It is late at night in Chennai, and the streets are dark. As you drive through the city, a stray animal suddenly looms up in your headlights, and all you can do is swerve and hope for the best. Thankfully, an organisation in Chennai has now began an unusual initiative to tackle this everyday nightmare for motorists.
The solution is rather simple: make the animals glow so they can be seen at a distance.
Chennai-based animal welfare NGO, People for Cattle in India (PFCI), have initiated a project to fit stray animals with reflective “magic collars” that will shine in the dark and make animals more easily visible. The NGO launched the new initiative by fitting collars on over 300 dogs and cattle in Chennai.
“We used to get numerous hit and run calls almost every day. According to a response to an RTI query which we filed, there are over 84,000 stray dogs in Chennai,” said founder of PFCI, Arun Prasanna, explaining the origins of the project.
A garment manufacturer by profession, Arun founded PFCI in 2012, as an animal rescue service. Disturbed by the number and frequency of animal accidents in the city, PFCI first approached local truck drivers and other motorists regarding the issue. “Most of the drivers in the city tagged low visibility on the roads as the main reason for such accidents,” he said.
The collars are made of a base material of orange nylon with an overlaying fabric of reflective cloth and are claimed to be visible at a distance of 1,000 feet in the dark. Priced at Rs 65 for dogs and Rs 135 for cattle, the fabric for the collars is manufactured by Arun’s factory. The initiative is being funded by individual donations received by PFCI.
PFCI first hit on the idea of reflective collars over six months ago, and in the first edition of the drive, fitted normal collars with reflective fabric. “We tried these out on around 10 dogs and the next day we found eight out of those ten collars to be missing,” he exclaims. “Local auto drivers were caught stealing these expensive collars. That is how we ruled out that option and went with the velcro collars,” he laughs.
The idea has been tried out in the past with stray dogs in cities like Pune (by an initiative called Motopaws), but this is the first time that the collars are being fitted on cattle as well.
Although the initiative was originally to also include stray cats, they were excluded from the campaign based on expert advice. “Veterinarians and other specialists unanimously warned us of the feline’s nature to climb trees, with the possibility of the velcro getting stuck on branches,” Arun explains.
Aiming to cover over 10,000 stray animals in the city, by the end of December this year, PFCI is seeking to partner with other animal welfare organisations in Bengaluru, Kolkata and Jaipur to extend the project to these cities as well.
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