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The Hindu


Have wheels, will run — made in India aids for pets

Deborah Cornelious

MUMBAI , JULY 24, 2019 00:19 IST online link

Back to life: Sheru is happy running around with a wheelchair built for just ₹8,000.

Back to life: Sheru is happy running around with a wheelchair built for just ₹8,000.   | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Gujarat-based Bhumit Vyas’s custom-built wheelchairs are giving handicapped animals a new lease of life

Just two months after bringing his pet pug Sheru home, Vikas Chawla noticed the puppy consistently wobble. Very quickly, the dog lost all mobility in his hind legs.

“Veterinarians were unable to understand the problem, let alone diagnose it,” recalls the 51-year-old Kolkata resident.

“They presumed it was hip dysplasia or he had damaged nerves.” Ultimately, it turned out Sheru would never walk again.

Chasing doctors

For a whole year, the Chawla family chased doctors, took Sheru for physiotherapy and even swimming classes. “But there was no improvement and it was tormenting Sheru,” says Mr. Chawla, who was advised by several veterinarians to euthanise his puppy.

Instead Mr. Chawla decided to buy him a wheelchair. With international manufacturers quoting a whopping ₹40,000 for a clunky product, he turned to Gujarat-based web-designer-turned-animal prosthesis maker Bhumit Vyas.

Sheru today has a wheelchair built for just ₹8,000.

“My dog’s life has changed. He’s so happy running around,” says Mr. Chawla.

“I’ve recently, ordered a second wheelchair in case the first one breaks down. I don’t want Sheru to be immobile for a single second!”

Mr. Vyas has always been an animal lover., feeding strays in his locality and helping as much as he can. His own indie Pilu, first arrived as a foster who needed rehabilitation. Almost a decade later, they’re still attached at the hip.

Mr. Vyas has always been an animal lover, but the idea of building economical and sturdy wheelchairs for injured pets was sparked three years ago by the plight of a stray dog that had been hit by a vehicle. Even though it was taken in by a local shelter, Mr. Vyas recalls that it was heartbreaking to see the dog drag itself across the shelter’s rough floors.

Ever since, he has worked on designing and building custom-made animal wheelchairs, extending a lifeline to pets with few other options in the country.

With imported wheelchairs being expensive, ones, while weighing upwards of 30kgs, cost up to Rs 50,000. “In India people look after several stray animals at a time, how will they afford such prices?” he says. “How would poor feeders buy these wheelchairs?”

100 pets get help

Earlier this year, Mr. Vyas established, offering custom-built wheelchairs for animals as small as kittens and as large as St. Bernards. He has since sold more than a 100 such prosthetic aids across the country, with orders from as far away as the Andamans.

The parts are imported from China and South Korea and assembled by Mr. Vyas.

“The price of the wheelchair depends on the size of the animal,” he explains. “The wheelchairs are for the impossible cases and it makes me so happy to see them running around afterwards.”

He’s also developed a special edition of wheelchairs for shelters, that are lighter, more subsidised and made entirely using local parts. All the products are adjustable (height, length and width) which makes them portable. Starting at ₹1999 with free delivery across India, these wheelchairs can be re-assembled for as little at ₹40 if they break down. Mr Vyas also offers after-sales services, including spare parts and accessories.

All of Mr Vyas’ efforts for animals can be attributed to his pet Pilu who helped him become an advocate for Indian breeds. “When you’re adopting, look at the soul and think about the life you’re taking home. A dog won’t demand much, their love for you will not change if you feed them fresh meat or even old biscuits,” he says Mr Vyas, concluding that the ultimate hope is that every handicapped animal gets the quality of life it deserves.

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