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From Doghouse to Home

One of these cuties can be yours. But adopt only if you can commit

Need a pet to hug or play with? An ‘Adopt-a-Pet’ camp run by the Goa Animal Welfare Trust could be just the place for you. It’s where cute little bundles of fur and loving owners find each other. Psychologist Dr. Charlane Pereira e Rebello finds out more about these camps that have been running in Goa for nearly 15 years.

The NGO started 15 years ago as a response to the barbaric treatment meted out to stray dogs in Goa. Today, the Goa Animal Welfare Trust, or GAWT, is one of the most important institutions in the state fighting for the well-being of dogs and cats.

It now runs numerous animal welfare programmes which include weekly anti-rabies camps, puppy adoption camps, a daily walk-in clinic, weekly community visits by their mobile vets and a school education programme.

Its boarding kennels also provide a loving and friendly environment for pets while owners are vacationing or on business trips.

Additionally, it has also sterilized more than 12,000 animals since 2003 as part of the government sponsored Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme, significantly reducing the stray dog population in Goa.

But what most caught my interest were its pet adoption programmes. Charmian Byrne, Founder Trustee, Treasurer and Events Co-ordinator of GAWT, talked me through the concept.

“The adoption of puppies and dogs from the GAWT Animal Care Centre to a normal home environment starts with stray puppies, abandoned or dumped by owners whose dogs have littered. They are unwanted,” she explained. “We usually have female pups. We take them in, look after them, treat them and put them into the adoption programme when they are fit and healthy. These strays are local and mixed-breed pups. We do not have full-breed puppies. We believe the Indian domestic dog is one of the best and most faithful in the world. It is a great pity that Goans buy expensive breeds which are not suitable for this climate. Consequently they experience problems with the dog’s upbringing,” adds Charmian.


Anyone interested in adopting can walk in at GAWT’s Curchorem based Animal Care Centre. They are shown the puppies and dogs which are already sterilized and suitable for adoption. Or dogs can be adopted from GAWT’s weekly anti-rabies camps held on Sunday mornings throughout South Goa. Occasionally, puppies are also available at their weekly Wednesday and Friday Clinics in Chinchinim.

Charmian says, “We give 2 free anti-rabies injections to each adopted puppy plus a free sterilization operation when the dog is 5 months old. For all this, we ask for a Rs. 200/- donation.”

But be warned: The adoption procedure doesn’t simply involve having a look around and picking up a pup or dog of your choice. Prospective foster parents have to field several questions before they end up with an animal in their homes. Charmian says, “I have refused puppies to certain people. It is important to find the right home for the puppy.”


If you’re considering adopting one of these cuties, be sure you understand that raising a dog requires a lot of time, commitment and love. If you cannot make that commitment, you shouldn’t adopt.

Once suitable foster ‘parents’ are found, adoption papers are filed and full details are provided on feeding, bathing, looking after the dog, vaccinations, de-worming and training.

It’s not all been smooth sailing. Describing a painful incident, Charmian says: “There was this instance where we received a call that a puppy had not been eating food for 3 days, but despite our advice to get it to one of our vets we later came to know that the puppy had died. People just don’t care enough.”


That said there have been rewarding moments too. “Many people return to us to adopt a second dog. Or they will bring along a dog at our camps and tell us that this one was adopted about 12 years ago from us,” she says.

Incidentally, it’s not just puppies in the adoption programme. They also have kittens at times (for which the prospective foster parent has to pay a donation of Rs.100).

Charmian explains that volunteers can be a great help. Some GAWT volunteers ‘foster’ puppies and kittens that are 3 or 4 weeks old in their own homes until they are old enough for adoption – usually at 7 or 8 weeks of age. In these cases quite often pups and kittens are adopted by people known to the volunteers. The same adoption procedure is followed. “We wish more people would come forward to help like this, as it gives these small animals a start in life,” she says.


In addition to ‘lay’ volunteers, veterinary doctors Dr. Nukul Shete, Dr. Keara Carvalho and Dr. Erica Carvalho have been working with GAWT for a number of years. “We have about a dozen volunteers helping us out. It is a great team effort,” says Charmian.

These programmes have been a huge success. Many pups and kittens have been saved and adopters have found loving companions. Yet, though public awareness about pets has increased Goa still has a long way to go. “There have been cases where people realise that their dogs need to be vaccinated only when there is a rabid dog in the vicinity,” says Charmian, illustrating the point.