With a rising number of positive coronavirus cases, several parts of India have gone into lockdown. And while humans have been finding myriad ways to deal with the lockdown, stray animals might end up becoming an unforeseen casualty of the lockdown.
Thousands of stray cats and dogs in India depend on daily markets, restaurants and local good samaritans who feed strays. But with coronavirus sending people into isolation and public establishments shutting down, strays may have a hard time finding food.
Keeping that in mind, Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former Women and Child Minister Maneka Gandhi has released a statement, asking Indians to feed as many strays as possible and whenever possible to help the animals survive.
"Street dogs, cows, and birds can neither get nor give coronavirus to humans," Gandhi said. "However, in the event of a lockdown, if they are not fed, many will die, creating another kind of a problem," she added.
I have requested all animal welfare workers to feed the animals during this period of a lockdown. I will be doing the same. Please allow them to do so. If there is any problem, please contact me on 08800067890. pic.twitter.com/P7yvoZCuYJ— Maneka Sanjay Gandhi (@Manekagandhibjp) March 23, 2020
She further said that she had asked all animal welfare workers to feed the animals during the lockdown. "I will be doing the same," she said.
Taking to Twitter, Gandhi also shared a phone number for people to contact her or her representatives in case of an emergency.
Please feed the pigeons and dogs. They cannot give you the virus but they will die if they are not fed. Do as much good as you can. It all adds up to a new world of compassion.— Maneka Sanjay Gandhi (@Manekagandhibjp) March 23, 2020
The Animal Welfare Board of India has also issued an advisory to all chief secretaries of states and Union Territories in India regarding caring for animals in case of a lockdown.
"Feed and fodder of large animals and food for companion animals and strays is an essential service and may be kept operational during lockdown," chairman of the Board OP Chaudhary said. It requested the district administration to allot times for designated workers or volunteers to provide food and water to strays since it is an "essential service".
Advisory from the Animal Welfare Board of India. pic.twitter.com/N7oYNWqVc9— Maneka Sanjay Gandhi (@Manekagandhibjp) March 23, 2020
The Board further urged states and UTs to run awareness campaigns for the public to adopt feeding street animals. "Law enforcement agencies may also be directed to see that animals do not suffer due to hunger during the COVID-19 lockdown," the Board said in the advisory.
Since the novel coronavirus outbreak which has killed over 15,000 people globally in just a matter of months, animals have been in news for a variety of reasons. First, there was fear among people about the virus transmitting through animals like pet dogs. The rumours led to many in China reportedly abandoning their pets for fear of catching the virus.
In countries like India, rumours about coronavirus spreading through non-vegetarian food such as chicken and other meat led to mass culling of chickens in several instances.
While world leaders, health experts and epidemiologists are doing their best to find a way to prevent or at least slow down the spread of the pandemic, it is important to remember the health and safety of animals that depend on humans for their survival.
The Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying also issued directives for all state-run veterinary and animal medical treatment institutions to remain operational during the COVID-19 lockdown.