THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Aroud 8pm, under an overcast sky, 74-year-old KV Thomas was being welcomed by his furry entourage at Kuravankonam. He had arrived in his red Maruti Alto, with home-cooked food for the street dogs and cats.
Even as the strays wolfed down the meal, they were quick to show their gratitude, hopping and prancing about in joyous abandon. Thomas is just one of the many faceless warriors, who are quenching the appetite of the stray animals on the streets, when the COVID-19 lockdown has cut their supply and access to food.
"I have been doing this for the past 20 years. The only difference is, that during lockdown, I feed more animals now. I cannot miss this even for a day because they will be waiting for their meal. The lockdown has further reduced their access to food," says Thomas, a resident of Kuravankonam who feeds over 30 dogs and 20 cats daily.
After lockdown kicked in, scores of animals that live on leftovers from hotels and slaughterhouses are going hungry. Though a few animal welfare organisations and individuals feed the animals on the streets, plenty of animals go unnoticed and hungry, as all of them cannot be reached by the very small group of animal lovers. The Odisha government had announced funding for feeding stray animals and animal welfare activists opine that if the Kerala government were to do the same, none of the stray animals will go hungry during this desperate time.
The Trivandrum chapter of People for Animals (PFA) started feeding strays last April, during the first lockdown and hasn’t stopped it ever since. But while they could feed over 700 dogs during the first lockdown, they can reach out to only over 250 dogs now.
Paucity of funds is dampening the spirit of the organisation. "Last time, when Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan exhorted people to feed the animals, we got considerable support from the public. People pitched in with rice, money and other raw materials. Also, many people started feeding animals. But now, we are short of funds and are forced to feed chicken waste. Since the waste generation is less, we are finding it hard to source the meat from slaughterhouses," says Latha Indira, secretary, People for Animals, Trivandrum.
PFA currently feeds animals within the city limits, extending to regions such as Vattiyoorkavu, Vazhayila and Karamana. "We don’t stick to the same route daily. This helps us to cover more animals. We are just about able to ensure that they survive. Since we don’t have enough funds, we aren’t able to expand to more areas," says Latha.
Parvathy Mohan, another animal welfare activist who started feeding the animals again during this lockdown, says that the challenge involves finding funds to keep the work going. The three-member group, which involves Parvathy, Ashwin and Reshma, starts the feeding from 8 pm and continues till 2 am, covering over 300 dogs daily.
"We cover the stretch till Technopark area, Veli and so on. This time, we have charted out regions where animals do not have access to food. Last time, we covered Eanchakal-Kovalam route from the city. Now, many restaurants are feeding the dogs in that area. so we have switched to those areas where the animals do not have much access to food," says Parvathy.
Currently, the group is arranging funds through crowdsourcing, especially through social media. "We hope more people will feed animals. They can also alert us if they find any malnourished animals," she adds.