Things have been more difficult for them during COVID-19.
As India is well into week two of a 21-day lockdown to curb the spread of novel coronavirus disease, we need to continue highlighting the impact of the lockdown on stray animals.
We apprehend that in the wake of misinformation linking the disease to pets and local community animals, the animals may be deprived of food and essential veterinary care which could trigger aggressive behavior.
Government advisories and statements have helped ease restrictions to some extent on us to resume feeding the strays and carry out rescue actions but the advisories need to be implemented by local authorities to ensure sustained animal welfare action.
While the availability of food remains difficult, the animals are also further ostracised because of rumors linking them to be carriers of the coronavirus.
The lockdown has affected all of us but has a very big impact on the stray animals and birds, specifically near the markets and near corporate setups. The strays have no means of feeding themselves as all offices, restaurants, roadside eateries (where they had easy accessibility to food) are closed. The strays and birds are starving. They will die in such a scenario.
There are circulars to ensure feed during the lockdown and evacuation of animals from pet shops. This crisis has basically highlighted the need to regulate pet trade in the country and neuter street animals to prevent their suffering during such disasters. It is needless to add that animals are the worst victims of disasters and even though the disease may not kill animals but the apathy of people will.
According to India’s Livestock Census-2012, there are about 17.13 million stray dogs and 5.28 million cattle in India. The current number, however, could be higher. According to another estimate as of 2018, the population of stray dogs in India is around 30–35 million.
As the coronavirus disease spread around the globe, misinformation linking dogs and local community animals with the COVID-19 took root and reports on the abandonment of companion animals, ill-treatment of healthy strays, harassment of those who feed strays and shelter animals, came to the fore.
Despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) clarifying that pet animals cannot spread or get COVID-19 (they do get other strains of corona and are vaccinated against the same for years), many state governments had put out advisories cautioning against being close to animals. There’s a difference between maintaining hygiene and creating panic.
Animal rights are:
1. It is the fundamental duty of every citizen of India to have compassion for all living creatures. Article 51A(g).
2. To kill or maim any animal, including stray animals, is a punishable offense. IPC Sections 428 and 429.
3. As per Indian law, street dogs cannot be beaten, killed or driven away or displaced or dislocated, they can only be sterilized in the manner envisaged in The Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001 enacted under the Indian Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 (A Central Act), vaccinated, and then returned back to their original locations.
Please help us in taking care of these innocent fur babies. We need more food and more sterilizations done.