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How rescue of Bengaluru’s Buddy whose owner, 87, died of Covid shows plight of pets in pandemic

Owners are either dying or abandoning pets due to Covid, and several animal rescue shelters ThePrint visited are stretched beyond capacity.

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Bengaluru: Last month, an Instagram post about a 5-year-old indie dog from Bengaluru, Buddy, went viral after he lost his 87-year-old owner. A video of Buddy forlornly sitting in his deceased owner’s garden was circulated by the Bengaluru-based animal welfare organisation Let’s Live Together, with the caption reading: “We don’t even know when he has been fed last. He needs to be shifted out of there TODAY!”

Achala Pani, founder of Let’s Live Together, told ThePrint: “When we had gone to check on Buddy, he was in a really bad state, very traumatised. He wasn’t coming to us, we spent 2-3 hours just sitting there, coaxing him and making friends.”

Achala Pani with Buddy, whose 87-year-old owner died recently | Photo: Angana Chakrabarti | ThePrint
Achala Pani with Buddy, whose 87-year-old owner died recently | Photo: Angana Chakrabarti | ThePrint

The post was shared by many, including comedian Vir Das, and a lot of people came forward to foster and adopt him. Buddy was soon taken to a foster home and is on the way to being adopted. But his case is one of scores that have cropped up in the deadly second wave of the pandemic, as owners have died or abandoned their pets due to being unable to care for them.

ThePrint visited several animal rescue shelters in Bengaluru and found that while the number of adoptions had increased following the lockdown last year, recent months have seen a fall in that number, and a rise in the number of pets being abandoned.

Also read: Modi govt has a new mission: Conserving desi dogs and cats & exporting them as pets

Post-lockdown surge in adoptions

In the last few years, more and more Indians have become pet owners, a trend that accelerated in the months after the first Covid-19 lockdown was announced last year. Among pets, dogs are the most preferred in the country, followed by cats, fish and birds.

“There have been a lot of requests for pet adoption because people are staying at home and they are lonely. This is the perfect time to get a pet because people are working from home and they have more time to spend with the dog,” Pani noted.

Keerthan R.P., manager at Charlie’s Animal Rescue Centre (CARE), added: “Our adoptions were pretty good last year — we had at least 60 adoptions during the lockdown. But this has come down since then. During this lockdown, we were expecting some more, but it hasn’t been that great.”

As the second wave of Covid hit India and the number of cases and deaths drastically increased, many pet owners were affected.

“Recently we’ve had a lot of cases, where the owners or their relatives have been affected by the virus directly, so the dogs have been given up to us. In the past few weeks, we’ve had 4-5 cases where the owners have passed away and the dogs don’t have anybody to look after them and they’ve come to us,” said Chandrachur Palchaudhuri, manager at CUPA Second Chance Adoption Centre.

Palchaudhuri added: “Additionally, adoptions have also slowed down quite a bit. Initially, our process involved the adoptees coming to the centre, interacting with the dogs, and understanding what kind of dog they are going to be OK with. But now we’ve had to shift the entire process online…this can take up to four-five months now.”

Shelters running beyond capacity

When ThePrint visited CUPA’s adoption centre located in the city’s Dommasandra area, at least 20 dogs of various breeds including Rottweilers, Labradors and Indian breeds, were on an evening walk in a sprawling yard.

Dogs up for adoption at CUPA's Dommasandra centre in Bengaluru | Photo: Angana Chakrabarti | ThePrint
Dogs up for adoption at CUPA’s Dommasandra centre in Bengaluru | Photo: Angana Chakrabarti | ThePrint

CUPA’s two-acre property in Dommasandra houses as many as 122 dogs, which Palchaudhuri explained is beyond the centre’s capacity.

“All of CUPA’s centres in the city are running beyond their capacity, plus the staff is also less than what we had pre-pandemic… Unfortunately, there are lots of cases to which you just cannot say no, because the dogs have lost their owners and there’s no certainty about who they will go to,” he explained.

CARE’s Keerthan said: “In a day, we pick up close to 15 cases. We can house close to 120-130 dogs, but right now, we have close to 170. This is way beyond our housing capacity. When we don’t have proper housing capacity, there are risks of infections passing between dogs.”

The rescue workers at the shelters ThePrint visited said there has been little to no assistance from the government in this situation, even though last year, near the beginning of the lockdown in April, Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa had advocated that people should feed animals around their homes and provide water to them.

Independent rescuers doing all they can

Meanwhile, independent rescuers, armed with their social media accounts, have been pulling out all the stops to re-home the pets.

Ramya Gowda, founder of Furry Fairy — a grooming spa, boarding, fostering and daycare facility for pets — said she has placed about 40-50 dogs since last year.

“People are in panic mode, they don’t have the patience or time to look for foster homes or other options. In a situation where people are dying, they want to just leave the dogs,” she said.

(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)

Also read: First, the pandemic made Indians abandon pets, then they rushed to adopt them


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