By Neha Panchamiya*

Initiative noun An act or strategy intended to resolve a difficulty or improve a situation; a fresh approach to something. On a cold night 12 years ago, my friend Tanya and I struggled to get help for a stray dog who was vomiting and shivering and was clearly in need of emergency medical attention. The hours flew by in a haze as we frantically contacted pet clinics in the hope that someone, somewhere, would help a stray animal. By the time a veterinarian finally agreed to help — 18 hours since we first found the poor animal — the dog’s condition had worsened considerably, and he passed away. His death was one of the most harrowing experiences of my life, yet it also led to my most life-altering decision: one that solidified my mission to ensure that no one else would feel as helpless as we had that night. This was how the seeds to RESQ Charitable Trust were sown: through the distressing and needless suffering of one dog, and the realisation that if we wanted to help animals, we would have to stop pointing fingers and fuel our frustration and passion into taking the initiative to finding a solution ourselves.

That was 2007. Today, RESQ is one of India’s most active citywide rescue service. What started as a small onsite operation at the back of a mall, is now a full-fledged organisation that has grown in leaps and bounds over the years: from raising street animal healthcare standards to embarking on ground-breaking scientific endeavours. Every single decision and action at RESQ is spurred by our singular and overriding desire to help animals. Since the very beginning, RESQ has provided 100 percent free medical treatment and care to street animals, and it will continue to do so. Through our efforts, we provide aid to over 250+ animals every day and rescue animals, both large and small, domestic and wild. We firmly believe that direct action tempered with a practical and informed approach is the best way to promote both human and animal welfare through peaceful coexistence, which is why we also focus a considerable portion of our efforts towards functioning as Pune’s only Canine Rabies Quarantine and Testing Facility, as Rabies is both an animal and human health issue. Through our Charitable Animal Hospital, RESQ Ambulance and Onsite Response Team, Small Animal Sanctuary and Rehoming Centre, Large Animal Sanctuary, Wildlife Transit Unit, and Awareness and Education efforts, we endeavour to help injured, sick, abandoned and homeless animals of all kinds whilst doing our utmost to spread the word about the work we do.

With every stride we make towards a brighter future for animals, however, I am discerningly aware of the obstacles that lie in our path. RESQ is currently functioning as emergency veterinary and trauma hospital for unowned animals, rehabilitation and rehoming centre, and wildlife transit unit for the majority of Pune’s animals. That is, thousands of injured, sick and homeless dogs, cows, cats, pigs, horses, birds and wildlife – all in need of emergency medical attention; all in need of quality care and rehabilitation. But with limited funds, there are only so many lives that we can touch. With the number of animals being reported to us far outweighing our resources and manpower, community support is extremely important for us to be able to continue our work. Thankfully, if one thing has become abundantly clear to me over the past 12 years, it is humanity’s overwhelming propensity for kindness. For every case of heinous human cruelty we receive — dogs and cats suffering from acid attacks and burn wounds; pets abandoned and left to die; large animals abused and forced to work until their bodies simply give up — there are 10 more people willing to stand up and care for these animals, either by donating their time or contributing useful items and hard-earned money. This, combined with the astounding courage and tenacity of the animals we treat, is all the fuel we need to wake up every morning (or night — RESQ is practically a 24-hour operation!) and work our fingers to the bone, working alongside a community that reminds us every day that the future is rife with hope and compassion, if only we work towards it.

Today, I seek solace in the knowledge that just like Tanya and I, more and more people are stepping up and taking the initiative to help animals themselves. While we do not have a solution to everything ourselves, we work hard to the best of our ability to ensure that every individual who finds an animal in need will at least have somewhere to turn to; that the transformative power of ‘choice’ is finally in Pune’s hands; that should another dog in need be found vomiting and shivering through a freezing night, he will have a safe place to go to… a haven for animals just like him. Such is the power of seizing initiative!

* Neha Panchamiya is the Founder and President of RESQ Charitable Trust, which is Pune’s largest animal rescue NGO. She is also a member of the Animal Welfare Monitoring Committee – Pune Zila Parishad, a Managing Committee member of the District SPCA (Pune), and strives every day to minimise unnecessary animal suffering and promote peaceful coexistence for all