Sumi Biswas was a college student in 2014. She came across a tragic incident in one afternoon that year in January. A shopkeeper in the locality had poured hot water on a stray dog. The dog was whining and scratching a lot for this and Sumi couldn’t bear that. She immediately poured cold water on the dog. Then she kept the dog in front of her house for seven days. She looked after it and released after its recovery.
It gave her a new thought. She devoted herself to taking care of birds and the animals. However, after starting working she realised that it is difficult to do this alone. One year later, Sumi formed an organisation called 'Animal Care of Chattoram' in February 2015.
The organisation has treated around two and half thousand birds and animals over the last eight years. Of them, 1,913 are dogs and 452 cats. Among the remaining animals are – horses, crows, sparrows, owls, snakes, eagles, parrots and jackals. However, they didn't receive any training over rescuing animals. They have learnt from working and YouTube videos. Now a veterinarian has joined them.
Sumi has completed her honours from the National University. She lives with her parents in the Halishahar Anandabazar area of Chattogram.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Sumi said she had compassion for the animals since her childhood. They had a dog at their house. Now, she has four dogs and 13 cats. They regularly visit her house. Sumi takes care of these animals and provides them with food and water.
Visiting her house recently, this correspondent saw a space for the sick kittens and dogs, which have been named “Animal Shelter”. Two sick dogs were seen lying there. Sumi picked up these dogs from the streets. They were suffering from several ailments, including fever.
Sumi said, “Whenever I go out, I see ailing dogs and cats. Some of them have broken legs; some have burnt skin and so on. We provide treatment to these dogs. We work mainly in Chattogram."
The story of injured horses, owls and dogs
Sumi also got into trouble while trying to rescue animals. Such an incident took place on 2 October 2019. Sumi received a call from one of her acquaintances in the Agrabad area in Chattogram city. He said a stray dog in the area had a wound on his neck, which was turning into gangrene and was emitting odour. Some of the locals had beaten up the dog. They wanted to kill the dog.
Hearing the news Sumi and his team rushed to the spot and saw the dog was quite scared and could move barely. Sumi was bitten by the dog when she tried to catch it. Following that she had to undergo treatment at hospital for five days. She also underwent two surgeries for this. However, nothing could stop Sumi from rescuing the dog. They rescued the dog and gave it treatment until it recovered. Sumi had also returned to her business after recovering from the dog bite.
Another incident happened in March 2021. A horse was lying beside the road in the Ambagan area in the city. The horse broke its leg after it was hit by a pick-up van. Upon receiving the news, Sumi rushed to the spot, rescued the horse and took it to the Chattogram Veterinary and Animal Sciences University after giving it the primary treatment. From there she took the horse to her own animal shelter. However, the horse died on 12 April 2022.
Sumi has so many memories like this. Another such incident happened in April 2021. An injured owl entered a room of one of Sumi’s neighbours. The neighbour called Sumi for help. Sumi went there and brought the injured owl to her animal shelter. She gave the owl necessary treatment there for five days until it recovered.
Activities during the coronavirus pandemic
Their workload increased manifold during the coronavirus pandemic. Everything came to a standstill in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. All the shops were closed as everyone was confined within the four walls due to the lockdown. It also brought utter distress for the dogs and the cats as food was not vailable for them. The workload of Sumi and her team skyrocketed mainly due to this.
Sumi says, “I started cooking foods for the stray dogs and cats in different areas in my house at first. Later, members of my organisation took the responsibility of cooking food divided into different groups. Initially, we used to provide food twice a week in a specific area. Later, many others joined us.”
With that, the frequency of providing food in any specific area started to rise. They continued these activities until everything became normal.
The organisation runs on its own fund
Sumi would work alone at first and would update her activities on Facebook with pictures. One day an animal-lover contacted her after seeing her work on Facebook and requested to work together. In this way, she got acquainted with a number of people. The number of the members of her organisation also increased gradually. Each of the members pays a monthly donation of Tk 200 to bear the expenses of the activities of Animal Care Chattogram. Now the organisation provides treatment for the animals from its own fund. They also have a Facebook page.
Of the 23 current members of the organisation, 15 are university students, three college students and the remaining are service holders. Veterinarian Md Mahiuddin Akram now assists Sumi in her work. He works as the livestock extension officer in the Boalkhali upazila of Chattogram. He works for the Animal Care of Chattogram in between his job related work. He says their work is to provide treatment to sick and injured animals until they fully recover.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Sumi said, “We have plans to extend our activities further in future. We will continue our activities to save the animals and nature. We also have plans to save extinct animals in future. Nature can’t survive without any animal.”
Sumi and his teams very often get assistance from the SA Quaderi Teaching Veterinary Hospital under the Chattogram Veterinary and Animal Sciences University.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Md Raihan Faruk, director of SA Quaderi Teaching Veterinary Hospital said, “Sumi and members of her team often come to us with injured animals. We provide them with free drugs and treatment. There are several organisations like this in Asia, who work on the animals. There should be more of such organisations.”
*This report appeared on the print and online versions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu