A year has passed by, and here we are again - bearing witness to the dissipating turmoil that is animal welfare in Sri Lanka. From full-fledged pet encagements and abandoned litters of newborn strays in plastic bags, to the dawn of a new year. During the period of time between this article and my last, seemingly just over a little has changed.
During the challenge that was 2020, the spike in compassion and the growth in Sri Lanka’s sense of community, took me pleasantly by surprise. Of course, this isn’t to say crude stories of animal abuse hadn’t reached our ears. Amidst the terrible, animal welfare awareness truly peaked - with the public rushing to home stray litters, and with their eagerness to abandon the vanities preventing stray adoption. As their light gently brightens the future for animal welfare in Sri Lanka, I have every confidence when I say the pearl of the Indian Ocean is well on its way to rediscover its compassion.
My support for Animal Welfare Organizations comes as no surprise. The sheer passion and love within each and every activist is positively inspiring. Having said so, it is my absolute pleasure to bring you an exclusive with Yannina Captain from Justice for Animals, to provide an insight into their generous work.
My family has always been involved in Animal Welfare, especially my mum, Tashiya Captain. Initially, we were both members of the Animal Welfare and Protection Association - another organisation that does great work. We realised that although there were many individuals and organisations doing rescues, there was a need for more CNVR programs. We never set out to start our own organisation. We set out to do a charity calendar and it was the funds raised from the calendar that enabled us to do the island wide spay-neuter-vaccinate-treat-feed program under the Justice for Animals banner. It snowballed, really.
We work with and support animal welfare activists in specific areas who identify the pockets of homeless dogs. They help us with the pre-program groundwork and also direct the vet team "catchers" to the areas where the dogs are on the day of the program. Our responsibility is getting the Vet Team to the location and fundraising. Many people bring community-owned dogs to our health campaigns, because the spay-neuter-vaccinate program is an invaluable program to communities that cannot afford normal vet costs or do not have access to a veterinarian clinic. We need to look at this program not only from an animal welfare perspective, but also as a unique program that supports the government rabies eradication program.
Primary, we engage in spay-neuter-vaccinate-treat programs. We believe it’s a necessity in preventing more homeless cats and dogs from future suffering. While we have done a few animal rescues, our focus is to help rural communities which don’t have vet facilities, clinics or the financial capacity to help stray animals, even when they’d like to. We get countless calls regarding rescues and unfortunately, the majority of the time, we have to say no. Our organisation’s priority are the CNVR programs. We can’t lose focus on that. Of course, there have been times where we have been in a position to help, and have saved and rehomed a few now-loved pets.
Aside from CNVR programs, we have a few ongoing projects. One of which is an education wildlife program for underprivileged children that we are making preparations for. In another new project, we are creating a database of people who have pets who would like to sign their dog up for blood donations. Animals get sick and need blood transfusions just as humans do. A Facebook group called ‘Animal Blood Donors Sri Lanka’ has been set up for this very purpose. The idea is to have a formal forum that matches a pet in need of blood with a pet willing to donate blood.
Justice for Animals was only recently registered as a non-profit charity and as of now, the ‘team’ is really a team of two: my mother and I. We’re blessed to have people who are willing to volunteer when we need help, who want to be involved in some small way. We have generous donors and friends.
To say 2020 was challenging is an understatement. We were fortunate to have the funds from the 2020 calendar to get us started. However, we’ve mostly been dependent on donations, for our fundraising options were extremely limited due to COVID-19 in 2020.
We managed to continue with our CNVR programs despite the difficulties and organised a market called The Aluth Pola before the 2nd lockdown. It was hosted by Body Bar. There were several stall holders, besides the Justice for Animals stall; including charities, start-ups and home businesses - most which are run by women and young entrepreneurs. So the market also benefits other charitable organisations, as well as small businesses trying to find their feet.
Unfortunately due to the rise in COVID cases, we couldn’t have The Aluth Pola Christmas Edition, which we were planning for the beginning of December. This was a big setback for our fundraising efforts and our work relies on fundraising and donations. We can’t run the CNVR programs without funds. It’s as simple as that.
There’s so much to do, across the board, on so many different levels - domestic animals, homeless animals, farm animals, captive animals and wildlife - all which need urgent attention and protection under the law. We’re thankful to know there are other organisations involved in the same work, fighting for the same things we are because there’s just so much that needs to be done. We’re at war with a lot of things, and to win a war you need an army. Metaphorically, we’re two foot soldiers. We can’t do it alone.
We’re a fledgling organisation, working from home. Born in 2019, formally established as a Non-Profit Charity in 2020. To date, we’ve treated 4,426 homeless animals through our CNVR programs island wide.
There are so many ways the public can help! A few being;
Sponsoring a CNVR program.
Donating books to Bookscribe (@bookscribe.co on Instagram), which will be sold as second hand books to fund our CNVR programs.
Joining the ‘Animal Blood Donor Sri Lanka’ group on Facebook and registering your pet to donate blood, or joining if you have own a pet in case they one day need one.
A general means of help can also go a long way. It’s as simple as;
Following us on social media at @justiceforanimals.lk
If you haven’t been, visiting Yala or Wilpattu. Learning about wildlife, sustainable tourism, our forests and animals - animals that might not be there for your children’s children to see.
If you have a garden - starting gardening, planting a tree. Sri Lanka, like most other parts of the world, are not as green as they used to be.
Remembering to Recycle, Reuse and Resell.
Being compassionate to animals.
To wrap up the interview, we have a few final words of advice from Yannina - I think the mistake people make is that they assume, it’s fine, I’m sure someone else will do it. If you are in a position to do any of the above, don’t wait for others to do so. Assume it’s you or no-one.
Before we conclude, I’d like to take a moment to announce that Justice for Animals is holding their 2nd “Aluth Pola - A Market For A Cause”, on 31st January at Body Bar from 10 am – 5:30pm. This program will help raise funds for their 2021 spay-neuter-vaccinate-treat animal health camps.
This year’s market features several small businesses and two other registered charities - Emerge Global & Simply Women. Vendors will be selling plants, baked goods, vegan cheeses and dips, food-savoury and sweet treats, books, jewellery, art, clothing and bath products. You can visit their social media [@thealuthpola] for more details.
Well, there it is, folks. It is incredibly remarkable how much these two individuals have accomplished, all in the name of our little pearl. It goes without saying, their story is deeply inspiring as to how we as citizens can, too, aid our community. We all certainly have a role to play, no matter how small.
This new year, I eagerly look forward to a steady growth within the animal welfare community. Here’s to all the sweet strays looking to us for their happy ending. Until next time.