Less than a week back, Friendicoes Society for the Eradication of Cruelty to Animals, Gurugram, received an SOS about an abandoned Rottweiler. Khaleesi—so named by the Friendicoes team—was rescued and brought to their shelter. The 18-month-old pet is fighting osteoarthritis and is being treated for the same. Each day, the People for Animals (PFA) receives reports of about 15 to 20 pets that have been abandoned.
“There is always witch-hunting of animals that takes place during any disaster or crisis,” says Gauri Maulekhi, Trustee, PFA. The team got clarifications issued stating that animals cannot spread coronavirus. But recent reports of a dog, a cat and a tiger testing positive for coronavirus is making their task difficult. Gauri reiterates, “Even if there are two in a million-and-a-half cases—they are all cases of reverse zoonosis, and not zoonosis.” Despite their awareness efforts, pets are being abandoned. In some cases, the owners are also citing pressure from neighbours.
Pia Sharma of Friendicoes says, “We don’t have licensed breeders and people often buy pets from as little as `2-4,000. During a crisis period when food is hard to come by and finances are stretched, people end up prioritising.
The pets are the first to suffer.” Also, she says that many a time it is the kids who pressurise parents into getting them a pet. And when rumours of pet transmission hit, adults in the family are only too happy to let the pet go. Besides, many well-to-do pet owners depend on professional carers and trainers for their pets. Since all this is difficult to come by during a lockdown, the only option they can think of is giving up the pets.
Worse, many pets have been incarcerated in pet shops which cannot be opened because of the lockdown. They are hungry, thirsty and scared. Raghav Ahir, who volunteers with an NGO, recounts horrific details, “At one of the shops, there were caged up pups, fish and birds. The pups were dehydrated and needed immediate hospitalisation.
The fish had died in the dirty tanks and many birds also lay dead.” The PFA along with the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals rescued approximately 1,500 animals in Delhi alone.While animal lovers feed street dogs daily, abandoned pedigree dogs don’t have such luck. “I’ve had cases of diplomats dumping their pets instead of taking them home,” says an activist. Pet love seems to have gone to the dogs.