TOLFA (Tree of life for animals) is a small but effective charity based between Ajmer and Pushkar in Rajashtan, Northern India.
It was started in 2001 by Rachel Wright who was in the area when the annual Urs festival was taking place in Ajmer. Hundreds of thousands of muslim pilgrims arrive to worship at the shrine of Moinuddin Chisti. Sadly, many muslims have a low regard for dogs - especially in proximity to one of their most sacred sites. So the Ajmer street dogs used to be 'got rid of' prior to the festival.
To prevent this, Rachel set up a temporary dog shelter and hospital in a disused fire station to protect the dogs during the 2001 festival and TOLFA has grown from there.
At the time I visited to the shelter there were around 300 temporary canine residents from Ajmer who had been collected prior to the 2013 Urs festival. During the festival they would be sterilised, inoculated against rabies and generally cared for until it was safe to return them to their territories in Ajmer after the festival. The daubs of paint visible on some of the dog's heads is to help identify which part of the city they were collected from so they can be released back to the same territory.
As well as protecting the dogs during the Urs festival, TOLFA has a sterlisation programme to control the numbers of street dogs and an anti rabies programme. Rabies is still a big killer in India and it explains why there can be a genuine fear of street dogs.
During my visit to TOLFA I saw a highly dedicated group of professionals making the absolute most of minimal resources to pass on the best care possible to the group of animals under their protection.
Please visit their website (tolfa.org.uk) to find out more about their amazing work and give them as much support as you can.
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