Stray animals and Coronavirus | Will they survive this uncertain period of COVID-19 Lockdown?

As the world is going through this uncertain period of lockdown, to fight the spread of novel coronavirus disease, stray animals and birds are becoming a helpless section of the society being deprived of food and essential veterinary care. 

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While the availability of food remains a question for them, the animals are further knocked with the inhuman behavior like stones being heaved upon them and the reason is the rumors linking them as the carriers of the coronavirus.

As per India’s Livestock Census-2012, there are about 17.13 million stray dogs and 5.28 million cattle in India. This number could have multiplied by now. According to another estimation made in 2018, the population of stray dogs in India is around 30–35 million and if other animals get involved in the estimates, you cannot even track their number!

The rumors are causing severe harm to the safety of the pet and stray animals and rise in the abandonment of pet animals, ill-treatment with the stray ones, harassment of those Samaritans who feed strays and shelter animals, stepped forward.

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In spite of the fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) has clarified that pet animals cannot spread or get COVID-19, still many state governments came out with advisories forewarning being close to animals. Some state governments have taken their word back but the panic that it caused is still casting its spell!

In order to sort these myths and help animals during the lockdown, the Animal Welfare Board of India has issued several urgent circulars. It wrote to all states and UT’s stating allotment of time to animal feeders to provide food and water for street animals and birds, on March 23, 2020. In another advisory, the board stated the urgent evacuation of animals from shut pet shop authorities and made it mandatory to put veterinary services under the list of essential services.

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IISER-Kolkata scientist Anindita Bhadra shows another aspect of the situation, with the continuity of the lockdown the stray animals are suddenly facing a huge scarcity of food as generally the animals used to feed on garbage generated by eateries that are now shut and people locked in their houses who used to feed them.

But the main question that arises from this situation is Will stray animals become more aggressive and start hunting? Will they survive or die? How will they react to humans? 

The question is still left unanswered as, despite clarifications, the people are afraid of police action when they go out during the lockdown to feed the strays. But the thing is what can be done in this situation? 

Here is a list of few suggestions which can be initiated to lessen the complexity of the situation– 

⦁ All the state ministries are requested to set up government shelters for the stray animals where they can get food once a day at least and essential medical facilities.
⦁ Good Samaritans around the country who feed stray animals should be given a pass by the local authorities under the essential services.

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⦁ The activist and NGO’s who work for the welfare like animals should be provided with funds and can be given identity cards as feeders to look into the welfare of the stray animals.
⦁ As a responsible citizen, the food you waste in your day to day life as the leftovers, feed them to the animals of your locality to save them.
⦁ People should be made clear and more aware of the fact that their animal companion is not a carrier of this pandemic.
⦁ The good Samaritans should be allotted with a time slot when they can go out and feed the animals and can look after them (of course the ones with pass only) by the local authorities.

The spread of noble coronavirus has not only forced the entire world to stay indoors but has put the strays in extreme distress. Help them with food, water and shelter in this scorching heat. Don’t let them starve and suffer!

All creatures are deserving of a life free from fear and pain - Maura Cummings

Put your efforts into helping them. Be a savior. Be a fighter. Save them!

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