A house for Tsunami and her friends



By Sharon St Joan


In 2004, on the day before Christmas, a catastrophe swept across the Indian Ocean, a tsunami that killed around 250,000 people. Countless animals also lost their lives.


Thanks to the immense dedication of animal groups in India and in other countries, thousands of animals were saved.


On December 26, 2004, four ambulances from Blue Cross of India headed south along the coast to save as many animals as they could. Each ambulance brought 2,000 liters of water and was equipped as a mobile vet clinic to treat injured animals in the devastated villages of the Kanchipuram, Cuddalore and Nagapattinam districts.


Public officials in these districts, Gagandeep Singh Bedi and J. Radhakrishnan, were grateful that someone was thinking of the animals, and they offered all the help they could. Mrs. Bhargavi Devendra, Honorary Secretary of the South India Red Cross instructed her chapters all along the coast to be on the lookout for animals in need of help. They did so, letting Blue Cross coordinator, Shanti Shankar – who during those hectic days lived and worked fulltime at the Blue Cross shelter – know where to pick up stranded animals – and in this way, rescue teams were able to reach thousands of cows, goats, chickens, and dogs.


People working with Red Cross and the Indian Bank opened their homes for Blue Cross rescuers to stay in and helped in many other ways.


Temporary fencing was set up for rescued cows near where they were found, and they were given food and water until their owners could come for them.


In the town of Vailankanni, right beyond the beautiful cathedral there, three one-week old puppies, their eyes still closed, were handed to a Blue Cross worker. Sadly, their mother, who had been tethered, did not survive, nor did their human family who had lived in a house quite close to the beach. The three puppies were swept inland on the waves, landing on top of a tall hedge and, amazingly, were still alive when a kind villager spotted them. He took care of them until Blue Cross rescuers arrived.


Dr. Chinny Krishna, one of the Founders of Blue Cross, recalls seeing the three tiny puppies right after they were turned over to Blue Cross in Vailankanni. A week later they had arrived back in Madras, and were taken first to the very large Blue Cross shelter. Because of the magnitude of the emergency, the shelter was at that time critically understaffed and overcrowded. So the three little puppies, who needed special feeding and care, were moved to Dr. Krishna’s factory, Aspick – a specialized factory with a global reputation. There, the three puppies were not alone, since Dr. Krishna has always invited street dogs to live on the grounds of his factory (his family house is also home to a dozen rescued dogs).


The three puppies were handfed by Mani, a longtime employee, and the other factory workers, who all love the dogs.


Two of the puppies were quickly adopted by Mr. Shashi Nair, then Editor of the magazine Buisness Line.


That left one puppy who the factory workers called Tsunami. Her name stuck and she grew up in the factory – much loved and well cared for. In fact, she ran the factory, or at least the dog brigade. She was the alpha dog of the whole team and kept everyone in line.


3 Tsunami and friend


Now, thirteen years later, Tsunami has slowed down a bit. Having stepped down from her post as alpha dog – another dog is now in charge – Tsunami enjoys napping a bit more – sometimes .


Tsunami’s eyesight isn’t quite as good as it was, but her hearing seems fine. She’s had a tumor on her chest that’s been treated twice, but she seems to be doing okay. She spends time hanging out with Tyag, the CEO of one of the group companies of Aspick.


A lot of her time is spent inside in the conference room – attending important meetings. At noon, she joins the workers for lunch, and then goes up to Dr. Krishna’s office to have a chapatti (Indian bread).


Her job now is giving a happy greeting to all the factory visitors – and at night, she still keeps a protective, wary eye out for any intruders who shouldn’t be there.


Soon, Tsunami will need a bit more shelter and some extra care, so Blue Cross is building her a house at their big shelter at Guindy. There she’ll have lots of company – community dogs who live on the streets can live a long time, and there are others who need a house too, as they slow down and get a bit older. (Blue Cross has run a spay-neuter program for street dogs – the oldest such continuing program in the world – since 1964.)


Tsunami is looking forward to a lot of delightful naps in the shade during her retirement.


To help give Tsunami and her friends their new house, click here to donate!


Tsunami and her friends will send you lots of grateful hugs!


Many thanks!



Top photo: Tsunami

Second photo: Tsunami with a friend

© text and photos, Sharon St Joan, 2017




A sacred being arrives


*DSC00077little ganesha one 2017


By Sharon St Joan


The 500 year old peepal tree, majestic, lifts its branches into the sunlight. In front of it stands a stone Ganesha which has been there even longer, for around a thousand years, extending his blessings of profound peace to all. This is a special place near the buildings of the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation. The land of the Foundation was originally the ancestral home of the family of Dr. Nanditha Krishna, the Foundation’s Honorary Director. She recalls that when she was a child, much of the area was covered in trees with jackals scurrying through the brush and deer browsing among the leaves. Now, among the buildings built in the past few decades, trees still stand tall offering shade and tranquility, though sadly some fell during the recent severe cyclone, Vardah, which blew through in December.


*DSC00079ChinnyBhairava 5 2017



As the site of regular pujas, ceremonies to express devotion to the Gods, the air of this special place becomes filled with incense and ancient songs to Ganesha, who grants prosperity and knowledge, and who has the power to overcome all obstacles.


One day in 2006, when Dr. Chinny Krishna, who founded, with his parents, the well-known animal organization, Blue Cross of India, and who is the husband of Dr. Nanditha Krishna, had come to this site to spend a few quiet moments with Ganesha, he spotted a small brown form, barely visible, concealed in the brush off to one side.


With a lifelong understanding of street dogs – he and Blue Cross have rescued many, many thousands — he knew that a subtle approach was required with a frightened dog. Dr. Krishna sat down on the stone steps. Quietly, he called to a staff person and asked him to bring a little milk in a bowl and a leash. Leashes are always handy because rescuing dogs is a common event. Placing the bowl beside him on the step, Dr. Krishna waited. After half an hour or so, the brown form emerged from the bushes, gently approached the milk, and the thirsty dog began to drink. Within a few minutes, Dr. Krishna was able to slip the leash over the dog’s head. He did not touch the dog or try to pet him, and when he stood up, the small brown dog went with him. He put the dog into his car, into the back, and gave him a few moments to settle down while he went to have a bite of breakfast, then he drove him to Blue Cross to be neutered.


All street dogs rescued by Blue Cross are spayed or neutered if this has not already been done, along with many thousands of dogs on the streets of Madras, as part of Blue Cross of India’s ABC program. Blue Cross of India runs the world’s first and longest continuously operating spay/neuter program that began in 1964.


Giving the little dog time to recover from his surgery, Dr. Krishna picked him up a few days later from Blue Cross. He set him down by the gate of the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation, and walked away, giving the dog the chance to return to where he had come from. Generally, street dogs live in a neighborhood which is their home, where they know the other dogs who are their friends, and where one or two kind people will feed them and keep an eye on them. In this way they lead a stable life and may live for many years.


TNR (trap/neuter/ vaccinate/return) for dogs, not just for cats (as in the U.S.), is the accepted best practice way to relate to community dogs in most countries in the world. A shelter system, as is found in the U.S. and other developed countries does not work, and, for many reasons, wherever it has been tried in developing countries, putting street dogs in shelters creates an inhumane, over-crowded situation. TNR is the best and only workable solution for the many millions of street dogs in India. All animal welfare organizations in India are no-kill, and it would not occur to any of them to kill homeless animals. Also, it would be illegal to do so.


By evening, the small brown dog had shown no signs of going away and had found his way back into the center of the compound among the trees and the buildings. The next morning Dr. Krishna put him once again out by the gate. And by evening, he had wandered back. Clearly, he had no attention of leaving such a calm, welcoming place.


Soon given the name of Bhairava, or Bhairu for short, he joined the twelve to twenty rescued street dogs who, at any one time, are part of the family of Dr. Nanditha and Dr. Chinny Krishna. They go where they wish, inside or out, are much-loved and cared for, and they are safe within the gates of the large, walled compound, which contains the buildings of the C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation.


Now perhaps fifteen or sixteen years old, Bhairava has a touch of arthritis, but otherwise he is fine. Appropriately, a natural white mark on the fur of his forehead resembles the sign that devout Hindus wear as a mark of devotion. Bhairava is the form of Lord Shiva who wanders the world as a homeless outcaste, always accompanied by his faithful dog. When reminded that, since the little dog Bhairava appeared, as if dropped from heaven, in the middle of the centuries-old site of worship of the peepal tree and the little stone Ganesha, he must certainly be a sacred dog, Dr. Krishna, replied, “Yes, of course, all dogs are sacred.”



A baby monkey’s sad story takes a brighter turn


Dawn Williams with little Lallu


By Rudra Krishna


First published by http://bodahub.com


The Blue Cross of India is an NGO and Animal Welfare Organisation situated in Chennai (Madras) in the South of India. I must begin with the disclaimer that I have been a volunteer with this over-50 year old organisation for most of my life.


The Head of Rescues in the Blue Cross of India is Dawn William, a former army man, vegan, and animal rescue specialist par extraordinaire. I could have gone with one of his more action-filled rescues here, but I’ve chosen the current one to make a relevant point.


Approaching midday on the 31st of March, 2016, Dawn received a panicked call from a security officer in a factory on the outskirts of the city. The information given was that a dead monkey had been found on the premises. What caused the panic was that alongside the dead mother was a newborn little baby monkey.


The authorities in the factory told Dawn that the mother had been around the area a lot during the previous couple of weeks. She hadn’t been aggressive or troublesome at all, and they hadn’t realised she was pregnant.


On the evening of the 30th, the plant supervisor saw her being chased through the streets by a crowd of people. The supervisor had intervened on behalf of the monkey and invited her into the plant, and not knowing the extent of her injuries, believed the problem to be at an end. She was allowed into a covered and cooled area, and though she moved slowly, the plant authorities still hadn’t suspected any injury. Our team were unable to find anyone willing to name any of the perpetrators of the crime.


Joanna with Lallu


The baby was still clinging to his mother. That was the security officer’s statement to Dawn about the situation he found the pair in. Dawn was accompanied by 13-year-old Joanna, daughter of a Naval Officer stationed in Vishakapatnam in the state of Andhra Pradesh, down in Madras for her summer vacations, which she is spending volunteering with us.


They quickly cleaned the baby monkey with a warm water-soaked towel and Joanna held on to him while Dawn and the plant personnel performed a ceremonial burial of the mother. The baby has been brought to the Blue Cross of India’s facility and will live with us for a while, until he is a little older and stronger. He is an absolute darling and we have named him Lallu. He will eventually be turned over to the wildlife authorities as, in India, keeping any animals classified as wild or protected privately is a serious criminal office. If he cannot be released back to the wild, he will live in a sanctuary where he will be well cared for.


Such incidents of wildlife interacting with urban or even rural life are very common in India. The insane rate at which the population is growing means that cities, towns, and villages are forever expanding. Gummidipoondi, which used to be a village well outside Madras, is today considered a suburb of the city.


What this effectively means is that India constantly invades the spaces wild animals have been occupying for thousands of years. We then build our fancy and modern apartment blocks and planned communities in wild land. And we’re able to commit such brutal acts of animal cruelty with the justification that the security of our children is compromised.


One only needs to ask themselves whether the shock they would have felt if this were a story about a human mother and her baby would have even been comparable to the sadness caused by reading this story.


Photos courtesy of Dawn William


To visit the website of Blue Cross of India or to help with their life-saving work, click here.



To help Blue Cross, if you live in the U.S., click here.






Chennai floods: Blue Cross saves buffalo from being washed out to sea

buffalo out to sea 0-2-2


By Rudra Krishna


On the morning of the December 2, 2015, the Blue Cross of India received a call from the Adyar police, with the information that that many cows and buffalos had been picked up by the torrential currents of the overflowing and much-swollen Adyar River, and that they were being washed away into the Indian Ocean.


As we later found out, the Chembarambakkam Reservoir had received an unprecedented amount of rainfall the previous night, and authorities had been forced to release water as quickly as they could, which caused the river to flow about 8-10 feet higher than it is even meant to, and in a most rapid and destructive manner.




All that aside, when we received the call at our Guindy facility, we immediately sent out a rescue vehicle with a couple of our rescue staff and a volunteer, Satish. Please remember that we had no clear idea what had happened with the reservoir at this point. Our vehicle arrived at the Adyar from Eliot’s beach (the most accessible way to get near the river at that point) and our team could initially see nothing apart from a towering river flowing out to sea. However, one of our staff, Razman Ali, born on the banks of the Brahamaputra in Assam, spotted an animal about a hundred metres out in the sea, and shouting out a quick word to the rest of his team, unhesitatingly dove into the mighty Indian Ocean.




Our team reports that the ocean was angry like they had never seen and Razman went under a few times, only to pop right back out, get his head high enough to obtain or correct his bearings, and persevere towards the stricken young buffalo. When he reached her, she, recognizing her last chance at life, allowed him to grab her and drag her back, struggling against the currents, to the beach. Muneer Uddin and Satish, who helped him with the rescue, report that it seemed to take them forever to make their way back to land, as they had to battle the tower of water speeding at them down the Adyar River. They led her to dry ground and as she had sustained no injuries and seemed eager to feed, they left her grazing and went on with their rescues.


0-2-5 resized


All of us that volunteer with the Blue Cross would like to thank Razman for his selfless heroism, and Muneer and Satish for trusting their colleague’s abilities and helping as best they could. Please bear in mind that their instincts told both of them not to allow Razman to swim out into the Ocean when it was so dangerous, but they backed his judgement and now, that young buffalo has received another shot at life. Their role is not to be discounted, for, in the words of the poet Milton, they also serve who stand and wait.


How you can help animals in the floods


In the recent devastating Chennai floods, Blue Cross has rescued 12,000 animals, either taking them to higher ground or, as needed, providing shelter, food, and vet care. The city is still recovering and Blue Cross flood rescue teams continue this life-saving work every day. – Editor


If you’d like to donate to help Blue Cross of India with their work rescuing animals affected by the floods…


From the U.S. or anywhere outside India, click here.


From inside India, click here.



Thank you!


© 2015, text and photos, Blue Cross of India. This may be reposted provided full credit is given.


Saved from raging currents, buffalo gives birth to baby


00team and buffalo


By Rudra Krishna


During the recent floods in Chennai, on November 14 at about 6 am, the Blue Cross of India received a call from Mr. Velu, on the Red Hills by-pass road, with the information that a buffalo was being washed away with the heavy current of the breached Ambathur lake, that he was following her, and that we needed to rush out right away.


Our volunteers Kiran, Selvam, Kavin, Santosh, Arjun, and Shunmugam had all returned from late-night flood rescues just an hour and a half before the call came in, and were resting at the Blue Cross facility in Guindy. They were woken up and immediately left to attend to the rescue. The scene that met their eyes seemed to be out of a nightmare, for they all saw a massive buffalo (they didn’t know at the time that she was full-term pregnant) who was fighting against the currents to reach dry land. They report that the flowing currents were battering her from all sides, and it was clear that the soil under her feet was being washed away. At one point in time, she could no longer reach down to the ground and was just floating, at which point our clever boys guided her gently, using poles, under a culvert and into a storm water drain.



buffalo's head00


Once she was stuck in the drain, our volunteers worked with ropes and fashioned a harness, and—with the help of some gracious onlookers (who also took the action pictures in the frame)—she was pulled out to safety.


A word here though: pulling out an 800-kilogram buffalo is, unsurprisingly, an incredibly difficult task. The ropes had to be placed very judiciously so that she wouldn’t dislocate any limbs. Moreover, it is a pretty risky thing to approach a buffalo. They can be very aggressive at times, especially when in distress. Kiran had to enter the deep storm water drain and fasten the ropes on to her. She wasn’t thrilled about it initially, but he coaxed and cajoled until she allowed him to harness her and secure the heavy ropes properly. The team then pulled her out safely. She was brought back to our Guindy facility, where she delivered her baby, a female calf we named Gina. We are thrilled to report that both mother (who we’ve named Yamini) and little Gina are doing well at our Guindy facility.



mam and baby00


Our team sustained a few minor injuries during the rescue, but Kiran received rather considerable injuries due to twice being washed off his feet by the currents and getting thrown around a bit. However, we are also glad to report that he is now doing fine.


The whole rescue happened during extremely heavy rain, which might not be clear from the pictures.


In the recent devastating Chennai floods, Blue Cross has rescued 12,000 animals, either taking them to higher ground or, as needed, providing shelter, food, and vet care. The city is still recovering and Blue Cross flood rescue teams continue this life-saving work every day. – Editor


How you can help animals in the floods


If you’d like to donate to help Blue Cross of India with their work rescuing animals affected by the floods…
From the U.S. or anywhere outside India, click here.


From inside India, click here.


Thank you!


©  2015, text and photos, Blue Cross of India. May be reposted with credit given.






A grisly discovery prompts a fifty year campaign, part two

Mrs. Usha Sundaram and Captain Sundaram
Mrs. Usha Sundaram and Captain Sundaram


By Sharon St Joan


This is one of a series of stories about the early days of the animal welfare movement in India.


To read part one first, click here.


Later that same year, in 1963, the CPCSEA was formed — thanks to the initiative of the well-known Indian classical dancer and animal activist, Rukmini Devi. The CPCSEA (Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals) oversees the facilities that perform animal experiments. Dr. Krishna, his mother, and his father, met twice with the CPCSEA committee members to give an account of the experiments at the Kilpauk Medical Center. At first they weren’t taken seriously. Some people even laughed, and there was some disbelief that such things as grafting of dogs’ heads had actually happened. But later on, the committee members were able to see for themselves what was happening with animal experiments – and then they were taken more seriously.


The Blue Cross investigation at the medical college gave the Indian public their first real glimpse behind the closed doors of facilities experimenting on animals. It began a decades-long campaign to put a stop to the suffering of lab animals.


In 1965, Blue Cross held the first Animal Welfare Seminar in India.


On October 4, 1968, the CPCSEA published the first set of official government guidelines to regulate the use of lab animals. These were, word for word, the same resolutions that had been passed by the Blue Cross Seminar in 1965 – and were a strong statement on behalf of animals.


Rukmini Devi
Rukmini Devi


Dr. Krishna recalls two factors, especially, that really helped early on – the first, that Rukmini Devi, such a widely-known and well-loved celebrity, had been the Chief Guest at the Blue Cross Seminar and, secondly, around the same time, his dad had been awarded the Queen Victoria Medal of Honor for his work on behalf of animals in India. These caught public attention. The movement to ban research on animals grew and people began to take note. It has never stopped.


Banning pound seizure


In the 1970’s, the Indian National Science Academy issued the statement that “Animals of unknown background provide faulty data.” This set the stage for a future law. Till 1996, labs habitually and cheaply acquired animals from disreputable backyard breeders, stolen animals from dealers, or animals picked up and sold by dog pounds.


Also in 1996, Maneka Gandhi, Member of Parliament, reconstituted the CPCSEA, which had been disbanded. The first rule of their guidelines was that only animals specifically bred for research could be used, thus cutting off the availability of cheap animal sources. India formally banned pound seizure in 1996; now, by law, animals could no longer be seized from pounds to end up in laboratories.


Conditions for lab animals and the numbers used over the years have steadily improved, and there is less egregious use of the animals.


Excessively stupid experiments, like grafting dogs heads, are no longer being done in India.


Banning dissection in schools


In 1991, Gujarat became the first Indian state to ban dissection in school biology classes.


Rajasthan also completely banned school dissection.


In 1998, a Delhi High Court ruling brought an end to Indian students being forced dissect frogs and other animals in schools below university level. Now one dissection is done as a demonstration, with the students watching, rather than each student doing their own dissection.


In 2011, India’s University Grants Commission banned the dissection of animals in universities and colleges. It has been estimated that this decision has saved the lives of 19 million animals a year.


Whittling away at animal research


In 1977, India banned the export of rhesus monkeys for research, immediately following the publication of an article in an illustrated weekly by Dr. Nanditha Krishna.


In January 2014, India banned cosmetics testing on animals. In December 2014, the importation of cosmetics that had been tested on animals in any other country was also banned.


The CPCSEA is focusing now on making sure that all places that use animals for experiments are registered. About 2,000 in India are registered, but around 5,000 exist. The government will soon require that labs using animals be registered before they can receive grants. Registration provides greater control and more oversight.



Dr. Krishna recalls, “Back in the 60’s, lab conditions and experiments were deplorable. Now the CPCSEA are making sure that internationally recognized best practices are being followed.”


Despite steady progress and the lives of many millions of animals saved, much still remains to be done.


Dr. Chinny Krishna
Dr. Chinny Krishna


“There is much unnecessary repetition,” Dr. Krishna noted, “For example, a second species is required in toxicology testing. They use mice, and for the second species, they use either monkeys, which are expensive, or dogs. Generally, beagles are used. The second species is unnecessary and provides virtually no additional useful data. We’re trying our best now to ban testing on dogs.”


Imposing limits and restrictions whittles away at the cruel practice of animal research and cuts down on the numbers of animals used.


About a dozen members of the CPCSEA meet every two months, taking up one issue after another in the determined process to make the suffering of animals in laboratories a thing of the past.


Bit by bit, progress has been made — the suffering of animals in labs in India has lessened – and a spotlight has been thrown on the inhumanity and uselessness of animal experimentation.




Top photo: Courtesy of Blue Cross of India / Mrs. Usha Sundaram and Captain Sundaram, Co-Founders of Blue Cross.


Second photo: Wikimedia Commons /”This work is in the public domain in India because its term of copyright has expired…” “This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was first published in India….” / Rukmini Devi 


Third photo: Sharon St Joan / Dr. Chinny Krishna






















A grisly discovery prompts a fifty-year campaign, part one

Captain Sundaram

By Sharon St Joan


This is one of a series of stories about the early days of the animal welfare movement in India.


In 1963, in the earliest days of the modern Indian animal welfare movement, Captain Sundaram, Founder of the group that was about to become registered, in 1964, as Blue Cross of India, received a disturbing phone call.

Dr. Nurgesh Ganapathy, the resident medical officer of Kilpauk Medical College, in Madras, called to ask if Blue Cross was aware of the nature of the animal experiments being carried out at the center. She also asked just what exactly they were planning to do about them.

As the resident medical officer, she was second in charge. Clearly, this was of grave concern to her; she felt could no longer remain silent about the circumstances of the animals and chose to come forward as a whistle-blower, regardless of consequences.

As soon as he got off the phone with Dr. Ganapathy, Captain Sundaram telephoned the Inspector General of Police for the State of Tamil Nadu, F.V. Arul; explaining that Blue Cross intended to investigate the animal experiments at the medical college and requesting police protection in case there was a confrontation with the hospital staff. In response, F.V. Arul contacted the local police in Madras and told them to provide a police escort to Blue Cross.

Blue Cross today; Resident Manager, Dawn Williams with a rescued calf.

The local Madras police chief called the Dean of the College to advise him that Blue Cross would be conducting an investigation, accompanied by the police.

At around 10 or 10:30 in the morning, the next day, when it was already quite hot – this was in late spring or early summer – Captain Sundaram, his son nineteen year old son Chinny Krishna, Mr. D. Daivasigamoni who was a Blue Cross Board member, and a police officer, arrived outside the doors of the Medical College.

After some hesitation and delay, they were let into the building. The police officer insisted that they be allowed to see everything. Because the college was a government facility, they were not permitted to take photos.

The Dean of the College showed them around, with Dr. Ganapathy joining them later.

A shocking, ghastly scene awaited them. There were about 40 dogs, all dead, some partly burned. Gruesome experiments had been performed on them, mostly the grafting on of heads, including puppies’ heads grafted on to the bodies of adult dogs – and some dogs with two heads.

It was obvious that, when the college had been alerted about the impending investigation, they had killed any surviving dogs and had begun burning the remains to cover up the evidence. They had not had time to finish their task or to dispose of the bodies.

The Dean, who seemed embarrassed and ill at ease as he gave them a tour, insisted that these were all quite routine experiments, necessary so that medical students could acquire surgical skills.

There were also mice and rabbits present, still alive, used for other experiments.

Earlier, around ’62, Blue Cross had become aware that some experiments with cats were being performed at the college. It was a common practice for gypsies to kidnap cats and sell them to labs. (The term “gypsy” in India is used to refer to various transient groups who make a profit by abusing or exploit animals.)

Though they had been forewarned about the experiments on dogs, they had not been expecting to see anything like the horrible scene that they encountered. They could not prosecute the medical college because the Animal Welfare Act, passed in 1960, specifically exempted scientific experiments on lab animals.

The medical college was not off the hook though, because the tide of public opinion had begun to turn.


The Blue Cross investigation had a long-term significant impact. Although the medical college continued to use lab animals, there was no more grafting of heads onto dogs.

The gruesome discovery made that day led directly to a decades-long program, still ongoing, by Blue Cross and others, to control and cut down the use of lab animals in India. It has proceeded slowly, sometimes inching forward, but it has never halted. India is among those countries leading the world in terms of progress to reduce animal research.

For the rest of his life, Captain Sundaram spoke abut this incident, whenever possible, to let people know about the horrors of animal experimentation. Following in his footsteps, his son, Dr. Chinny Krishna, first as Chairperson of Blue Cross, and later as Vice-Chairperson of the Animal Welfare Board of India, and through his positions in other animal organizations, has worked non-stop to end animal experimentation, along with a great many others in India. They have achieved notable successes along the way.

To be continued in part two

Top photo: Courtesy of Blue Cross / Captain Sundaram, in the early days of Blue Cross.

Second photo: Sharon St Joan / Dawn Williams, Resident Manager of Blue Cross, with a rescued calf.

Blue Cross of India – Early days


Mrs. Usha Sundaram and Captain Sundaram


By Sharon St Joan


This is one of a series of stories about the early days of the animal welfare movement in India.


Blue Cross of India, in Chennai (Madras), was the first of the modern-style animal shelters in India.


For thousands of years in India, there have been goshalas, or sanctuaries for cows, and these still exist; many are run by the Jain community.

The Emperor Asoka


Around 300 BC, the emperor Asoka was the first animal activist known to history. He set up pillars all over India, some of which are still in place, with inscriptions of animal welfare laws that are to be followed. The first veterinary hospitals in the world were introduced by Asoka, with a requirement that the remedies to be used were to be based on the natural healing properties of plants.


As the first of the modern Indian animal shelters, the name Blue Cross soon became a generic term for any group that helps animals. There are scenes in Bollywood movies where, when an animal is not being treated with kindness, someone in the crowd will cry out, “STOP! We’re going to call Blue Cross!”


Blue Cross is today the largest and most well known of the over 10,000 registered animal organizations in India. In 1964, they started the first ongoing spay/neuter program in the world, known as ABC, spaying and neutering the street dogs and cats of Madras. This program has gone on uninterrupted for fifty years. They have never stopped, creating a model that has been followed all over the world for relating to street dogs and cats humanely and effectively – the world’s longest running TNR (trap/neuter/return) program. The rabies vaccinations they gave to every animal led to Chennai becoming a rabies-free city.

A family adopts a puppy at a Blue Cross Adoptathon


Captain and Usha Sundaram were the two primary founders of Blue Cross, joined in the early days by a number of others, including their son, Chinny Krishna, who even as a teenager was very actively involved.


Captain and Usha Sundaram were both pilots. At a time when there were few female pilots anywhere, Usha became the first female pilot in India. They flew together, as pilot and co-pilot, carrying dignitaries, including Nehru, Sardar Patel and other high-ranking government officials.


Captain and Usha Sundaram spent some time in the U.K. and when they returned, he joined Indian Airlines as a pilot.


After he had reached the mark of 10,000 flying hours, without an accident, he wanted to do something in gratitude for the blessings of his life. He and Usha talked briefly about starting a leprosy home, since one of Captain Sundaram’s uncles had been a doctor who contracted leprosy while caring for his patients.


They had always been fond of animals though; their house had long been a haven for any stray creature in need of a home, and the animals won out.


First, they started a group within the SPCA, along with D. Devasigamoni, the Vice President of the SPCA and President of the Indian Football Association, calling their group the Animal Aid Association. They focused especially on humane education, going to schools to teach children respect for animals, while giving practical guidance on things like how to approach dogs so as to avoid dog bites.


After around five years, they decided to start something on their own; the name was changed to Blue Cross in 1964.


As well as their son, Chinny, other founding members soon joined. There was G.M. Donner, an Irishman, in 1962. Usha’s father, T.S. Krishnamurthi, and her mother Kamakshi Krishnamurthi, as well as Dawn Swain, also joined; then Chinny’s older brother Suresh, and his younger sister, Viji. There was also Sundari Nataraj, and a railway officer, T.V. Chandrasekar.


Grimmi (short for Grimaldi) and Shaggy were two puppies found and rescued from a storm drain, during a monsoon downpour, by Captain Sundaram. Though the family had always had a houseful of rescued animals, these two became the nucleus of a new group that were related to, not so much as family pets, but as the first rescued animals of Blue Cross.


For the first several years the shelter was run out of their home, and Chinny credits his mother with being the backbone of the entire operation – ceaselessly caring for the animals. She did much of the work herself, getting up extra early, cleaning, feeding, and caring for any sick animals. Two rooms in their house, of about five hundred square feet each, were dedicated to the animals.


In 1968, Chinny, having graduated as a chemical engineer, went to study in the U.S., where he stayed for four and a half years, earning his MS in Business Administration, from Bucknell University, Pennsylvannia.


Having left to study in the U.S. at the same time as eleven of his friends and classmates; Chinny was the only one of them all who returned to India.


When he got back, Chinny and Nanditha Krishna were married in 1974. Nanditha later joined the Board of Blue Cross in 1987.


Like many who make a mark in the world, Captain Sundaram was never known as a quiet, retiring personality. He was intense and volatile, with a flair for the unexpected. He had a passion for machines, and loved going for long drives on his motorcycle.


One day, after telling Usha, in the morning, that he was going to Mamalapuram, about an hour’s drive south of Madras — she received a call from him a few hours later – not from Mamalapuram, but from Bangalore — which is several hours in the other direction, west of Madras. Upset at her husband’s unpredictability, Usha called Chinny, who was also exasperated with his dad. Chinny went to have lunch with his mom and was a helpful, calming influence.


The next chance he got, Chinny “borrowed” his dad’s motorcycle and sold it. He brought him the money and set it down on the table in front of his father. His dad did not look up and did not reply. For a month after that, there was a stony silence on the subject of the motorcycle.


Apart from these occasional family spats, Chinny, his dad, and their whole family had a warm relationship and communicated easily with each other. They worked together closely on behalf of the animals.


As for Captain Sundaram’s rather flamboyant style, it came in very handy on the many occasions when he was standing up for animals.


Top photo: Courtesy of Blue Cross of India / Mrs. Usha Sundaram and Captain Sundaram.


Second photo: Wikimedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.” / 1st century Indian relief from Amaravati, Guntar district, Andhra Pradesh, Preserved in the unmet Museum, Paris / Believed to represent the Emperor Asoka.


Third photo: Courtesy of Blue Cross of India / A family adopting a dog during the Blue Cross Adoptathon in December 2014.


© Sharon St Joan, 2015


To visit the website of Blue Cross of India, click here.  






1965 – The first anti-vivisection seminar in India




By Sharon St Joan


This is one of a series of stories about the early days of the animal welfare movement in India.


In 1965 Blue Cross of India sponsored the first anti-vivisection seminar ever held in India.


Diana Hamilton Andrews, a leading British animal advocate at the time, wrote a report on the seminar, which she had flown to India in order to attend. “Even at 9:30 in the morning,” she wrote, “It was almost unbearably hot, and I was grateful for the fans which whirred in the ceiling.” She describes the women wearing brilliant saris and brightly-colored flowers in their hair – all so very different from the snow-covered London airport she had left the day before.


The Chief Minister of Madras, the Hon. Sri M. Bhaktavatsalam inaugurated the seminar, and Srimathi Rukmini Devi, the Chairperson of the Animal Welfare Board of India, presided.





Captain V. Sundaram, President of the Blue Cross of India, welcomed the delegates. His Organising Secretary, Sri D. Daivasigamony gave the audience an introduction to the topic of vivisection, which many of them were hearing about for the first time. He explained the cruelty involved and presented strong medical evidence that research on animals is scientifically unsound and does not work, as well as being inherently immoral. He reminded those present of “ahimsa,” the Indian tradition of non-violence.




When the Chief Minister spoke he also referred to Indian history, to the great third-century BC emperor Asoka, who set up the first veterinary hospitals in the world, and to Buddha; he made the case that accepting animal research in India would be entirely inconsistent with Indian ideals and ethics.


Rukmini Devi thanked Blue Cross for calling the meeting, talked about her efforts to prevent animal experimentation from taking hold in India, and expressed her hope that the conference would lead to recommendations to prevent all forms of cruelty.


Diana Hamilton Andrews spoke then, talking about her experiences in England opposing animal research and some of the pitfalls they had encountered, especially that of compromising more than they ought to have done. She cautioned those in India not to repeat that mistake. She also mentioned the ancient Indian system of ethics, and added that “the East has not yet been drawn to such an extent as Europe and the U.S.A. into the sinister cult of science-worship.”


In the afternoon the delegates turned their attention to resolutions to be presented to the government and came up with 23 resolutions.


Some of the key points in the resolutions were that all experiments should be subject to government supervision and that there should be “no infliction of any kind of suffering on animals.”


“That repetition of experiments shall not be permitted.”


That no experiments should be done for financial gain; in other words, they should not be conducted by commercial or pharmaceutical companies.


No experiments in schools or universities should be performed on live animals.


No animals should be experimented on for the purpose of developing surgical or manual skills.


That complete anesthesia should be used for all animals being experimented on.


That alternative methods of research to the use of animals should be developed.


That experiments should only be permitted on premises able to provide adequate care for the animals.


That good records should be kept.


That animal welfare groups should be allowed access to any laboratory.


That animals should no longeer be exported or imported for the purposes of experimentation, and specifically that the export of monkeys from India should be banned.


That debarking of dogs should be banned.


That further seminars should be held to promote kindness to animals.


After listing the resolutions, Diana Hamilton Andrews concluded her report by stating that she was grateful to have attended the seminar and for the chance to have had a conversation with Rukmini Devi, especially about the topic of exporting the wild monkeys of India to American and British laboratories. She had long been surprised that this practice could happen in a country where the monkey was regarded as a sacred animal, and where more than 80% of the population were Hindu. Rukmini Devi assured her that the Animal Welfare Board of India would continue to press the government for a complete ban on the export of monkeys, which in the preceding year had involved around 50,000 monkeys.




The far-sighted resolutions passed at this first seminar held by Blue Cross of India formed the framework of principles on which those fighting against animal research in India have been working over the 50 years since the seminar took place.


Progress has been made – banning the export of monkeys to foreign laboratories, banning the use of live animals for experimentation in schools and universities, and banning animal experimentation for the purpose of producing cosmetics, as well as banning the importation of cosmetics tested on animals. This progress, though it may seem, correctly, that much remains to be accomplished, has diminished the suffering of, and saved the lives of, many hundreds of thousands of animals.


The principles remain the same, and the struggle to prevent the suffering of animals in laboratories in India is on-going today.


Top photo: Rukmini Devi / Wikimedia Commons / “This work is in the public domain in India because its term of copyright has expired.” / “This work is in the public domain in the United States…” / Rukmini Devi, classical Indian dancer.


Second Photo: Courtesy of Blue Cross of India / Captain V. Sundaram


Third and fourth photos: Sharon St Joan / Taken at Blue Cross of India.


To visit the website of Blue Cross of India, click here




India, Chennai: Bailing out Moksha, Mukti, and all their friends, Part Two

Mukti looking for a treat, the lab number can be seen in her ear
Mukti looking for a treat, the lab number can be seen in her ear

This is Part Two, to read Part One first, click here.

While the marathon of talks was ongoing, Blue Cross was taking steps to get ready to receive the puppies.  Laboratory-bred puppies would have no immunity to real-world conditions, so great care must be taken not to expose them to any germs commonly carried by dogs.  For this reason, they couldn’t be kept on the grounds of a shelter, neither at Blue Cross nor at PFA Chennai. Even transportation for them would have to be in sanitized vehicles.

Blue Cross runs a 24 hour a day regular ambulance service for injured street dogs, with nearly a dozen ambulances on hand.  They took the two largest ambulances out of service for two weeks to fumigate them, disinfect them, and scrub them from top to toe.  Then they repainted the insides of the ambulances.  No germ was left alive.

At 4pm on Friday, Dawn Williams, representative of Blue Cross, went to the Quarantine Station, with papers in hand – the letter from ADVINUS, plus the notification from the Ministry of Environment and Forests authorizing the puppies to be handed over to the AWBI.

This was still not enough, however.  He was informed that since Customs had sent the puppies to the Quarantine Station, only Customs could get them released.

Dr. Krishna called the Chief Customs Officer for the whole of India, who was in a meeting in Delhi.  By 7pm, he had given his okay, and by 8pm, Dawn Williams was back at the Quarantine Station with the additional papers.  Everything seemed fine then, except that it was after dark, and it would be best to come back in the morning.

The indefatigable Dawn Williams returned at 8 am the next morning, which was Saturday, with the two ambulances to get the puppies. At 9:45 am, someone showed up, but nothing further happened, and at noon, he was still waiting.

At one pm, the Quarantine Officer appeared, and announced that he would need permission from the Minister of Agriculture to release the puppies.

Dr. Krishna made another round of 100 phone calls, trying to reach someone —  anyone who could do something. At last, in desperation, he called Mr. Doulat Jain, a former Vice Chairman of the AWBI.  An industrialist who is still a member of the AWBI, he was kind enough to contact the Agriculture Minister of India, who then instructed that the puppies be released.  By then, it was 5 pm on Saturday afternoon.

At 7pm, the puppies were at long last turned over to Dawn Williams. 25 of the puppies were immediately given to Dr. Shiranee Periera of People for Animals, Chennai, who adopted all of them out, on the spot, to pre-screened families. This took place just outside the doors of the Quarantine Office.

The other 45, under the auspices of Blue Cross, were loaded into the immaculate ambulances and made their way to the home of Dr. Nanditha and Dr. Chinny Krishna.

At 7:30 pm, the puppies arrived on a comfortably cool South India January evening, where they were kept in an enclosed garden that had been carefully cleaned and disinfected, outside one of the compound buildings.

Soon 100 people, buzzing with excitement converged on the scene, all anxious to get a glimpse of the puppies. There were forty-five pre-screened, qualified families. All had to have a family vet, and had to commit to getting their adopted puppies vaccinated and spayed or neutered.

Between 7:30 and 10pm that evening 28 puppies were adopted.  No adoption fees were charged, but about half the families gave donations to Blue Cross.

The following night, Sunday, the 17 remaining puppies found homes. It was a happy occasion for both people and puppies.

Despite the joy of this truly happy event, Dr. Nanditha and Dr. Chinny Krishna noted that some of the 45 puppies could not bark.  They seemed to have been debarked.  Also, they were not normal size and seemed to have been bred intentionally to be dwarf beagles.

Moksha, Mukti, and all the others, have large numbers tattooed in their ears.  The numbers are an 8, followed by 6 digits.  Even if one assumes that the 8 is a batch number, that still means that the number of beagle puppies bred in the lab they came from is in the six figures.

The beagle pups were six months old by this time. They all, of course, needed housetraining.  Despite having been kept caged the entire time, Dr. Chinny Krishna says that every dog was “so friendly.”  These 70 innocent beagle puppies will now be blessed with a chance to have long, happy lives, and Moksha and Mukti can play with Ruffles.

Following the great love and care she was given, Mukti’s spinal problem vanished, as if it had never been.

This was a bright spot in a lengthy battle. The struggle continues in the long fight to arrive at a moment when all animals everywhere in the world are free from the threat of being used in laboratories.

To visit the website of Blue Cross of India, click here.  

Photo: Sharon St Joan