Animals who are suffering know they can find shelter at the Tree of Life For Animals charity (TOLFA). Nestled in a green oasis in the foothills of the Aravalli mountain range, Tree of Life For Animals charity was set up in 2005 by Rachel Wright, a veterinary nurse from the U.K. Since then TOLFA has helped over 1,70,000 sick & injured animals, spayed/neutered more than 22,000 dogs, vaccinated more than 28,000 dogs against rabies and received international recognition for its work.
A large part of TOLFA’s work is their rescue project, as well as rabies vaccinations and sterilisation programmes to keep the local dog population at a healthy number. TOLFA is open every day of the year and has a rescue ambulance on-call day and night, answering calls from the public about sick or injured animals.
An estimated 35 million street dogs live in India, many of whom have hard lives of pain, injury and abuse. India has the highest death rate from rabies in the world, with 97 percent of cases being caused by a dog bite. Without vaccinations, rabies is fatal and it causes the carrier horrendous suffering. TOLFA’s aim is to eventually make Rajasthan rabies-free. Every dog and cat that comes into TOLFA is sterilised and vaccinated. They have a small tag in their ear so local people know that they are safe and aren’t carrying rabies.
Education is at the heart of TOLFA’s mission. A lot of cruelty and abuse towards street dogs and cats is due to fear and ignorance. TOLFA runs education programmes in local schools to teach children about rabies prevention and animal welfare. TOLFA’s belief is that people and animals can live happily and harmoniously together and that animals contribute a huge amount to society. We have already seen the effect of TOLFA’s work in both the local and wider community: there are many caregivers who look out for the animals and have built positive relationships with them.
When TOLFA first started, it had one kennel and one basic operating theatre. Now it’s a busy and bustling hospital, with individual kennels for more than two hundred dogs and tranquil open areas for our ‘Golden Oldies’ senior dogs. There is also a quarantine block, a puppy house, a paralysed yard (road traffic accidents are very common) and a mange block.
The organisation also has a pet/owner clinic where owners are asked for a donation towards the treatment of their animal. Pet ownership is on the rise in India but unfortunately there are an increasing number of breed dogs abandoned on the streets if they become sick or too expensive to care for. Street dogs have wonderful temperaments – they are strong, easy to look after and very affectionate and loving. TOLFA encourages the adoption of street dogs and it’s a very happy ending when a puppy is adopted by someone and becomes part of their family.
The animal shelter also has a cathouse for the sanctuary cats and earlier this year a successful crowdfunder was run to build an outside garden for them. Any dog or cat who is too vulnerable to go back out onto the streets ends up becoming a permanent shelter animal at TOLFA. Apart from our feline family, we have over sixty shelter dogs at TOLFA, who know they have their ‘fur-ever’ homes with us.
Kindness is at the heart of what TOLFA does and TOLFA’s philosophy is ‘Healing From The Heart’. Alongside the dedicated medical teams, rescue team, treatment, maintenance and office teams, we have an in-house nurturing team who are there to give love and care to the vulnerable animals.
TOLFA employs over 30 staff, including qualified Indian veterinarians and local people who would struggle to find permanent employment. We have fostered a real family culture at TOLFA, with several generations working for us now, and everyone is part of the same team (shelter animals included!)
During the recent monsoon season TOLFA suffered devastating floods, which left large parts of the hospital under water and our services at risk. TOLFA’s dedicated staff worked around the clock during this crisis and services are now back to normal, but it has been a very difficult time and the aftermath is still being felt.
TOLFA relies on funding and the generosity of supporters to keep its life-saving work going. We are always striving to improve our facilities and our next big project is to build a quarantine block specifically for puppies, so we can provide the highest possible level of care to puppies with infectious diseases.
Many wonderful animals pass through TOLFA’s gates – ones that have a short stay and those who end up staying for longer. Street dogs and cats are no different to our own domestic animals; it’s just the lottery of life if they end up on the street or in a loving home. We have seen amazing recoveries at TOLFA: just the smallest kindness to a cat or dog who had never known love or affection can make the biggest difference to them, and make them feel that they are worth something.