Spread across 2.2 acres and built at a cost of Rs 165 crore, the facility will be one of India’s few 24×7 hospitalsfor dogs, cats, rabbits, and other small animals.
In an exclusive interview with TOI ahead of the inauguration of the Tata Trusts Small Animal Hospital in Mahalaxmi, Ratan Tata said, “A pet is no different from a member of one’s family today. As the guardian of several pets throughout my life, I recognise the need for this hospital.”
He recalled the ordeal he faced before he flew his furry companion to the University of Minnesota in the US for a joint replacement. “But I was too late, and so they froze the dog’s joint in a particular position. That experience enabled me to see what a world-class veterinary hospital was equipped to do,” said Tata. The experience, he said, also led him “to believe that Mumbai should have a veterinary hospital.” However, he could get started on it only in his silver years, after he hung up his boots at Tata Sons as chairman in 2012.
Now in 2024, despite various obstacles, Tata’s dream stands on the brink of realisation. The veterinary hospital, which will be one of India’s largest, will be the latest jewel in the crown of Tata Trusts, helmed by Tata himself. In the past, the Trusts have built the Tata Memorial Hospital—India’s first cancer care hospital, NCPA, Tata Institute of Social Sciences and Indian Institute of Science-Bengaluru.
Initially planned in Kalamboli in Navi Mumbai following a land deal with the state govt in 2017, Tata decided to move the hospital to a central location, recognising the commute time pet parents would face in Mumbai. “This (distance) could’ve been a major deterrent for pet parents, especially those in need of emergency services. With this in mind, finding the right space for land and getting permissions was also a reason for delay,” said Tata.
Covid further delayed it as construction at Mahalaxmi had to be halted after 3 months. “It then took us about a year and a half to realign the agreements, documentation, and paperwork. By the time we returned to normalcy, the expenses of the hospital had also been impacted owing to inflationary costs of steel, manpower and availability of raw materials,” Tata said. The Trusts have a 30-year lease agreement with BMC for the hospital land, which is a stone’s throw from The Bai Sakarbai Dinshaw Petit Hospital For Animals in Parel.
The ground plus-four storey Tata hospital, which has a capacity for 200 patients, will be led by Thomas Heathcote, a British veterinarian who has relocated to Mumbai for this project. The hospital, which has tied up with five UK veterinary schools including the Royal Veterinary College London for training, will offer surgical, diagnostic and pharmacy services, along with multidisciplinary care for small animals.
“The current healthcare infrastructure for animals is still inadequate. And this hospital, coming from the Tatas, will be a blessing as vets will not think twice before recommending pet parents there,” said Deepa Katyal, a Chembur-based veterinarian.
It will also house a dedicated facility, which will be run by an NGO, catering solely to the welfare of stray dogs. Bombay House, the headquarters of Tata Group, too has an exclusive kennel for strays from the area—thanks to Tata, an ardent dog lover, who had ordered the animals to be given shelter inside the heritage building.
“It is a personal dream of mine that the city should have a state-of-the-art animal health centre… and I am delighted to see it finally come to life. It will be a resource for everyone who owns pets or comes across distressed animals, and it will save a limb, or a life, and help cure disease,” said Tata.
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