By profession, Zahid Hussain is a marine engineer and a passionate animal rights activist who has made his mark by co-founding Care for Paws, an emergency clinic for all animals in need. They want animals to live their lives as they were meant to, in their natural habitat and enact laws that will ensure their safety. Care for Paws wants to encourage people to do the bare minimum for stray animals. During a discussion with Nawar Fairooz, Zahid Hussain shares his journey with New Age Youth
ZAHID Hussain and Sourav Shamim started out as two animal loving cousins who simply wanted to ease the sufferings of neglected and tortured animals on the streets of Dhaka. Their vision and ambition grew and snow-balled the official establishment of Care for Paws, a non-profit organisation for the welfare of animals. The team have been working for the cause since 2015 and finally registered as an official organisation in 2017. Currently they have a clinic in Zigatola and a rehabilitation centre in Keraniganj which caters to pets and abandoned animals alike.
Having spent his younger years in Dubai, Zahid had little to no connection with stray animals or domestic ones apart from the stories told by his mother; whose acts of kindness towards animals inspires him to be the person he is today. After returning to Dhaka in 2002, he finally got the chance to see the variety of animals that occupy the streets, homes and hearts in this city. He finished his O and A levels in Dhaka and moved on to pursue a degree in marine engineering abroad.
After graduating from Singapore Maritime Academy, Zahid started working as an officer on a ship overseas where he encountered his first pet, a cat named Mojo. In 2013, the kitten was found on the ship and the two developed an extraordinary bond; which led to Mojo becoming a Bangladeshi ‘cat-izen’. The feline crew member was not easily accepted by the authority so Zahid had to take measures to keep Mojo around. After quite a hassle with both finances and forms, the kitten was finally handed over to Sourav Shamim in Bangladesh. Mojo, the playful cat still lives with his human-friend in his Dhaka residence.
Around the same period, the Chairman of Care for Paws Sourav was also struggling to care for two rescue dogs, Bosco and Caesar, who were suffering from parvovirus. Unfortunately, after many obstacles with finances and lack of medical care, the canines passed away which left the men feeling helpless; but it also sparked a certain ambition.
‘After this incident, we decided that we will not let any animals die due to lack of care. We began to rescue more and more animals and care for them. All animals die, but we aim to try our best to ease their pain in their final moments. Which is why, in 2014 I completely dedicated myself to this cause and withdrew from my official duties on the ships’, states Zahid Hussain.
Thus began the birth of Care for Paws as an organisation and today they have veterinary professionals and volunteers contributing to the clinic and the rehabilitation centre. Skilled vets provide care for pet animals at the Zigatola clinic and multiple caregivers at the Keraniganj premises cater to the animals that require long-term treatment. Pets, stray animals, birds and several types of animals are brought for treatment at Care for Paws and the founders hope to expand out of Dhaka and even cater to wild animals in the future; which is a possible scenario provided they receive support.
The organisation has faced a number of hurdles on its path; starting from the sceptic society to lack of financial aid, but the people behind kept working to solidify itself. The establishment receives a number of donations from well-wishers and activists from all over the country who strongly support its cause.
Zahid Hussain also addressed the recent social media uproar about the abused and heavily injured horse, Jheel, found near Hatir Jheel, which is the reason of his name. He states that Jheel is the classic example of an animal being exploited and abused for people’s selfish needs and entertainment. After having spent his life pulling the burdens of human, the horse was tossed aside and left to die. The frail creature spent his final few days in the Care for Paws centre and died due to the negligence of his owners throughout his life.
When asked how such incidents could be prevented, he said ‘A major obstacle we face in our rescue missions is the unavailability of transport or an animal ambulance to safely bring the animals to our facility. Jheel’s condition worsened rapidly as we could not reach him in time nor could we transfer him to our facilities as soon as it was needed. A lot of our rescue operations are foiled due to the lack of available vehicles which can safely transport animals.’
His opinion on the recently enacted Animal Welfare Act 2019 is quite positive and Zahid is optimistic about the changes in policy. He says, ‘This law has not changed since 1947, when the penalty for crimes against animals started from two hundred to one thousand taka only. This has now been changed to a minimum of ten thousand to fifty thousand taka depending on the severity of the crime. But the saddest part is that most people do not even think that torturing or murdering an animal is punishable by law. In fact, some law enforcement agents are completely unaware about the existence of this law. This is why it is important for us to highlight this issue and I believe that the threat of punishment will discourage people from committing such crimes and animal cruelty will finally be taken seriously at a national level.’
The founders were already preparing to appear in court the day after this interview regarding a crime committed against a cat. The culprit in question is a girl who dissected a living kitten on Facebook live. Care for Paws has been fighting tooth and nail to bring justice to the poor departed soul of the kitten that has fallen victim.
‘We are constantly trying to encourage kindness towards animals and we have held several workshops surrounding several topics for those animal lovers and activists who want to help. Since we cannot provide support 24 hours a day all over the country, we have held workshops to teach people how to carry out first aid treatment, the basics of rescuing animals and dealing with animal abuse cases’ says Zahid Hussain.
He further adds, ‘We want to popularise empathy towards animals. We strongly believe that humans who can love animals are less prone to engage in violence and have stronger moral values. Maybe we cannot change the mind-set of the generations that came before us, but we believe that the future generation will resonate with us. We want to build a foundation so that more and more animals can have easy access to our facilities and expert care.’
The future of Care for Paws is promising and the members of the organisation have big dreams about the welfare of animals in Bangladesh. Their biggest aim is to further strengthen The Animal Welfare Act 2019 so that no one can get away with hurting an innocent life. They also want to address the Animal cruelty being inflicted in the name of entertainment or tradition.
He concludes, ‘We want animals to live their lives as they were meant to, in their natural habitat and enact laws that will ensure their safety. We also want to encourage people to do the bare minimum for stray animals such as, giving away our leftover food to the street cats and dogs or something as simple as putting out a bowl of water and bits of rice on our balconies for birds. These little things can make huge differences in the short lives of these creatures who share the earth with us.’
Nawar Fairooz is a student of Independent University Bangladesh
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