The animals do not spread the virus, says vet
Shillong: Pet owners have been abandoning their pets because of the misconception that animals can transmit Covid-19.
“The number of pets abandoned has increased since March. We have been getting distress calls about animals being found in a severe condition, which is a sign of negligence of the owners,” said Tee Mawlong, founder of the Stray Animal Rescue Society (SARS).
Farooq Z. Nongrum from Human United for Animals and Nature (HUFAN) informed The Observer: “The situation of stray animals during the pandemic is agonizing. It has been challenging for people to cater to their needs.”
Sheetal Wahlang from Shillong Happy Tails said: “We have heard of many owners abandoning their pets fearing they spread coronavirus,”
People reject their pets because of old age, financial problems and illness. The animals have physical and emotional needs, and neglecting them is bad for them.
Mawlong said: “The peculiar conditions of the lockdown had a severe impact on stray animals. Unavailability of scrap led to the death of some strays, while others wandered off to new localities. The closure of small restaurants, roadside tea stalls and school/college canteens that fed street dogs in different areas made their lives difficult.”
Stray animals in Shillong are also targeted by people who sell their meat illegally for easy money. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, bans dog and cat meat in India, but people continue to engage in this illegal activity.
Dr Tridib Kakoty, a veterinarian, said he has treated more stray animals during the pandemic than before. The animals are harmless, and there shouldn’t be any fear of pets spreading Covid. Animal protection laws must keep up with the times.
“I do not have any respect for humans who mistreat and abandon their pets; I think they are cowards,” says Ronald Thangkiew, a dog owner.
Another pet owner, F. Mawrie, shared that she had made several calls to the different animal activist groups about stray animals being found on streets in a miserable condition. “I have pets of my own, I cannot think about other animals starving.”
Activists encourage proper care of stray animals by keeping a clean area for feeding and keeping a check on waste management. Anyone abandoning or harassing animals for the fear of Covid-19 is punishable under Section 11(1) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
Foster homes are needed for cats and dogs until they find a permanent home. The NGOs that spoke to The Observer recommended three solutions. First, public participation to feed and foster homeless animals; second, providing aid to state NGOs for animal safety; and third to sterilize their pets and not abandon them.
The NGOs are taking measures to feed stray animals and find them new homes.