We continue our interview with British vet Holly Anne Hills and chat about what we can do as individuals to help animals…

Holly spent time volunteering at Dharamsala Animal Rescue in 2020, gaining experience in veterinary surgery skills and helping treat street dogs. She has been kind enough to share some of her observations and reflections with us.

What can local people in Dharamsala do to help stray dogs?

The local community can do so much to help the stray dogs. Most dogs have a territory that they generally tend to stick to, so if you know which dogs are in your area you can keep an eye on them to make sure they are healthy. Putting out water as well as food, such as leftover chapatti and vegetables, helps ensure the dogs are not going hungry. 

The most important thing you can do for the stray dogs in the area is to contact DAR and seek veterinary care if you see a dog that is sick or injured. The team at DAR will be able to treat it, as well as give it parasite treatments, vaccinations and sterilise them too so that when they return to the streets they are healthier and happier. 

Another great thing you can do is adopt a dog! Some of the dogs that have been treated at DAR cannot go back to the streets so they need permanent homes. It can be really expensive and complicated to get these dogs adopted abroad, and local adoptions are much better for the dogs. If you think you can give a dog a home then get in touch with DAR today! You can also donate to DAR if you can – your money will go towards helping to care for the many dogs they rescue and treat, as well as fund the vital sterilisation and vaccination programmes in the area. If you love dogs and want to help care for them, then you can volunteer with DAR too!

On a more global scale, what are the things we can do better to help protect our planet’s animals?

Our planet is in a crisis and the animals that inhabit it are under serious threat as a result of human activity. Animals cannot speak up for themselves, so we as humans have to act as that voice. And we owe them that as the cause of their plight.

I think the key to working towards solutions is education and awareness – we need to understand what the issues are and how they came about before we can come up with achievable solutions.

Human exploitation of the environment is putting so many species at risk of extinction. We can stop eating food containing palm oil, we can eat less meat, we can shop sustainably, refill our water bottles, take reusable bags to the shops with us, reduce the amount of waste we produce, recycle our rubbish…. I think we can all do so much better than we are, because the planet is being damaged at a frightening rate and it’s not just animals under threat, our existence as human beings is threatened too. 

Animals are being exploited in so many ways around the world, including in tourism. Something I think is incredibly important is to educate yourself on this and to do your research before you take part in any animal based activities when you’re travelling. Wild animals belong in the wild, and human interaction can be really detrimental to their existence and the environment they live in too.

I noticed this a lot with the monkeys in India – people feed them human food and use it as a photo opportunity. So the monkeys start to spend their time at the roadside, and can get hit by vehicles. They can become quite aggressive in their pursuit of food, and monkeys can spread rabies to humans so this has huge health risks. It also means they spend less time in the forests foraging for food and dispersing seeds, so that impacts the environment. 

Last but not least, Holly shared some Fun Facts about herself:

Favourite Indian dish: I love a thali – it’s a bit of everything!

Favourite moment in India: Not a moment as such, but I met the most wonderful, kind and welcoming people throughout my time there, and that’s what sticks in my memory the most

Favourite stray dog: All the dogs are so special, but Crusty holds a particularly special place in my heart! 

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About the author

Holly Anne Hills is a veterinarian who was feeling lost and dissatisfied. So, she decided to go to India and volunteer to see if she could rediscover why she chose her career path. After her first stop at Dharamsala Animal Rescue, her love and motivation for being a vet had been reignited.