BENGALURU: After four-year-old Nadia, a female Malayan tiger tested positive for COVID-19 at the Bronx Zoo in New York, pet owners in the city have a new set of concerns surrounding the health of their furry friends. The fear among people in general is palpable, says Vandana Prakash, who has two dogs, a 5-year-old Golden Retriever and a 10-year-old pomeranian. Prakash points out that while many of her neighbours in Vjayanagar have been seemingly supportive of the shorts walks she takes on the street, many show signs of scepticism.
“I think it has to do more with the people’s attitude,” says the 29-year-old sales manager. “I often come across people who quickly wear a mask upon noticing a pet. So there are people who think that dogs can transmit the virus,” adds Prakash. Agrees Koramangala resident Santoshi Jaideep, who has a two-year-old cross-breed dog and two rescued cats. “There were a few scares in our apartment complex when the health authorities tested residents who had come from Hong Kong, US and UK, and also sanitised the buildings. We were advised not to take our pets out as they could carry sputum on their fur,” says the data scientist, mentioning that while she keeps the pets active with indoor activities, she has noticed signs of dullness in them.
Prakash too emphasises that she is having to restrict her pets to short walks now. Others too concur that absence of proper exercise for them is proving to be a challenge. Sameer Rao, a former sales professional, says his 4-year-old labrador has started growing restless due to lack of daily walks. “Pets do not have the same level of activity anymore, with cops carrying out frequent surveillance. We are making use of our terrace extensively for physical exercise,” says the Vijayanagar resident, adding that the biggest worry for him is the unavailability of pet food in most stores in his vicinity, though he has stocked up for a month. Prakash, on the other hand, says her major worry is that veterinary facilities are hard to access. She adds, “Sarah, the younger one, has an ear infection, but without a permit pass I cannot go to a veterinarian. We are medicating her with what’s available.”
However, unlike canine pet owners, those who have cats are relatively calmer. Sagari Walia, who has two kittens, asserts that looking after cats is easy since they take care of themselves. The only issue, she says, is the limited availability of cat feed. “Also, while the kittens are healthy, veterinary care in case of emergencies is always a concern,” says Walia, a 26-year-old data analyst. The lockdown is also affecting the health of strays, say animal lovers. Some like Rao have been actively feeding the strays in their vicinity. “I feel people are more reluctant to engage with strays than before, and they are being left unfed,” saPys Jaideep, adding that while some residents continue to feed strays, many avoid contact due to fear of infection.