Md Salim Hossain Sourav sold a five-storied building, his only property, to run the animal welfare organisation, Care for Paws, along with a few of his friends. The initiative started its journey in 2014, and three years later, it was registered by the government and enlisted as a non-profit organisation. An avid animal lover since childhood, Sourav got his first pets, Nadu the cat and Caesar the dog, in 2011.
They still live with him.
“At many points in my life, people criticised me for my commitment to animal welfare and no one really came forward to help,” said Sourav. “Despite challenges, we are committed to investing in the protection of the lives of innocent animals.” Sourav, along with his friends Zahid Hossain, Kamal Choudhury, Mahinur Akter, Kohinur Akter and Nabila Basher, set out to become the voice of the voiceless.
'One of my two dogs passed away due to the lack of proper treatment,” Sourav adds. “I did not have enough money. No veterinarians agreed to treat my dog without money. Since then, I wanted to work for animals.” The Care for Paws shelter, first located in Mohammadpur, shifted to Keraniganj in 2018. In the shelter, there are 62 stray dogs and 42 stray cats, most of whom are injured.
“In most cases, the animals are injured by people, which breaks our hearts. We found two dogs from Mirpur who were burned alive. We were able to save only one of them,” says Sourav. “We often rescue tortured street cats. One time, we found a dog whose stomach was fully cut and whose intestine was out.” There are four permanent staff members in the shelter and three veterinarians who visit the animals weekly. These veterinarians are also available at the Care for Paws clinic in Zigatola, which is open for all. Sourav further adds that most doctors in the veterinary hospitals run by the government, are trained in how to treat cows and goats, but are not well-equipped when it comes to treating cats and dogs.
“I took the tough decision of selling my five-storied building so that we could carry on the activities of Care for Paws. But once I made the choice, I did not think twice,” explains Sourav. The shelter receives donations from pet lovers around the country who are connected to their Facebook page. But before having the shelter, Sourav kept the strayed animals in his own building for a long time. He held a full-time job as a banker but gave that up to start his own business so that he could give more time to the animals. Over the years, Sourav and his team have saved the lives of more than a thousand stray animals. “Cats and dogs are our priority. They are most commonly seen in the streets across Bangladesh and they depend on us,” explains Sourav. “We aim to prevent dog culling in many places. At the same time, we want to create awareness about vaccinations and sterilisations for animals.”
In Bangladesh, Care for Paws also became the first to introduce cancer treatment for dogs. Previously, euthanasia was the only solution to cancer. As of now, the organisation has 10 paid volunteers and 40 unpaid volunteers around the country. “Our future plan is to establish an around-the-clock healthcare service where anyone can avail treatment, based on emergencies,” asserts Sourav. “Besides that, we want to build our shelter homes and healthcare services in all the divisions and districts of Bangladesh.”