On the outskirts of Udaipur, a city of 500,000 people set ever-so-picturesquely along the shores of three lakes in the middle of India’s Rajasthan state, sits a gate, a simple iron gate, midway down a bumpy dirt road. This gate is kept locked at all times but if you wait in front of it for a moment or two, someone will soon approach from the other side, someone who will unlock the gate with a smiling face and kindly ask you to enter.
You take a few steps forward and just like that, you’ve entered a world that you probably wouldn’t expect to find in these parts.
Welcome to Animal Aid Unlimited, an animal rescue center, sanctuary, and treatment operation for mistreated and injured animals of Udaipur. Set up in 2002 by Jim Myers and Erika Abrams, along with their daughter Claire, this operation has treated over 40,000 animals to date, including dogs, donkeys, cows, monkeys, pigs and birds, rescuing approximately 10-15 animals per day from the streets. Some of those animals are treated and released and others live out the rest of their days at the center if they are not able to fend for themselves. At any given time there are around 400 animals being taken care of on the premises.
One of the women on my current India tour had heard about this place in a book she had read and so, a handful of us decided to head out there one afternoon. And we ended up staying for almost two hours, simply intrigued by the entire operation. From the spotless, well-organized grounds to the efficient and well thought out systems in place for grouping and taking care of the animals to the dozens of staff on duty, ranging from veterinarians to vet nurses to massage therapists to foreign volunteers…it was a remarkable oasis in the midst of the desert where animals of all kinds live so incredibly well.
Upon arrival, Raj gave us a tour of the entire grounds, a tour that took us up close and personal with newly arrived dogs and donkeys with broken legs and open wounds, dogs infected with mange, cows that had been hit by cars, paralyzed animals, monkeys that had been electrocuted, pigs that had been mistreated and on and on. And while you might think that this would all be extremely difficult to witness up close, we all found the opposite to be true. It was simply wonderful to witness so many animals that would have been left to die on the streets, now walking around, laying down, hobbling along, looking and behaving as if they are so happy to have ended up here instead. This sanctuary offers them a worry-free life where they can interact with and receive attention from caring people every day, including any travelers that decide to visit. Animals were constantly approaching us, eager to be played with and truly excited by our presence despite any ailment or injury they might have been suffering from.
Of course, we could not help but ask about every animal we passed and about how they came to end up at the sanctuary. And as you might imagine, there were some brutal stories of abuse to be heard. But as I mentioned, to see these animals living here and being treated so well, created a sense of relief that far outweighed any sense of shock or horror that I might have felt at first.
As you might be able to tell, I was blown away during our visit, especially after witnessing the passion, over and over again, that was so visible in the eyes of every staff member, all of whom dedicate their lives to helping as many animals as they possibly can. Just watching Sooraj, the massage therapist/healer, interact so carefully and lovingly with some of the paralyzed dogs, some of which started to walk as a result of his treatments, was enough to convince me that this is one impressive animal rescue center that deserves some attention.
Yes, I know that there will be some critics who will state that the money used for this program could be used to help people who are also suffering in this country. And that is true. But so could the money we spend anywhere and in my opinion, if the founders, the 40+ staff and all the volunteers at Animal Aid Unlimited are indeed so passionate about improving the lives of helpless animals, then I think that’s exactly what they should continue doing.
I’m certain that one visit here, after spending a few minutes interacting with playful Tony, a dog whose leg was chopped off and whose face was hacked with a machete, or with laid-back Lance, the donkey whose legs had been tied together before being rescued, or with a cow that had been hit by a car but is now walking again, will convince you of the same. On Animal Aid’s website, you can also get an idea of what kind of care this center provides, with plenty of before/after photos of all types of animals who were injured or abused.
Here’s a couple of examples (BE WARNED! The photos are quite graphic, but wait until you see how well each dog looks now!)…
It’s simply amazing to see the recovery of these animals in the photos above. Imagine what it must be like to see it first-hand at the center!
India. So much to experience in this country. And if you’re the kind of traveler that enjoys doing things that are a little different to what most travelers get up to, this is an opportunity to do just that when you’re in Udaipur. Whether you spend a few hours, a full day or even a longer period of time as an actual volunteer at Animal Aid Unlimited, you’ll have a chance to be a part of something special, an organization that involves great people doing great things, in this case, for the thousands of helpless animals in this city.
I want to give a huge thank you to Raj, Sooraj and Claire, all of whom were wonderful hosts during our visit…keep up the amazing work!
ANIMAL AID UNLIMITED Location: Near TB Hospital in Badi village (8km from Udaipur) Visitor info: Visitors are welcome until 5pm any day of the week and it’s just a short ride by auto-rickshaw or taxi to the location. And of course, volunteers of all ages and backgrounds are welcome as well. The organization doesn’t provide accommodation for volunteers but they do offer a great deal of assistance for those who sign up, helping you find a place to stay and assisting with everything else you could possibly need. Website:www.AnimalAidUnlimited.com Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/AnimalAidUnlimited
Anyone looking for a great volunteer opportunity in India? Any thoughts about the work this organization is doing?
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I do believe it can be the kindest and the best allocation of finite resources to practice euthanasia versus extraordinary measures to keep an animal alive. … But what came to my mind in reading this post was this: There is research to suggest that in households where animal abuse/neglect occurs, there is ALSO abuse/neglect of the family members within. When I looked at the gruesome photos of the animals treated by the center, I wondered how the children of the animal abusers fared.
Hey Moon – Of course, that very well might be true. But that doesn’t take away from the work that this organization is doing. There are always other issues and always other terrible things that are happening out there, but one organization can’t take care of everything unfortunately. Each organization out there does what they can do best and that does make a difference in a world.
absolutely amazing story and bless all these wonderful people for the work they do. its so heart warming and wonderful that people like this are in the world. i truly wish all that donate time and money to this cause a wonderful and fullfilling life themselves
Hi I saw a huge bull on 3rd March 2018 suffering from foot rot and his front shoe was rotten and he was in great pain. Location around clock tower Jodhpur. Can someone chk him out. I am a tourist from Pune. I have pics of him that can be shared. Mob / WhatsApp 9372141117 Rgds
I live in india, its very cruel 2 those poor babies. Those people who help these animals, birds etc r so amazing n wonderful. God bless.
If we all do our work n responsibilities properly n help these babies, this state wouldn’t have come.
We waste our precious time n money on unnessary things. And the blood sucker politician are waste for d country.
Definitely goin 2 donate, please keep up d wonderful work continuing. best wishes for u guys, poor babies, voluteers n all animal helpers. Thank u.
I’m going in January 2017 to spend 5 days! Can’t wait to meet my two sponsor dogs Deepak and Kalu and all their amazing carers.
What fantastic people you are working out of this shelter. You are an example of kindness, caring and perfect beautiful human beings. A hidden beauty within and very obviously beautiful out.
The animals you save and look after are a testament to this and would otherwise have died but for the love, care and time you so abundantly spread around you.
Of course as was previously said earlier, there are many unfortunate children that also require help, food and love but that- MOST certainly does not mean we should exclude, ignore and abandon these poor helpless creatures who after all have problems that WE human beings have originally created for them at some time in their past.
I myself would help them all irrespective of wherever in the world any dog, cat, donkey, horse, tiger, or elephant in distress and more so if I had the financial clout to pay for their treatment.
I cannot, do not and will never understand, cruelty, abuse, abandonment or neglect of ANY animal or creature who only want our love, a warm home and a regular meal, and in return they will give you unstinting love, loyalty and devotion.It may be they cant work for us and earn us a wage but the other aforementioned gifts they do bestow on us in return are more than enough in payment that justifies our trust and companionship in them for the rest of their lives.
Having said that it begs the question concerning that of an abuser’s children and family members safety, to be in such close proximity to someone that can machete or attack an innocent and defenceless animal. I would easily deal with these cruel filth and scum in such circumstances and dish out very very punitive and personal punishment as has been dealt out by them. I HAVE NO SYMPATHY FOR THEM WHATSOEVER AND WOULD NOT HESITATE LEAVING PAINFUL REMINDERS ON BEHALF OF JUSTICE FOR THE STRICKEN CREATURES LEFT BEHIND.
You are amazing and and wonderful people, and greatly admired.
Best Wishes for you in the future and good luck.
John, from Dundee, Scotland.
I’m French, I’m Anna too, did you spend good time with the Animals and where did you stay in Udaipur guest house ?
I plan to go…
[…] care from a dedicated team of volunteers, veterinarians, and paid staff from the local community. I’ve visited Animal Aid four times now, and I always head to the enclosure for dogs that have been partially paralyzed. I could sit in […]
Thank you so much for sharing about this organisation. Gosh, they are amazing! We tend to visit rescue groups when we travel. It was great to read about these people in India, who put their hearts into helping animals. Bless them xoxo
What an amazing place. Thank you for telling us about it – we are huge animal lovers and always try to seek out local animal sanctuaries when we travel. So, we will definitely try to make it here when we visit India!
I live in India and this is the first time i heard of this organisation. i was looking up animal shelters in india and i came upon this post. i am a huge animal lover and opening my own animal shelter is my biggest dream. i’m amazed that such an organisation exists and proud of the work that they do. i’ll definitely visit this beautiful place some day and it has bolstered my dream of opening my own animal shelter.
[…] there are legitimate ways to experience your love of animals while you travel (like volunteering at an animal rescue shelter in India), most of the animals seen in tourist attractions are not well-cared for, and are grossly […]
Nice article. Would like to visit this center. Have a safe trip.
[…] next destination is definitely not at all a tourist spot but after hearing so much in Wandering Earl’s blog, I had to pay this place a visit – Animal Aid Unlimited, an animal rescue center. Founded […]
[…] An animal rescue center every traveler to India should visit by Earl of […]
Thank you Earl, for this post! Brought back treasured memories.
I appreciate your bringing attention to Animal Aid Unlimited and their inspiring & needed rescue work. With great pleasure, I met Jim, Erika & Claire late 2012 (surprised, took traveling all the way to India, when they are from my home neighborhood in Seattle). Beautiful people, to the core; their dream is well deserving of our support.
An unforgettable visit to their animal rescue operation was part of my tour with VegVoyages, another wonderful organization, catering to vegan adventure travelers; VV supports & visits the efforts of many animal rescue/rehabilitation organizations, non-human & human. Animal Aid Unlimited was a profound choice.
I so hope to visit Animal Aid Unlimited again, would be an honor to volunteer; the founders and entire team of caregivers are awesomely incredible, as are the rescued animals, courageously healing painful wounds and learning to trust.
[…] well known for animal rufuge. Blogger ‘Wandering Earl’ wrote about his time at the same animal shelter (be cautious clicking- some of the photos are pretty […]
I know a lot of people say that in places like India the people should be looked after first personally I think we should all be working to look after people, animals and the planet at the same time. So I respect this place so much and when I finally make it to the great country I may well find myself going here.
What a beautiful post Earl. I was shocked after seeing those pictures, I just can’t imagine people would do something that cruel to a defenseless animal. It actually took me a while and a big hug from my dog to get over it. But what a great job those people are doing, next time I’m in that area I’ll definitely pay them a visit.
Thanks for sharing!
[…] By Wandering Earl […]
What a fantastic place! I now want to go to Udaipur just to see this place alone.
And yes, many people in India need help also, but any compassion given to any being, human, animal, plant, or otherwise, makes this world a better place.
Thank you for a wonderfully written article and for publicising the work of this amazing rescue centre.
We must all help others in the way that resonates for us. For some that is exclusively helping humans, sometimes very select groups, for others it’s helping animals only. For me and many others, it’s both. My love and concern for animals does not diminish my love for people and compassion for their suffering too.
Great post Earl. I made a small donation after reading.
Thanks for spreading the news about this phenomenal organization!
Hey Robert – That’s excellent, I know that they greatly appreciate your donation!
Thank you for your wonderful and well written blog. My wife and I were vacationing in India in late 2012 and on the very last few hours of our trip, just before heading to the airport for returning home to US, we discovered the Animal Aid Unlimited purely by chance through a shopkeeper while my wife was trying to feed a nursing dog on the street, what a wonderful experience that was, exactly as you described it. This is a VERY AMAZING and MAGICAL place. Needless to say we have become lifelong fans of AAU and they are on our list of organizations that we support. I certainly hope that more people support AAU to allow them expand their work and help even more animals.
Hey Frank – Good to hear that you found them also and have supported them as well…they really are an amazing organization.
OMG. Very heart wrenching but I am delighted that work is being done to help these animals. I am also very pleased to hear that this is a local outfit. Thanks so much for sharing Earl.
I loved reading through this post and it’s heartbreaking every time I see an abused animal. I know there are humans that go through similar treatment or worse, but animals hold a soft spot in my heart as most are completely innocent and so full of love and trust unless taught otherwise. If I ever visit India, I will be visiting this shelter 🙂
This is both heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. I like what you said to the critics who say the money could be spent on more “human” programs. While this is true, yes, money spent anywhere could be spent on human programs. Spending money on animal shelters sure beats money wasted on Prada handbags and Gucci Shoes.
Great post and you were spot on. I attended Udaipur early last year for a wedding and herd about this place, so thought I would pay a visit. I have been singing praises to all my friends about it ever since. I will definitely go back one day and hopefully volunteer. I will never forget the paralysed pig who had so much life in his eyes. Some might say why not euthanise him? But why? He was loving his life in the sanctuary and how could he not? He was engulfed in love. Thi place has a very special place in my heart now. When I see animal abuse in the world, my mind turns to this place and I know somebody somewhere is doing their best to alleviate some of the pain in this world. Lastly, what amazed me was that all the animals were vegan, including the dogs. There can be no higher intention for compassion. Love & Light to all the volunteers and donators <3
There are loads of people and places in India that are doing service to humans and animals alike. What I feel from seeing these pictures is…ummm…can’t find the right emotion to describe. Hope they are able to stay afloat because the financial crunch can cripple all the efforts. I once saw an old age shelter in Vasant Kunj area in Delhi being closed down. Volunteers and occupants of the shelter were forced to sleep on the pavement. But what why should we care…because “It’s just another day for you and me in Paradise-Phil Collins”. Seriously guys…give a hand and “Heal the World” one person at a time.
Beautiful post again Earl… you pick out the hidden gems where ever you travel. There are some organisations in India who do this kind of work just to get the foreign donations, but a few take it to serious professional standard of care. This ones seems to be a genuine one filled with compassion for hurt animals… There’s one more such organisation in Agra with the name of WildLife SOS, who works as a bear rescue center. They are doing incredible work in saving the animals against the cruelty; specially the dancing bears. But the Government of India has put an insanely high entrance ticket (Rs.500) for foreigners who wish to visit this center. Bureaucracy at its best ! Would love to show you around next time in Agra…
Even in the single photo of the aid worker, I can see the compassion in his eyes, too. It does my heart a lot of good to see they are helping so many animals. I remember you adopted a penguin in South Africa, too – how do you find and choose which animal rescue centers to visit?
Hey Patricia – It’s all through word of mouth. If someone I know recommends an organization, I’m always up for having a look.
I love this post! I love volunteering for animal advocacy organizations. I’m saving this one for my “to do” in travel volunteering one day- hopefully with my future daughter!!
Oops! I copied and pasted the quote from Mahatma Gandhi without noticing that his name had been misspelled!!
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Thank you so much for writing about this wonderful sanctuary. Wherever I travel I look for animal shelters where I can volunteer and if I ever make it to India this place will be on the top of my list to visit. I understand the opinion of many that money should be spent on helping people over animals however the fact is that we live in a world where both causes are necessary. We all have our calling in life and easing the suffering of animals is a noble cause to be called to. After all suffering is suffering.
“I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.”
Definitely adding this to my India plans. I plan to volunteer in every country I visit next year, and this seems like such a worthy cause. So beautiful to see people dedicating their life to make others’ lives better. Even when those lives belong to animals 🙂
I do tend to fall in the camp of applying my limited resources toward relieving human misery over animals. And in the realm of animal rescue, I do believe it can be the kindest and the best allocation of finite resources to practice euthanasia versus extraordinary measures to keep an animal alive. … But what came to my mind in reading this post was this: There is research to suggest that in households where animal abuse/neglect occurs, there is ALSO abuse/neglect of the family members within. When I looked at the gruesome photos of the animals treated by the center, I wondered how the children of the animal abusers fared.
Hey Mzuri – Most of these animals are street animals, not animals that were living in households. And many of the animals were hit by cars (not necessarily on purpose given the crowded streets in India) or developed diseases or have issues simply from living on the streets. There are animals who were abused as well of course, street animals that were beaten for no reason as an example.
And while it might be true that the abusers may abuse their own families too, this organization is simply focused on taking care of the abused animals. You could dissect everything deeper and deeper but the focus here is just on this organization. There are other organizations out there to look after children who have been abused and I’m sure there are some good ones.
Thanks for this info! I didn’t know about this animal rescue center. My heart bleeds to see such a state of animals.
Amazing! Thank you, Earl! Yes, the pictures are a bit shocking, but who says the truth is not ugly sometimes? Thank you for acknowledging these people and what they do for these vulnerable animals. Heartwarming article, indeed and I continue to follow your adventures.
Very heartwarming to read about this – thanks Earl for covering it. I’m a huge animal rights advocate and am thrilled to learn about this great organization.
I have never been to India but seeing this gives me more reason to go. I am a huge animal rights advocate and I will be donating to this animal rescue. Just because these animals are hurt does not mean they do not deserve to live a happy life. This rescue is doing just that by giving them hope and love.
Thank you so much for posting this!!
Bless them for doing what they are doing!!!
Won’t be in India again any time soon and don’t have lots of money but made a donation to the cause as even a little money will go a long way to helping a lot of needy animals here I know that.