My dogs are my children, and if ever I am in a life or death situation like the floods, I will never leave without them” 💕🐶 By Elizabeth Claire AlbertsPublished on 8/29/2018 at 5:04 PM When the floodwaters reached the house that Sunitha Sinto shared with her husband in Kerala, India, two weeks ago, they knew they had to move somewhere safe. But Sinto had 25 rescued street dogs in her care, and she wasn’t going to leave without them.
The region where she lives has been hit with terrible flooding in the past month, and hundreds of people have died. But she wouldn’t give up on her dogs. “When rescuers came to shift Sunitha and her husband, they were willing to go only if their dogs were taken along, too — but unfortunately this was refused,” Rahul Sehgal, India’s senior director of companion animals and engagement at Humane Society International (HSI), told The Dodo.
The floodwaters kept rising, placing Sinto, her husband and the dogs at greater risk. Sinto reached out to Sally Varma, India’s education and awareness officer at HSI, and asked for her help. Within hours, help arrived — Varma and the HSI team moved Sinto and her family into a barn that was safe from the floodwaters, and has continued to support them with food and other supplies.
“My dogs are my children, and if ever I am in a life or death situation like the floods, I will never leave without them,” Sinto said in a statement. “I’m so happy that Sally from HSI/India was here to offer help when I needed it, and still now after the flood when we are still in need.”
“I have just adopted two more dogs from the streets too, so now I have 27 children, and we really need the food and medicine that HSI/India is giving us,” Sinto added. “It’s stopped us from starving. I want to let people around the world know that animal lives matter too, and when calamity strikes, they rely on us to save them.”
Sinto’s dogs aren’t the only animals HSI has rescued in Kerala. Terrible monsoon rains have hit the region since late July, resulting in what’s being referred to as the worst flood in a century. More than 220,000 people have been left homeless. Animals are suffering as well — many have been abandoned, and the ones who survive are in desperate need of food, shelter and vet care.
“The human rescue teams were not allowing people to bring their pets with them to the relief camps, and that meant there were big numbers of abandoned and stranded animals,” Sehgal said. “Many of the animals were kept caged or chained (including dogs) and they did not get the chance to fight for their survival as the water levels rose.”
Some who managed to stay alive were extremely aggressive and difficult to handle, likely because they were so terrified,” Sehgal added. “It must be very traumatizing for them. We put out a plea for people to unrestrain their animals if they were forced to leave them so that at least they had a chance to flee the danger.”
HSI has been working tirelessly to rescue as many animals as possible, although it’s been a struggle to respond to every call for help.
“The numbers to be rescued were overwhelming, and originally we had only six HSI responders for the first few days,” Sehgal said. “This was the most challenging time, and our first team worked day and night in exhausting conditions before our reinforcement team could reach them.”
It was also difficult for HSI to reach many of the animals in need — the local airport was closed, and many roads were broken or cut off from the floods. When HSI responders were able to save animals, they struggled to find enough adequate housing for all of them.
Despite the huge challenges, HSI has rescued over 200 animals in the past two weeks, including dogs, cats, goats, cows and buffalo, and helped feed more than 1,500 animals. HSI is also working with several local rescue groups to save even more animals across Kerala.
The floodwaters are starting to subside now, but the work is far from over — many animals still need to be rescued, and then either reunited with their families or put up for adoption.