Cats, Dogs and Musy the Donkey: Welcome to Kashmir’s First Animal Sanctuary | Global Development

On a secluded stretch of land on the banks of the Jhelum River in Srinagar, a baby donkey stands in a paddock eating straw. He was cared for by staff at the first – and only – animal rescue center in Indian-administered Kashmir.

A few weeks earlier, on a freezing February morning, the sound of the moans of the donkey, called Musy, abandoned with a broken leg, had awakened the residents of the town’s upmarket housing estate. They knew who to contact.

Dawood Mohammad, who founded Animal Rescue Kashmir, brought Musy back to the Rambagh centre, which is now home to around 150 animals.

The center began with the rescue of Musy the donkey and now houses around 150 animals. Photo: Mir Seeneen

With a staff of seven, aided by dozens of volunteers, the center has been raising awareness of animal rights since it opened two years ago.

“The idea is to inspire people for animal rights in Kashmir,” says Mohammed as he treats an injured dog brought to the centre. “We started with field rescue excursions before floating the animal helpline number and animal facility center.”

Mohammad saw the need for a centre, which he runs with his wife, Mariya Mushtaq, when the couple returned to Kashmir in 2015 after living in London for a few years and saw a paralyzed puppy abandoned on the street. They took the pup because they realized there was nowhere to go.

“After taking care of abandoned animals on the streets for three years, we finally decided to create this centre,” explains Mushtaq. “He was well taken by civil society [groups] aware of animal rights and they help spread the word.

Raising money for animal welfare has proven difficult and the couple run the center with money from their clothing business. Monthly expenses amount to at least 2 lakh rupees (about £2,000).

The center is built on two acres of land, dotted with trees, including staff quarters. The animals live in corner enclosures and are free to roam outside. In a paddock stands an old horse with a bandaged leg.

An injured dog is surrounded by bandages, antiseptics and other treatment supplies.
An injured dog is surrounded by treatment supplies. Monthly expenses for center activities are at least Rs 2 lakh (£2,000) Photo: Mir Seeneen

“It is so heartbreaking to see these animals, especially horses, being left behind in their sick and senile phase of life,” Mushtaq says.

Himalayan horses, abandoned because they are limping, are being left stranded, she says, and many end up losing limbs after being hit by cars. “Unfortunately, while native horses face indifference, high-bred stallions…have become new showpieces in Kashmir.

“We have saved over 1,000 animals so far,” Mushtaq adds, while applying antiseptic to an injured dog’s paw. “We mainly rescued dogs, as their population is huge in Kashmir. In the capital, Srinagar, there are around 70,000 dogs.

Since the pandemic, the center has been at the forefront of a new trend in the region to adopt pets. “After reading about the power of pets to ward off loneliness, people decided to adopt and markedly increased pet culture in Kashmir,” says Mohammad.

About 450 animals from the center have been adopted to date, mostly by youngsters. “People generally prefer to adopt cats,” he says.

The couple are now trying to attract external funds to modernize facilities. “We rely on public support to create empathetic change [in attitudes] towards these poor creatures,” Mohammad said. “They deserve our attention and our care.”

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