This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Shambhavi Saxena. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Threatened, Defamed And Called A “Bitch”: What I Got For Feeding Street Dogs

More from Shambhavi Saxena

By Shambhavi Saxena:

A group of residents in my neighbourhood threatened to file a police complaint against my mother for being ‘dog feeders’. They’d plastered notices everywhere, naming her, and another dog feeder, going so far as to say that stray dogs were even being encouraged to attack people. It’s been a month since all of this, and there has been little resolution.

“Be compassionate to animals.” It’s a lesson I’ve carried with me ever since I was a first-grader glued to National Geographic or Animal Planet, with one arm circled around my favourite stuffed toy lion. It’s a lesson that has influenced many parts of my life, such as the choice to adopt pets rather than buy them from breeders and puppy mills. It’s a lesson that taught me to extend the same concern to all animals, rather than just some fancy dog breeds in sleek nylon leashes.

For representation only. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
For representation only. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Compassion for animals is something I’ve even written about in the past, because it mattered so much to me that ordinary people like myself took the requisite steps to help out stray animals in their localities. But how could I simply leave my principles on paper? So last summer, equipped with a plastic bucket of water, some earthenware bowls, and a big steel tiffin-carrier filled to its brim with fresh food, my mother and I set off to find the five or six street dogs that lived in and around our building complex. From the moment they licked their bowls clean, and nudged our hands with their noses, we became ‘community dog feeders’ – a term that I wasn’t even aware of back then.

Come nine o’clock, our six street dogs would position themselves at their usual spots, ears perked, waiting for dinner, which would be followed by vigorous petting and the usual happy scampering. Eventually, we christened them all with silly names, and they’d learnt to answer when we called.

But soon we began noticing random injuries on these street dogs. We often caught security guards in the area walloping them with lathis. Some nights they wouldn’t come out at all, for fear of being harmed. I realised then that being compassionate to animals wasn’t just about putting out a bowl of water and some biscuits. It meant wandering around in the dark calling after them, hoping they hadn’t been hit or run over; it meant extra trips to the vet to get their deworming medicines; it meant having them sterilised and running after them with vitamins and ear drops. It slowly dawned on me that the consequences I faced for living my writing were not going to be pleasant.

As pet-owners, we’ve faced some ridiculous situations. One time, large quantities of ‘evidence’ (get my drift?) were planted against my small 10 kilo dachshund, and a notice was sent to our home accusing us of deliberately dirtying the building complex. We should have taken that as a preface of what was to come.

It started with small intimidations. When we took food out for the community dogs, or when we walked our own dogs inside our own building complex, security guards would warn us “Complaint lag jayegi. Sahab ne bola hai.” (“The boss has said that a complaint can be registered”) We wondered who on earth this ‘sahab’ was whose whim was, apparently, law (spoiler, it was the RWA president). So when the Animal Welfare Board of India’s circular on pet dogs and street dogs was notified on February 26, 2015, we were over the moon. We read feverishly through the “Guidelines for Care-givers of Street Dogs“, and found that we were already complying with it. We even deposited a copy of the new document with the manager and the head of security. What could possibly go wrong now?
The guards quit policing us, and we had an easy month or two, but then the residents of our own building complex got their claws out. We were stopped by neighbours on several occasions, and told not to feed stray animals. “They bark at night,” “They chase cars,” “They’re dirty,” “Think of the children,” “Think of the elderly” – we heard these and more, but nobody seemed to hear us when we caught drivers kicking and beating dogs. Nobody seemed to hear us when a group of boys (did they have licenses?) laughed and drove at top speed towards the dogs. Nobody seemed to want to know that these dogs had seen their own kin crushed under vehicles, and did not react well to the sight or sound of fast-moving cars.

We knew the dogs’ safety was now under threat, but we were soon shown that ours was too. And no amount of reasoning, no amount of telling people that we were well within our constitutional rights to feed dogs, worked.

On one occasion, a male resident brandished a large stick at us, ordering us to stop feeding the dogs. One night, four men in a large black car pulled up in front of me while I was alone. Words were exchanged and I was told very vaguely that someone would soon run over and kill these dogs. I was called a ‘bitch’ and the car drove away. I was shaking with anger, and my mother, when I told her, was shaking with fear.

Then one morning, we found those notices publicly defaming my mother and another community dog feeder, saying we were all, out of sheer spite, feeding these dogs just so they could make life hell for everyone. We were stunned. Not only was the document wildly inaccurate and inappropriate, it had also been put up without any name, signature, or official stamp from the manager’s office. On probing further (I paid a visit to the manager himself) I found out that official processes had been waived this time because the notice had been okayed by – guess who! – the president of the RWA!

Even today, members of the RWA remain silent about the issue. No attempts have been made to sensitise residents about the rights of street dogs and their feeders. And there’s little we can do, other than go down every night, bowl of food in hand, and hope the dogs are okay.

“Be compassionate to animals” – it’s a sweet little reminder to drop in front of six-year-old school children. I assume we’ve all heard something like this growing up. I wish, however, that it came with an addendum. “Be compassionate to animals; and steel yourself for the absolute shit storm coming your way because of it.”

You must be to comment.
  1. Trivikrama Kumari

    Hypocrisy of self-righteous humans. Double sets of rules. As my dogs point out in

More from Shambhavi Saxena

Similar Posts

By Anshul Abraham

By Aditya Lakshmi

By Uday Che

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below