter in Nilesh’s life and in the life of many animals in need around Dombivali.
Nilesh shared that, “Anamika was the one who taught me first aid for animals. The other lady that I am inspired by is Goodicia Vaidya who is now the Vice President of In Defence of Animals – Mumbai and who in 1998-99 used to drive an Animal Ambulance from Dombivali to Mahalaxmi, a distance of about 90 kms every day tirelessly helping in animals in distress”.
PAWS was officially registered in 2001 and it got a lease of life when Ahmednagar SPCA donated its ambulance to PAWS in the first official year of its operations.
When Nilesh officially registered PAWS as a charitable society and trust in 2001, uptil July 2010, Nilesh was doing a regular job in Mumbai as well besides managing PAWS and it is this that was most inspiring to us. For he wasn’t drawing any income from PAWS and its operations rather spending whatever he had personally, be it time, effort or money to still run an effective animal rescue organization that was volunteer-driven.
PAWS has a network of 300 registered members connected via a google group and off these about hundred dedicated volunteers who take turns to contribute their skills, be it rescuing all kinds of birds and animals, providing first aid, designing brochures and other awareness literature and hosting fundraisers and awareness events etc.
PAWS looks after its volunteers by administering them anti-rabies and tetanus vaccinations as part of its ‘Protect the Protectors’ program. The volunteers are reimbursed for their vehicle expenses after the submission of the animal rescue form and the receipt from the animal hospital where the injured animal was admitted. The top 20 volunteers who help in rescuing animals are also aided by PAWS with a Medical/Health insurance policy and besides this PAWS has distributed First Aid kits to 5 volunteers in Dombivali who help out with Animal First Aid regularly and their medicine stocks are also replenished as and when they run out of it.
Other than the volunteers, the full-time staff employed by PAWS includes two part time office assistants, two ambulance staff who act as both drivers and para-vets and two rescue staff, both of who are young boys from orphanages housing kids orphaned in the Latur earthquake of 1993.
PAWS has a philanthropic side to its activities in the domain of ‘human welfare’ as well as we acknowledged that PAWS donated its first ambulance received in 2001 from SPCA Ahmednagar, which happened to be a matador to St. Josephs’s School which happens to be a school near PAWS office where children with special needs are taught along with ‘normal ‘kids upto Class 4. Besides this, PAWS regularly ties up with societies working with blind and under-privileged children to organise joint fundraising activities through sale of merchandize made by these societies.
PAWS officially got access to a Rescue Centre of its own in the year 200, thanks to the generosity of Mrs. Maneka Gandhi & Pritish Nandy of People For Animals which operated in that premises in 1994-95 and the place was lying unused ever since. This rescue centre is located at Murbad, about 45 kms away from Dombivaili.
“My aim now is to start an Animal Birth Control Unit and a fully equipped veterinary hospital at the PAWS Centre in Murbad. It will be a long drawn process but I am sure we will be able to do so.”, shares Nilesh. Nilesh’s immediate goal is to recruit honest staff to support housekeeping and medical needs of animals at Murbad and generating resources for the same is something Manasi plans to take on as she plans a non-profit event management company of her own, that could help PAWS to generate funds for its operations through event-based on awareness and fund-raising activities.
Article By – Vasudha Mehta, New Delhi