Afzal Khan, an actor by profession, who is widely known as Robin Hood – The Animal Rescuer, has been taking care of stray and differently abled dogs and cats and providing them shelter at his own house since 2010. 53 cats and dogs which are all victims of physical or mental trauma stay with him in Khilgaon. He nurses them with proper medicines and attempts to restore their confidence by nurturing them.
"In 2010, while returning home from work one rainy night, I suddenly heard a mild cry through my car window. Out of curiosity, I decided to look for the crying voice,” says Afzal. “I found some kittens in a shopping bag under a nearby street lamp. When I inquired about the kittens, the pedestrians said that a man had dropped them early that evening. I picked them up, brought them home and took them to the vet the next day. Sadly, I was unable to save them as they were not properly treated.” The incident gave Afzal the drive to work for animals.
He began with rescuing cats and soon realised that he needs to know their proper healthcare needs. As many of the cats that he rescued suffered from severe malnourishment, it was important for him to know about their dietary requirements. So, Afzal started to educate himself and seek advice from many animal experts.
In 2015, he was appreciated for his efforts towards animal welfare by several national and international media outlets, earning him the title of Robin Hood, a friend of the four-legged beings. "I never really intended to gain publicity, but when Voice of America and BBC approached me, my challenges in the field of animal welfare came under the spotlight,” mentions Afzal.
Gradually, rescue requests, even for dogs, started to pile up at his doorstep. Taking his efforts to the next extent, Afzal founded Animal Care Trust Bangladesh, an NGO with several existing board members. Major Shafiur Rahman shares Afzal's workload as the vice chairperson. Sazzad Zubair is the general secretary while Tayeba Nasrin is the treasurer of Animal Care Trust Bangladesh. Members of the board of trustees also include Sanjib Saha, Pavel Islam, and Md Maksuduzzaman.
Barrister Tania Amir takes care of the legal affairs and provides necessary advice for legislative issues. During rescue operations, Special ADC Nazmul Shumon helps the team by providing them with special facilities enabled by the ICT division.
"Currently, the dogs and cats stay in my house. However, I need a permanent place and more helping hands because I want to provide shelter and aid to more and more animals,” asserts Afzal. “Shockingly, many foreign-breed dogs and cats are not fed or treated properly. We take care of many such animals as well.” Currently, alongside Afzal, his father funds the initiative, which has only eighteen young volunteers.
“Transporting injured animals from the rescue locations to my house or to the vet is also a challenge,” says Afzal. “Even during rescue missions, we have to carry our heavy equipment on a bike. I try to serve their food and medical expenses on my own. However, an ambulance would be a great help.”
Afzal plans to establish an animal sanctuary for injured cats and dogs of Dhaka and hopes for support from other animal lovers. His team also hopes to start a programme where leftover food will be collected from houses and distributed once a day to street animals. To learn more about Afzal's work, visit Robin Hood – The Animal Rescuer's Facebook page or log on to Animal Care Trust Bangladesh's website. Afzal's door is open for visits from animal lovers six days a week from 8 am to 2 pm.