A woman once terrified of dogs now rescues them

Just five years ago, Amita Seth was terrified of dogs. Now she dedicates her time and money to rescue stray dogs in the Indian city where she was born.

By Pat Taney

As a child growing up in the city of Amritsar, in the Punjab region of India, Amita Seth didn’t have the best experience when it came to dogs.

Not that there weren’t plenty in her hometown, according to her count nearly 50,000 roam the streets, many of them homeless.

“I was in grade 4 or 5 and a stray dog bit me,” she said. “Since then, I always kept my distance from all dogs, they scared me.”

She, along with her husband and two daughters, immigrated to Canada but her fear remained.

“I would see how people here loved dogs so much, but I still was very hesitant to even go near a dog.”

Her daughter wasn’t though.

“When my daughter was 17 she gave us an ultimatum,” Seth said. “She was accepted to universities all over Canada and said she would study close to home but only if we got her a dog. I did not want her to leave so I said ‘Okay, we’ll get a dog.’ ”

That dog was Snowy, a Maltese, the family adopted.

“I did not touch that little fur ball for 10 days, I was scared of him,” Seth said.

“But gradually I started to see how this bundle of joy brought our family together. He made us so happy whenever we came home.”

It was Snowy on her mind after a visit home to India for a wedding back in 2019.

“We went for a short walk and I saw three dogs dying in front of me and I couldn’t do anything. I kept seeing Snowy in the faces of all the miserable dogs on the streets there and my heart broke.” she said.

“I kept asking people if there’s any shelter or any vet who can keep them overnight and there was no arrangement for that in Amritsar.”

She told her husband she wanted to change that.

“He said, ‘Do you know what you’re saying?’ We live in Canada now, this won’t be easy.’”

But Seth was determined.

She teamed up with two other families who live in the U.S. that had already set up a mobile clinic that would spay and neuter stray dogs on the streets. Seth wanted to do more, so the three families pooled their money to build a shelter in the suburbs of Amritsar to house stray dogs.

“All three of us built a huge facility there on land outside the city to take in these animals. Me and my husband spent almost $70,000 from our savings.”

Seth works as a bookkeeper and an accountant.

“I have my own company and I told my husband, don’t worry I will take on extra clients to help pay for this.”

They called it Pawsitive Sanctuary. It started small, with a few workers but in just four years has grown to include paid staff and around-the-clock care.

“Now we have a team of 21 people,” Seth said. “We have three cooks, five nurses, an in-house veterinarian, and even a physiotherapist for dogs that come in and can’t walk.”

They also have a hotline people in Amritsar can call to report stray and injured dogs. A mobile unit is then dispatched.

“Some of the dogs can be treated on-site, and we do that. But for the others who are too sick or injured to survive on the streets, we take them in.”

Currently, there are 200 dogs staying at the shelter. Pawsitive Sanctuary is now a registered charity in Canada, the U.S. and India and relies now on donations and volunteers — many of them come from all over the world.

“For volunteers, we just ask they pay for their travel here but we house and feed them,” Seth said.

Seth is sent videos daily of every dog they take in. Many cases, she said, are horrifying.

“We have several dogs hit by cars, We have a rape victim, a six-month-old dog, sexually assaulted by a 60-year-old man. I have an acid victim. People threw acid on a dog to shoo him away.”

While not all survive, many do. Seth posts the success stories on the shelter’s social media channels.

“I went from being so afraid of these dogs, now they consume my life. The other day my husband cracked a joke and said ‘What do I have to do now to get your attention, be a dog in India?’ But he gets it and has been so supportive,” she said.

“I feel if a dog is dying and needs my attention that’s a priority, everything else can wait.”

And it’s all thanks to Snowy, she says. The small dog has inspired big things.

“I’d like to think he knows that,” she laughed. “I just call him the co-Founder of Pawsitive Sanctuary. The work isn’t easy, much more than I thought. But if I feel miserable, I look at Snowy, hug him and say ‘You know what? Because of your friends, I have to go on.’ ”

For more information on Pawsitive Sanctuary.

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