Unsung Heroes

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Guardian Of Pets And Strays

Leela LathifA Stray Dog. An Abandoned Cat. A Hurt Bird.


Leela Lathif’s heart went out to the abandoned and injured animals.


She always had a pet at her house when she was a child. Now, a grandmother, Leela is the reason why the People For Animals (PFA) unit was set up in Trivandrum.

“I was watching a programme on the cruelties meted out to animals by Maneka Gandhi called ‘Heads and Tails’. I felt we had to set up something for animals here in Kerala,” says Leela.


She contacted the PFA unit in Chennai. With the help of some like-minded people, like the General Manager of the SBT Narasimham, she established the Trivandrum chapter of PFA in July 1996. She has been the secretary of the unit for all these years.

The unit did not have an office or space to shelter the animals it rescued from various places. All the animals were brought to Leela’s house at Anayara. “At one time we had 25 dogs in the house - both big ones and puppies.”

It was in 2001 some land in Malayinkeezhu was bought for PFA with the help of Maneka Gandhi and the Animal Welfare Board of India. Presently the unit houses 54 dogs, 35 cats, and 15 puppies. “There is also a bull, five or six little eaglets etc.”

Leela became the guardian angel for all the abandoned and sick animals and birds in Trivandrum. She keeps getting phone calls seeking help and advice on what to do with animals found hurt or dead. “Sometimes people don’t allow their kids to bury their pets in their compounds. So when they call me, I ask them to bring them here and bury it in my compound.”

Leela Lathif

In her house, there are three dogs - Betty, Brownie and Gopi. “I had 11 dogs. Three were taken to the shelter and the others died.”

She has many interesting stories to recount. “Once there were a number of monkeys in Sasthamkotta that would trouble all the passers-by by snatching their food or other belongings. There were about 115 of them. I contacted the Vatavaran team in Delhi and a team came to get the monkeys and take them to the Aryankaavu forest, with the help of the forest department.”

Another time a skua was found in Shanghumugham beach. A rare breed, it was last seen in Kerala in 1935. Leela Lathif named her Winnie and brought her home. “She was not at all scared to be among my dogs and played with them.” Leela built a tank for her to take a dip in but she would not step into it. However, Winnie flew away one day and never came back. “One of my dogs - Mickey - was playing with her. At one point, she just took off into the sky. My son-in-law went after her but could not trace her.”

Leela Lathif


She also remembers saving a number of deers in a palace, from being sold away to private parties.

Leela tells me the PFA could use more volunteers. “In Chennai, we have more students coming to take the dogs out for walks and look after them. But here, even if youngsters are willing to come, I guess, their parents have a problem with it.”

Leela Lathif has been in the Censor Board (Central Board of Film Certification) from 1995 to 1998, to evaluate movies on the basis of cruelties to animals. “I didn’t know about the appointment until it came on the papers!” she says, laughing.


Starting as a teacher, Leela has always been enthusiastic and active in the field she chose to work in. She has dedicated a good part of her life to the protection and welfare of animals. You don’t need to read newspaper reports or trace her footsteps to understand that. All you need to do is take a look at her, sitting on her living room, keeping herself close to her landline phone connection - to be at the beck and call for any trapped or helpless animal that she could rescue.


Leela Lathif can be contacted on 0471 2742378.


- Cris Seetha


By Cris Seetha


Posted By : Cris, On Oct 26, 2010 05:44:14 PM
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would have been nice if you had posted the contact details
Pet Lover, on Oct 26, 2010 11:05:49 PM
JP AJITH, on Oct 27, 2010 08:07:08 PM
Leela chechi..that is how she is known to everyone. Iam glad that this article has come about and a lot of people would get to know about it. I know a lot of people who speak for animals, but to spend one's entire time to helping those poor beings is something else and mark of a great person
Venugopal Unnikrishnan, on Oct 28, 2010 06:06:12 AM
@Pet Lover: I have added it at the bottom of the story. @JP Ajith: Thank you :-) @Venugopal: Yes, her dedication speaks for itself :-).
Cris, on Oct 28, 2010 10:23:31 AM
nice story, cris
Tintomon, on Oct 28, 2010 03:24:59 PM
Thank you Tintomon :-)
Cris, on Oct 28, 2010 10:29:40 PM
I don totally agree to u...@valyarthala PFA has a centre whch is currently run by a female named Maria..if u call them up and inform about a stray animal or animal needing help..they wudnt even turn up!! and Ms.Lathif... needs to buck up and work for "animals"...cz I noways feel for d way she claims to support the cause!!!
Aparna , on Nov 05, 2010 10:13:40 PM
LAKSHMI JANARDAN, on Nov 08, 2010 09:15:39 PM
@Aparna: I believe the PFA has some financial issues and they cannot afford to accomodate too many animals at their centre. @Lakshmi: Not sure I understood the comment, or you meant it to be a message for someone else.
Cris, on Nov 08, 2010 10:52:56 PM
Not true, Aparna. Whenever Maria receives a distress call, she ensures that something is done. Take for instance the most recent case of rescusing an abandoned, very sick dog on whom she spent her entire week and efforts to try and bring her back to health. Unfortunately, the dog had an advanced case of kidney failure and so could not recover.
Sylvia Francis, on Nov 11, 2010 01:21:15 PM
Thanks for clarifying, Sylvia.
Cris, on Nov 11, 2010 01:29:14 PM
Aparna, it is easy for anyone to call and report an animal which needs help to an organisation which is supported only by a few people who pool in their resources to keep it going. The difficult thing is to help it yourself or help people who help animals. Even Mother Teresa could not save everyone who needs help. Why dont you try offering a helping hand to the likes of Leela Latheef and Maria?
Latha, on Nov 11, 2010 06:37:40 PM
Dear Aparna..why don't you come out in the open and give PFA a call..the number is given..so that you will clearly know what the organisation is doing and how you can contribute,if you are interested. PFA is currently the only animal welfare org in the city responding to rescue calls and doing whatever possible within their limits. Its not as easy as commenting on them. or you can personally visit their shelter and see for yourself. Hoping that you will take the effort. Thank You.
Ms. Faruque, on Nov 12, 2010 12:08:22 PM
Beautiful article, would prove helpful for me i suppose!
Akshaya Pillai, on Nov 15, 2010 11:21:30 AM
@Sylivia: I wud still nt agree wd u... cz I myself hv experinced otherwise... its fashionable to speak much abt ol dis on media! but to get ur hands on such stffs... it isnt easy... I know other people whu have been with PFA.. who work better than maria..for a "cause"....
Aparna, on Nov 20, 2010 08:03:34 AM
Aparna..you are blind to the very point that you are raising 'getting your hands on such stuff,it isn't easy'. Isn't it easy to keep on commenting rather than getting your hands on PFA or visit our shelter or give us a helping hand..? and if you are not willing to do all that, lets presume that its the 'easy way'that you are interested in..sit back and comment..n' Maria..she has been of great help to PFA which you are oblivious of..so girl..get to know the facts for a change..! n' 'who work better than Maria', yea..Maria is till there for us, for your information and we know who are sincerely working for us and stood by us..and you are not yet one among them..so why not join PFA and then talk..
Leela Latheef, on Nov 26, 2010 11:14:47 AM
All these things are rubbish. I support Aparna strongly. These people must have worked for animals, but i know they are not true to their cause. I'm a Vet and i hav worked with many people like these. And dont say that this is the only organisation which works for animal welfare in tvm. There are others, which does much better works....
Dr. Abhilash A K, on Jan 26, 2011 07:15:30 PM
@aparna & abhilash ..with due respect I would like to disagree with ur point which is quite annoying, ridiculous & untrue.. PFA is an NGO committed at rescuing & rehabilitating sick animals..itsnt practical (limited resources) to take all stray dogs from tvm & house ’em at the shelter but even with the limited resources PFA has been responding to all the distress calls & now there are about 50 dogs, cats, puppies, a bull(rescued 4m slaughter house) at the shelter…if u are as concerned as u present uaself to be y don’t u just come over 2 the shelter & pls get to know about the issue before commentin..& we can establish u as someone who cant relate 2 the cause n thought ‘I might as well criticize it’. .which is quite evident from the fact that u never turned up at the shelter nor did u bother 2 contact the org..so next time for a change get a grip over the facts pls…n abhilash sir its very depressing to hear such a response from a vet..& could you name all the “organizations” u just mentioned cause last time I checked I couldn’t find any org striving for animal welfare other than PFA n ARK or maybe its d “pet shops” that u were mentioning.. there are always pepl 2 criticize good deeds but to make false accusations means taking it to another level....its easy 2 sit back and comment.. it takes a lot of commitment n love for animals to be in the field and help out.
Aathira, on Feb 27, 2011 12:11:29 AM
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