For the last 15 years Abha Adlakha, 68, has been visiting Friendicoes, a dog shelter at Defence Colony, New Delhi, to take care of dogs who have just delivered pups. “I clean their cages, ensure the new mothers are well-fed and then take the mother and pups out for a walk." Five years ago, Adlakha, who teaches dance at The Pinnacle school, was bitten by a rabid dog during one of her volunteer sessions. That did not stop her from coming back. “Being around dogs makes me feel peaceful," she says.

Precious pets: Anushka Malao volunteers at the Welfare for Stray Dogs shed in Mahalaxmi, Mumbai, at least twice a week. Ritam Banerjee / Mint

On Wednesday the world celebrates the 11th International Animal Rights Day. That animals have a right to lives free from deliberately inflicted pain, suffering and exploitation is something with which we all agree. Yet how many of us actually work with animals? One way to get started would be to volunteer and work with animal shelters, such as the ones profiled below.

Friendicoes Seca, New Delhi and Gurgaon

Among one of the oldest animal shelters in New Delhi, (set up in 1978), Friendicoes’ mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and give better lives to stray and abandoned animals. All volunteers under 18 must have formal parental consent before they are allowed to work with the animals and it is mandatory for all to take anti-rabies shots. “You are working with untrained animals here and they can be unpredictable," says Gautam Barat, co-founder and treasurer, Friendicoes.

A free hand: Asha Adlakha volunteers at Friendicoes in New Delhi at least thrice a week. Madhu Kapparath / Mint

The Friendicoes shelter organizes a yard sale in Defence Colony (the last one was on 29 November). “We collect old things that people no longer need—CDs, DVDs, books, furniture—and sell them," says Barat. “So do check when the next sale is scheduled and donate junk (and buy goods) generously. We are hoping to make this sale a monthly feature, at least during the winter months." The money collected from selling these items goes towards buying materials for the shelter. Friendicoes also participates at the flea market every Wednesday at Select Citywalk mall, Saket.

Call 011-24314787 to find out how you can help.

In Delhi, to work with snakes, sloth bears, monkeys and birds, call Wildlife SOS at 011-24621939.

Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (Cupa), Bangalore

Founded in 1991, Cupa has now grown to be one of Bangalore’s most recognized animal welfare organizations. The shelter can house around 160 animals a day and works on the rescue and rehabilitation of both domestic and wild animals.

At the domestic centre, volunteers can help wash the animals, feed them and scrub kennels with the help of staff. Every volunteer must take anti-rabies shots before starting out. “We appreciate the goodwill of volunteers, but we are very strict about anti-rabies shots," says Suparna Ganguly, vice-president, Cupa. Children below 14 have to come with parents.

If you don’t have time on your hands and yet want to contribute, collect and donate old newspapers for the kennels, cleaning equipment such as swabbing clothes, floor mops, brooms, soaps, bottles of phenyl and detergents, old and discarded soft toys which make excellent toys for pups and kittens, and plastic tubs for small animals to sleep in.

Email at to find out how you can help.

In Bangalore, to work with birds, snakes and monkeys, email Bannerghatta Rehabilitation Centre at

Ashari, Kolkata

Compassionate Crusaders Trust’s Ashari (Animal Sheltercum-Hospital and Research Institute) shelter in Kolkata houses nine retired horses of the state police. “We also have 12 cages for convalescent small animals," says Arup Pal, the site manager of Ashari. “We take in as many sick animals, including dogs, cats, cows and bulls, as are brought in."

“You can attend the out-patient department and help to comfort incoming patients (animals) by petting them," says Debashish Chakraborty, co-founder, Ashari. The shelter requires 25kg of oats, 50-75kg of hay and 25kg of chickpeas for the nine horses every day. You can help by collecting and donating these items. Material such as grains, milk, biscuits, rice, soap and brushes for grooming the horses is welcome. “We welcome volunteers who want to help in cleaning the stables and grooming the horses," says Chakraborty. However, some prior experience is desirable when it comes to working with the horses.

Call 033-24239100/24239101 to find out how you can help.

In Kolkata, to work with dogs, cats, monkeys, contact the Chhaya shelter at 09830279138 or Mother’s Heart at 09831476415.

Welfare for Stray Dogs, Mumbai

Most dog lovers in Mumbai are familiar with the Welfare for Stray Dogs’ (WSD) logo, which features a simple line drawing of an adorable stray. Started in 1985, at a time when Mumbai’s municipal corporation was still killing stray dogs, WSD’s kennel currently stands at what used to be a killing pound till 1994. Abodh Aras, CEO of WSD, says they have about 200 dogs at any given time. About 60 are permanent residents, who are up for adoption, while the rest are brought in for sterilization and are kept for a week. WSD uses 30litres of milk daily, 180kg each of rice, pulses and dalia (broken wheat) per month. Aras says Marie biscuits are always welcome.

Since WSD gets its supplies from wholesalers who give them a good deal, Aras says it might be more beneficial if donors could give cash rather than material donations. “We are an NGO, but we have to be run professionally, just like a company," says Aras, an MBA who started as a volunteer and later gave up a career with a company to join WSD full-time.

Basic first aid for dogs is something you can volunteer for, and WSD trains people who want to help strays this way. Every volunteer must take an anti-rabies shot. Every Sunday, the volunteers gather outside Eros theatre at Churchgate, and split up into groups, moving to different areas to treat dogs for maggot wounds, small injuries, and ear and eye infections. “If there is a more serious problem, such as fever, they are instructed to bring the dog to our vet," says Aras.

If you would prefer not to do any hands-on work, you could drive volunteers around in your car for half a day as they move from place to place, helping dogs.

Or, you could do a census of the stray dogs in your area. You will be trained for this and given a form to fill, which includes information about their location, sex and whether they are sterilized or not. You can be trained to interview people who want to adopt the dogs and visit their homes to see if the entire family is willing to have a dog.

Call 022-64222838 or email at to find out how you can help.

In Mumbai, to sponsor or adopt a pet, email In Defence of Animals at

Rajdeep Datta Roy in Kolkata, Pavitra Jayaraman in Bangalore and Parizaad Khan in Mumbai contributed to this story.