New Delhi: The nationwide shutdown and restrictions, imposed Tuesday midnight, has raised concerns not only for people but also their pets.
Though animals don’t risk contracting the Covid-19 infection from humans, the logistical issues of a possible food shortage and access to medical care due to the lockdown affect pet owners.
To address the issue, the central government issued a letter to all chief secretaries asking them to include veterinary care as an essential service. However, animal shelter homes in the National Capital Region are still looking for respite.
Vandana Anchalia, the founder of Kannan Animal Welfare, a dog shelter that been running in Noida for five years, said most animal clinics have closed and police have not been permitting people to visit veterinarians.
On Monday, when Delhi was under curfew, Anchalia said she was stopped by police while taking a critically ill dog to the hospital. “Humans are dying and you guys are wasting time on dogs,” she was told by one of the policemen, she claims, adding the incident delayed her by two hours.
Sunil Kaushik, who owns Indielove in Gurugram, an animal foster home that also has a clinic, said the vet is now scared of opening her clinic due to lack of clarity on whether it falls under essential services.
Animals activists across the country have been facing similar problems.
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Tehseen Poonawalla, a social activist, said he had spoken to the Pune Joint Commissioner after volunteers faced some difficulties. The police officer asked people to contact his office for getting proper passes issued.
“I would suggest that the volunteers should meet with the senior officer in charge of their district or area and seek a way through this crisis. The animals will suffer a lot during this 21 day lockdown if the authorities don’t cooperate,” Poonawalla said.
. @mvadera & I would like to compliment @PuneCityPolice for having a heart & showing humanity in this hour. Some volunteers were having trouble feeding the strays. So we had a word with Dr. Ravindra Shisave, Joint Commissioner of Police, Pune,who was very helpful.#lockdown
— Tehseen Poonawalla Official (@tehseenp) March 25, 2020
Anchalia said she managed to procure about 1,500 kgs of Pedigree food for the 116 dogs in her shelter through crowdsourcing. This will last a week if used as a meal for the dogs three times a day. Instead, if it is given as a snack, the stock will last four months.
“Right before the shutdown was imposed, we organised a fundraising drive. Although enough funds were raised, we still don’t know where to buy groceries and grains in such large quantities,” she said.
Kaushik also faces similar problems. “I have been able to stock food, but I don’t have any means to cook chapatis and vegetables for my dogs,” he said.
Indielove currently boards 112 dogs, all rescues.
Since essentials like gas cylinders are still in short supply, Kaushik said he might resort to buying them off the black market at an inflated price.
If the lockdown continues, Kaushik said he will also run out of funds to run the foster care. By April, he expects he will have to rely on store credit and external donations to feed the dogs.
Aditi Badam, who runs the Posh Foundation for Animals in Noida, has stocked enough dry food to feed over a hundred dogs for the next 20 days. The foundation though, needs fresh produce to feed the rabbits and goats at the shelter.
“Obtaining fodder for our goats has become very difficult. The leftover husks and greens which villagers around us used to throw away or give to us for minimal cost is now being sold at exorbitant prices,” Badam said.
After Sunday’s Janata curfew, Badam said she did not expect the lockdown to last longer than a day or two.
Not just logistical problems
Foster home owners have also been facing trouble due to myths surrounding animals and the spread of the coronavirus. False information on animals being part of the chain of transmission has led to pet owners wanting to give up their dogs, said Kaushik.
“In the last two weeks, I have had several owners express the wish to give their dog away. They fear the dogs will make their families sick or susceptible to the coronavirus,” he added.
Badam said the frequency of such panic calls has only been increasing. “Twenty per cent of the calls that I receive daily are from dog owners wanting to return their dogs. Pet dogs have no experience or instincts to hunt … if owners desert these dogs, they will die of starvation and neglect,” she said.
Animal shelters receiving such calls have started circulating videos of vets explaining facts and busting myths. The trouble for organisations like Badam’s and Kaushik’s is that an increase in the number of disowned and abandoned pets will quickly decrease the limited resources they have.
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