About two weeks ago, veterinarians with the Animal Rahat retirement center, an Indian sanctuary for “working animals,” rescued a pregnant donkey, now named Rani, from the streets, where she was languishing, hot and weary. Just the other day, Rani gave birth to the little prince pictured above. The two spent their first night together nuzzling, resting, and curiously watching the other Animal Rahat residents. They will spend their lives in peace on the grassy patch of land, playing and getting acquainted with other rescued donkeys, horses, ponies and bullocks. They will never be forced to work a day in their lives. “Rahat” is the Hindi word for “relief,” after all.
But had Rani not been rescued, she and her foal would surely be in the brick kilns, hauling bricks in sweltering heat. In India, thousands of bullocks, horses, donkeys, and ponies are forced to cart passengers around and pull overloaded, poorly balanced carts for miles. Many suffer from muscle strain and painful sores. The ill-fitting yokes they are forced to wear leave wounds that can lead to cancer and infection. The animals are disturbingly thin and dehydrated because they are often not given enough food or water.
To help alleviate the animals’ suffering, the Animal Rahat staff provides free aid to bullocks who work in sugar mills as well as to donkeys used in the brick kilns and horses who pull carts. The small Animal Rahat staff teaches the locals to properly care for their animals; encouraging them to feed the animals a nutritious diet and reduce and balance the animals’ loads. Because of their efforts, a growing number of people are moving away from practices that hurt animals. Fewer people now leave bullocks out in extreme heat or unprotected through the wet, rainy seasons, and, as a result, fewer animals are suffering from heat stress, cough, and pneumonia.
Animal Rahat employees have installed concrete water tanks in and around the town to provide water to thirsty, overheated animals. They’ve designed simple, portable shade screens that can be attached to individual carts and used as a shelter against the sun. The screens can also be used as blankets for the bullocks in the cold winter months.
The Animal Rahat team has also developed a “stress kit” containing supplements and multivitamins to help the animals handle exhausting journeys. In addition, the Animal Rahat veterinarians inoculate bullocks against foot-and-mouth disease and vaccinate horses and donkeys against tetanus.
The Animal Rahat program even pays the animals’ impoverished “owners” to rest the animals while still being able to feed their families. It may be hard for many of us to understand, since our lifestyles are so drastically different, but many people in India rely on their animals to make ends meet. Most are not willfully cruel or profit-driven, and they have been receptive to Animal Rahat’s message and grateful for the assistance.
Some receive a small subsidy for allowing animals who are too sick, injured, or old to work to retire and live out their lives in peace, instead of selling them for slaughter. If people are unable to care for their animals at home, the animals may live at the Animal Rahat retirement center, which receives financial assistance from PETA and caring people everywhere.
If you want to help sponsor Rani and her son, and the other Animal Rahat residents, you can make a donation to Animal Rahat via this form. To learn more about the program and its activities, read the most recent Animal Rahat Update.