Updated: Jun 21, 2020
Read more about ARC'S founder
Janie fell in love with Goa when she came to visit 15 years ago. Before that she’d had a colourful career as a model for Versace in London. When she came to India in the late 1990’s she was the first foreigner to set up and run a Bollywood casting agency in Mumbai, working with stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bacchan on the 2001 smash hit “Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham.” One of the main characters in the popular novel “Shantaram’ is based on her experiences. Having decided to take a break from her hectic city lifestyle she now lives in Canacona where runs the Animal Rescue Centre.
It was when her dog Socks fell ill that she felt inspired to set up the ARC. “I found this puppy on the beach one day. It was one of a litter of 6. A tourist couple had gone home and left it behind.” When a local restaurant owner found Socks stealing some food Janie was shocked by his reaction. “He kicked Socks so hard he broke her leg. It was so cruel. So I decided to take her in and ended up adopting her.” But when she tried to take it to a vet to be treated she discovered the nearest one was three hours away. “I had to fix her myself and put together a makeshift splint with scotch tape and a piece of wood and patched it up.” she said. Socks lived out a long happy life with Janie until the age of 16 as one of four dogs and three cats that still live with her in her house in Rajbag village.
Upon Janie's initial visit to Goa Palolem and the beaches and towns in the area were, as in many parts of India, plagued by roaming packs of wild dogs that often attacked humans and livestock, spreading rabies and other diseases. By monsoon they would be rounded up and a mass cull would take place. “The cull was horrific" she says. “It happened because there was no local sterilisation or vaccination program."
With no vets or clinics close by Janie set up a makeshift treatment and vaccination centre in the front room of her house. Word of it quickly spread. Soon locals and visitors were leaving animals at her door for her to treat. As demand grew a local hotelier allowed her to use their chicken shed as a clinic. Then, 5 years ago she raised enough money – from donations from visitors and locals and the receipts of her nightclub business - to take a lease on the current Animal Rescue Centre premises, a small plot of land by the reservoir in the hills above Canacona.
Visit the centre today and you will find a thriving hub of activity with visitors, helpers, staff and pet owners coming in and out tending for injured animals and carrying out volunteering work. Employing five staff, the ARC has pens for cats, dogs and other animals, holds regular vet surgeries and conducts regular sweeps of the area for stray animals. Since opening the centre Janie says she thinks they have treated, vaccinated and sterilised thousands of animals. “If the dog that comes and sits next you on the beach has a clipped ear it means that we’ve treated it at the centre" she explains. Which is why, compared to other parts of the country, Janie can claim that “the dogs in Patnem and Palolem are amongst the friendliest you will find in India."
“We try and sterilise and vaccinate all the dogs in the area to stop rabies and the dogs having unwanted puppies that are then abandoned” says Janie. “Not many survive when that happens.” But what makes Janie most proud is the links the centre has made with the local community. “We’ve only been able to achieve this by working in partnership with the local community and visitors. We’ve had no support from local government or grants. It’s a constant struggle to keep the centre going and we couldn’t do it without the generosity of our volunteers and donors” she says.
Looking towards the future Janie is speaking to vets, vet nurses, universities and animal charities across the world to see how they can help.