Tell us about yourself, your background and what you do currently
India, my home, is a land of great diversity in geography, race, language, religion, flora and fauna. I live in the financial capital of the country which is Mumbai, in the state of Maharashtra. I grew up with two pet dogs at home and aspired to be a veterinarian from ever since I can remember. I pursued veterinary studies at the Bombay Veterinary College and graduated in 1997 with a Master’s degree in Parasitology. I started a small practice with the support of my father who bought me the place. Very early in the practice, I realised that I needed to upgrade my skill and knowledge to be able to provide the kind of treatment to sick animals which entails no trial-and-error.
I travelled to Australia to do my Master’s degree in Veterinary Studies at the University of Queensland (Brisbane). There I met a wonderful and patient faculty which helped me overcome the climate and the cultural shock and get into the groove. I also met many like-minded animal enthusiasts, including the legendary Steve Irwin, and learnt a few things about wild animal rescue and rehabilitation as well.
Back home at my practice, I and my colleagues were seeing all sorts of complicated cases. As an animal lover, I knew that I was not being able to help much in certain cases, such as those involving neurological disorders. I have been associated for more than a decade and a half with various voluntary organisations involved in the rescue, treatment and rehabilitation of all types of animals and was a trustee of one such organisation, “People for Animals” (PFA). In the course of my work for these organisations too I came across a high number of neurological and accident cases involving complete paralysis/paraplegia, the only humane option at that time being euthanasia.
I knew I had to fill this yawning gap in my knowledge. So I enrolled for the NAVC Pain Management Program in 2013. This course gave me a firm footing in the treatment of cases that had till then left me in despair. During this visit I also saw the work being carried out at the animal rehab and physiotherapy department at the Animal Medical Centre, Manhattan, under the guidance of Dr Leilani Alvarez.
This experience emboldened me and on my return to India I began practicing pain management using acupuncture needles, TENS and cold laser. What I achieved by way of results was very, very satisfying. In the past two years, I have treated many animals and alleviated their pain noticeably, but the most satisfying cases were those involving a pet dog (with myelitis) and a street kitten (with neurological issues leading to paraplegia). Both of them returned to near normalcy in the care provided by me and my team. The kitten was even adopted in a new home after she began walking on all fours within a month of treatment.
Thanks to them, these successes have now vetted my desire to acquire greater knowledge in neurology and pain management so that I can improve the quality of life of animals in distress.
As a part of my board tenure which is 4 years as a director I have visited United States twice each year and every year done several courses in pain management, neurology (especially integrated medication) as well as observed several clinic both exotic animal and emergency set ups.
I was also fortunate to see work with Dr Bezner at Save Our Chimps in Florida and get hands on experience with managing larges apes in captivity.
Also visited the Humane society international (Florida) to get a feel of running a shelter, behaviour management in dogs to promote adoption etc.
Currently I run my practice in Chembur, executive committee member of the thane SPCA since 2015, I’m a trustee of Kalote Animal trust which is involved in caring for 280 animals such as Cattle, sheep, goat, pigs, horses, birds, monkeys, rabbits, dogs and cats.
Reptiles such as monitor lizards, terrapins, turtles, tortoises and handicapped monkeys both infant and adult that cannot be released.
Tell us about any current projects or initiatives you wish to promote
I’m a full time Veterinary Practitioner managing my mixed practice, working on setting up a pain clinic parallel to international standards in Mumbai.
My passion for my work doesn’t end in my practice. My services are dedicated to strays as well as helping our wildlife that need rehabilitation post treatment.
Be it cobras or monkeys I’m working on making my services available to all species when in need.
Post treatment some unfortunate animals need longer or permanent shelter to spend the rest of their ailing life with dignity.
My connection with Kalote Animal trust gives me the comfort of helping such animals in need too.
Currently the shelter is home to about 280 animals.
My future plan is for shelter to be more equipped to keep handicapped wild life as there are no Rehabilitation centres for wildlife in the city that meets the right standards.
Birds such as raptors and flamingos which are targets of human animal conflict, especially during the Uttarayan Kite Flying Festival, and lose their wings need rehabilitation and upkeep as they cannot be released.
We are constantly inundated with baby primates that are orphaned due to their mothers getting electrocuted and the infants too suffer the impact of high voltage.
Some of these babies cannot be released back into the wild and so need care and fostering life long.
At Kalote we have currently 6 primates with special needs and numbers are going up.
Other species such as dogs, cats, donkeys, tortoises, turtles etc which are abandoned by owners or breeders have found home in Kalote after having traumatic pasts.
We are currently struggling with funding for all these animals, as the variety demands separate spacious enclosures, especially the monkeys and captive birds. We are hoping to maintain international standards in their care and life time upkeep to avoid boredom and self mutilation.
I’m hoping to have separate cattle sheds for our existing 45 cows and in future setting up a gobar gas plant to help the environment and put our natural resources to utility and help the Kalote Trust to be completely environment friendly.
My international exposure makes me want to raise the standards of animal welfare in a shelter environment which is extremely important for abused, as well as ailing stray animals/birds, that need a permanent home to call their own, either due to special needs or being victims of human versus wild life conflict (such as our raptors).
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?
1. The Past and even the current Veterinary curriculum doesn’t cover up international standards of studies related to pain management, my strong desire to learn more in this field be it integrated Pain Management, neurology as well as exotic animal studies
2.It is important therefore to constantly upgrade knowledge, courses related to such fields are exorbitant which naturally involves travelling overseas too .
3. Space limitations post treating wild life and then Rehabilitation within our city limits and therefore the shelter which is far away from the city needs a well equipment Ambulance that makes an ailing animal travel with comfort .
4. More space and better facilities for existing animals again requires continuous financial support .
What has been your greatest achievement personally?
Im on an international board as a director for pain management (International Veterinary Academy Of Pain Management) which a US based Academy that IVAPM is the leading forum and educational resource for veterinary professionals interested in animal pain prevention, management and treatment.
I have also delivered a Ted talk on the same subject Do Animals feel pain https://youtu.be/e1v2XBwKwZA.
My practice that is 23 years old, provides pain management to pets and strays, as well as wildlife with international standards.
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing
This my calling. I was born to do this and nothing else.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
James Herriot – I grew up reading his books and always wanted to be like him not cooked up in a commercial set up just making money but enjoying being a vet and learning from the variety of species I treat their behaviour, their joys etc
Mother Teresa for her self lessness as a human
Jane Goodall for her work with apes and her compassion for them , which resulted in a foundation that supports and helps so many ailing apes
What does the future hold for you
I hope to see a state of an art pain & rehabilitation centre for ailing wild life as well as a pain clinic dedicated to all kinds of pets within Mumbai
My vision is to make the Kalote Animal trust an example for animal shelters in developing countries to look up to and imitate .