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Coronavirus lockdown: As stray animals go without food and water, you could help make a difference

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With restaurants and eateries downing shutters, strays have been struggling to find food to kill their hunger.

Coronavirus lockdown: As stray animals go without food and water, you could help make a difference
The coronavirus lockdown has not only forced the entire world indoors, but has put India’s four legged strays in extreme distress. Unavailability of food and water in the scorching summer is impacting stray animals all over the country.
With restaurants and eateries downing shutters and food trucks parked at homes, strays have been struggling to find food to kill their hunger. They have nothing to eat, not even leftovers that they always relied on.
“Dogs who do not have dedicated feeders suffer because even production of garbage from eateries has stopped and meat shops which were their favorite place to hover around have shut,” said Anindita Bhadra, who heads a Dog Lab at IISER-Kolkata.
Dogs eating a mixture of milk, bread and kibble
Expressing concern over their plight, she said that weight loss is not the only problem, scarcity of food could trigger competitiveness leading to increasing aggression among strays. There are high chances of these animals could change their normal behaviour.
“Once the lockdown is lifted the dog-human conflict will possibly increase,” she added.
There are about 1.713 crore stray dogs in India, according to the Livestock Census of 2012. These numbers would have multiplied by now.
Realising the impact, animal rights activists and NGOs have geared up to feed stray dogs and cats wherever possible. “Our team is feeding over a 1,000 cats and dogs as the lockdown continues. We have been preparing over 500 kg of food for them daily with four ambulances covering a few parts of Delhi,” said Geeta Seshamani, Vice President of Friendicoes.
These dogs and cats have been depending on a whole community of friendly humans. Not having anybody around for so long is quite stressful for them. Apart from feeding stray animals humans have also played a huge role in taking care of their well-being.
Friendicoes has been experiencing an influx of animals in worse conditions than usual. “Most of them have fractures or maggot wounds, partly because the army of dog feeders who would have noticed and brought them in for treatment,” she told CNBC-TV18.
Most animals go unnoticed and don’t get medical help. The organisation treats about 35 cases a day which include strays, abandoned pets and pets accompanied by owners. A dedicated team of veterinarians has been treating animals to help ease the pain.
“Earlier, in accidental cases people could help us by getting injured animals to the shelter, but now it has become difficult, tracing injured dogs is also tough as their movement has increased on empty streets,” said Dr Prabhakaran, Veterinary Officer at Friendicoes.
“A stray dog’s hind legs got paralyzed in an accident, he was picked up from Delhi’s Patparganj but he lost his life under treatment,” the expert added. The team strength has reduced as some doctors are facing trouble in travelling to the shelter and disruption of regular supply of medicines from distributors is another hurdle coming their way.
Seshamani has noticed a spike in the number of abandoned dogs following the lockdown. “In these tough times, people are abandoning their sick pets as they're unable to receive regular treatment. Our team has taken in over 20 pets that were abandoned by their owners since the lockdown began, including two Labradors and a Great Dane last week,” she said. Moreover, it seems like animals are being ostracised amid fear of contracting coronavirus from them. This irrational fear has stemmed from rumors and misinformation.
Hana, the German Shepherd found abandoned with a tumor.
Hana, a six-year-old German Shepherd was found abandoned in Ghitorni forest area. She has mammary tumor. She was found on a street and was brought to Friendicoes and her tumor has been successfully removed.
A dog lover reported a neglected Collie, which was picked up by the Friendicoes team from Pragati Maidan, Delhi in an ambulance. The animal happily jumped into the ambulance sensing friendly humans, a member of the team mentioned.
An abandoned Collie found by the team
The World Organization for Animal Health has pointed out that the current spread of COVID-19 is a result of human to human transmission. To date, there is no evidence that companion animals play a role in spreading the disease. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also mentioned the same in its advisory.
Bhadra believes that pets cannot survive like stray animals. They do not know anything about hunting for food nor do they have self-defense skills. Despite vaccinations, there are high chances of abandoned pets contracting diseases. Abandoning a pet is as good as writing its death certificate.
NGOs and organisations are doing their bit to help these animals, a few others are doing the same and are reaching out to as many animals as possible. Each one us can also contribute to this cause. Seshamani has listed out a few points to help strays during the lockdown.
  1. Spare a couple of rotis or some rice and some milk, it can make a filling meal for strays who are going hungry.
  2. Put out a small bowl of water outside your homes or on your balcony. As summer approaches, dogs, cats and even birds will be able to quench their thirst.
  3. You can foster animals at local pet shelters, thus reducing the resource crunch that these organisations are currently facing.
  4. If you have an opportunity to donate masks, hand sanitizers, grains, pet food and other necessities, it makes a whole world of difference.
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