8 min read

Woman Refuses To Leave Flooded Home Without Her 25 Dogs

“My dogs are my children, and if ever I am in a life or death situation like the floods, I will never leave without them" 💕🐶

When the floodwaters reached the house that Sunitha Sinto shared with her husband in Kerala, India, two weeks ago, they knew they had to move somewhere safe. But Sinto had 25 rescued street dogs in her care, and she wasn’t going to leave without them.

The region where she lives has been hit with terrible flooding in the past month, and hundreds of people have died. But she wouldn’t give up on her dogs.

Two women sitting together
Sally Varma from HSI sitting with Sunitha Sinto | HSI

“When rescuers came to shift Sunitha and her husband, they were willing to go only if their dogs were taken along, too — but unfortunately this was refused,” Rahul Sehgal, India’s senior director of companion animals and engagement at Humane Society International (HSI), told The Dodo.

A few of Sinto's 25 dogs after they were rescued from the floods | HSI

The floodwaters kept rising, placing Sinto, her husband and the dogs at greater risk. Sinto reached out to Sally Varma, India's education and awareness officer at HSI, and asked for her help. Within hours, help arrived — Varma and the HSI team moved Sinto and her family into a barn that was safe from the floodwaters, and has continued to support them with food and other supplies.

Woman feeding her dogs
Sinto feeding her dogs at the barn | HSI

“My dogs are my children, and if ever I am in a life or death situation like the floods, I will never leave without them,” Sinto said in a statement. “I’m so happy that Sally from HSI/India was here to offer help when I needed it, and still now after the flood when we are still in need.”

“I have just adopted two more dogs from the streets too, so now I have 27 children, and we really need the food and medicine that HSI/India is giving us,” Sinto added. “It’s stopped us from starving. I want to let people around the world know that animal lives matter too, and when calamity strikes, they rely on us to save them.”

Dogs inside a boat during floods
Local rescuers saving dogs during the Kerala floods | HSI/Chennai Rescue Team

Sinto’s dogs aren’t the only animals HSI has rescued in Kerala. Terrible monsoon rains have hit the region since late July, resulting in what’s being referred to as the worst flood in a century. More than 220,000 people have been left homeless. Animals are suffering as well — many have been abandoned, and the ones who survive are in desperate need of food, shelter and vet care.

Scared dog in the back of a truck with rescuer
An HSI rescuer driving a dog to safety | HSI

“The human rescue teams were not allowing people to bring their pets with them to the relief camps, and that meant there were big numbers of abandoned and stranded animals,” Sehgal said. “Many of the animals were kept caged or chained (including dogs) and they did not get the chance to fight for their survival as the water levels rose.”

Dog standing on roof of flooded building

“Some who managed to stay alive were extremely aggressive and difficult to handle, likely because they were so terrified,” Sehgal added. “It must be very traumatizing for them. We put out a plea for people to unrestrain their animals if they were forced to leave them so that at least they had a chance to flee the danger.”

HSI has been working tirelessly to rescue as many animals as possible, although it’s been a struggle to respond to every call for help.

Man saving dog during flood
HSI/Chennai Rescue Team

“The numbers to be rescued were overwhelming, and originally we had only six HSI responders for the first few days,” Sehgal said. “This was the most challenging time, and our first team worked day and night in exhausting conditions before our reinforcement team could reach them."

Man holding rescued puppies in his arms

It was also difficult for HSI to reach many of the animals in need — the local airport was closed, and many roads were broken or cut off from the floods. When HSI responders were able to save animals, they struggled to find enough adequate housing for all of them.

Man with two goats in his arms

Despite the huge challenges, HSI has rescued over 200 animals in the past two weeks, including dogs, cats, goats, cows and buffalo, and helped feed more than 1,500 animals. HSI is also working with several local rescue groups to save even more animals across Kerala.

The floodwaters are starting to subside now, but the work is far from over — many animals still need to be rescued, and then either reunited with their families or put up for adoption.

Woman kissing puppy held by man

For Sehgal, one of the most rewarding parts of this effort is “being able to reunite the scared and starving animals with their people, and seeing their tears of joy.” This is what motivates Sehgal and the others at HSI to keep going, and to keep helping as many animals as they can.

To help rescue more animals in Kerala, India, and provide ongoing care for them, you can make a donation to HSI.