Representational image. Volunteers feed stray dogs during the lockdown, in Bikaner. | Photo: ANI
Representational image | Volunteers feed stray dogs during the lockdown, in Bikaner | ANI
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New Delhi: When the nationwide lockdown kicked in on 25 March, stray animals, dependent on passersby and shopkeepers to feed them daily, were left to starve. But People for Animals (PFA), India’s largest animal welfare organisation, came to their rescue.

The organisation, started by Union Minister Maneka Gandhi, has over 200 units and more than two lakh volunteers across the country, including 12,000 in Delhi, working to protect stray animals and ensuring they survive the lockdown with adequate food and services.


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Feeding passes and state support

From carrying out simple food drives to acquiring feeding passes, the organisation coordinated with local bodies and state governments to help stray animals.

Kanika Dewan, director, partnerships and strategy, PFA, said the “sudden implementation of the lockdown took everyone by a surprise”, but they immediately swung into action.

“Our chairperson Maneka Gandhi spoke with every state head across the country and issued about 2.5 lakh feeding passes across the country in the first phase of the lockdown,” she added. The first phase lasted until 14 April.

PFA volunteers were allotted two hours each in the morning and evening for feeding stray animals in each city. For those who couldn’t step out, the organisation encouraged them to put food bowls outside their homes.

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State governments also pitched in to ensure their strays remain safe. For instance, Odisha sanctioned over Rs 80 lakh to urban local bodies to feed stray dogs and other animals in urban areas.

In Delhi, the organisation organised a food drive. “We created a Google form where people could put in requests to feed strays and shared it across all our social media pages. Within three hours we got over 800 requests, filtered it down to 500 requests and in two and a half weeks catered to all of them,” Dewan said.

Delhi resident Geeta, receiving a 22 kg bag from a PFA volunteer for feeding the stray animals. | Photo: Special arrangement
Delhi resident Geeta, receiving a 22 kg bag from a PFA volunteer for feeding the stray animals. | Photo: Special arrangement

To cater to animals in the containment areas, PFA began a drive in south Delhi with the help of the Delhi Police.

“I got food supplies and placed them in PCR vans since they were the only vehicles allowed in containment zones. Everytime they would access a containment zone, they would feed the animals,” Dewan told ThePrint.

Foster homes too

With the practice of social distancing becoming the new normal, PFA ensured ample precautions in its initiatives.

“All the food we gave out was delivered with proper sanitation protocols, nobody had to come to us. We made sure to send it out with a thank you note, acknowledging that we really appreciate the effort they are making,” Dewan said.

But the strays were not the only ones that needed help and attention. With a growing number of people getting infected with Covid-19 — total number of cases now stand at 9,36,181 and 24,309 deaths — pets are being left unattended at homes where the owners have fallen sick.

PFA cared for them as well by arranging suitable temporary foster homes.


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