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Delhi’s oldest foster home for animals is strapped for cash, facing shutdown
Payel Majumdar  29th Aug 2015

Animal lovers in Delhi woke up to terrible news a couple of weeks ago. Friendicoes, a name that's synonymous with animal shelters as far as Delhi is concerned, has been facing monetary troubles so severe that it now faces the threat of an imminent, if temporary, shutdown. Most recently, Friendicoes reached out to its followers on social media with a message stating that the organisation, now heavily in debt, would soon have no choice but to shut shop if it isn't able to pay off its creditors.

The organisation, founded by Geeta Seshamani, has been running for the last 36 years as a shelter for animals in and around the capital. The shelter routinely admits stray dogs, cats, cows and other animals abandoned on the street till a suitable, long-term home is found for them. Friendicoes runs as an independent unit, which now, thanks to the recent debt crisis, depends on direct monetary help from its supporters in order to continue running its operations here.

Since Friendicoes put up an appeal on social media, a crowd-funding campaign has been started on the popular website, as well as a "crowdspeaking" campaign on the portal, to help spread the word further. The response received so far has been decent, according to members of the organisation. However, a large amount — Rs 42 lakh, to be precise — is yet to be raised in order for the organisation to clear its outstanding debt, with prospects of a shutdown causing serious concern to Frendicoes' members and supporters.

"We receive 30 to 40 calls reporting wounded or abandoned animals each day," Geeta Seshamani told us. "And we end up bringing back 10 to 15 of the worst cases for treatment to our shelters. This number increases on some days. In addition to this, we also have responsible members of the public bringing in injured animals. In many cases, people don't have the means to pay for the medicines or to take back the animal, which is where we come in. We also get sick or old pets abandoned by their irresponsible owners. Aside from dogs, several kittens and cats, birds and baby monkeys are also dropped off at Friendicoes each day. It isn't unusual to find a pony or donkey being led here for urgent attention."

But as things stand now, it has become impossible for the organisation to continue functioning, with all hopes now pinned on the ongoing social-media and crow-funding campaigns.

As of now, Friendicoes has around 130 horses and ponies, 55 donkeys and 60 cows under its care. A typical Frendicoes facility admits new animals to its shelters almost on a daily basis, and therefore at this point of time, one of the major concerns here has to do with a lack of sufficient space at the shelters.

Friendicoes' Delhi office, which cannot accommodate more than 80 animals, currently houses over 300 animals, according to Seshamani. "Since we have no walls, people tie up dogs to our ambulances or the benches in the compound, and put pups and kittens in sacks, and just leave them lying around abandoned. Sometimes, it is because these people are simply helpless, they can't take care of an animal. But then there are also those who can only be called irresponsible pet owners. Many people who come to us think we are a government organisation, and that they can leave their animals here. But at the same time, the faith people have in us motivates us, it hardens our resolve to take care of each and every animal that is brought to us."

These indeed are tough times for Friendicoes, but there's some good news yet. The organisation's crowdfunding campaign seems to be going well, since Seshamani confirmed having received over Rs 20 lakh in donations over the last week. But a large enough amount still needs to raised in the coming days, with the Friendicoes staff now counting on the generosity of their supporters and the reach of their crowdfunding campaign.

Seshamani aims to build a database of donors, friends and supporters of Friendiscoes once the current debacle is overcome. She says that she wants to foster a culture of being kind and caring towards animals, and wants more and more people to join her in this endeavour.

Friendicoes reached out to its followers on social media recently, with a message stating that the organisation, now heavily in debt, would soon have no choice but to shut shop if it isn’t able to pay off its creditors in due time.

"Friendicoes is a way of life for us. It is a place to learn patience, perseverance and compassion from animals. It's a place where one feels gratitude for the marvelous courage that one sees every day, from animals that fight pain and survive against all odds. You learn to love unconditionally and enjoy life in the moment. You will find great solace here, and hopefully learn about healing and caring for hundreds of souls that pass through our doors."

If you would like to donate to Friendicoes, please visit Friendicoes is happy to receive donations in kind as well. It currently requires 500 kg of rice, pulses, wheat, oats, milk, hay, dog and cat biscuits, green fodder, choke, vegetables, potatoes and fruits for the animals. They also need used refrigerators to store medicines, used vehicles and used furniture for the dogs and cats to play on, and carrots, which serve as a treat for the equestrian animals.

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