“A lot of this is happening because of misinformation that went viral earlier about pets being carriers of the virus in China. It turned out to be fake, of course, but a lot of damage has been done now,” said Vikram Kochhar, member of the People For Animals (PFA), one of India’s largest animal welfare organisations, founded by politician Maneka Gandhi. “Besides the few exceptions, it is quite rare for the virus or any other kind of disease to be transmitted to humans directly from the animals.”
Anyone who faces any kind of pressure from family or neighbours to give away an animal at this time should contact the law enforcement agency and they can also write to us. But one has to understand that it is a criminal offence to leave one’s pet under Section 3 and 11 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 without any justifiable call. It is illogical to abandon a dog especially at a time when animals can be great companions for people who are in quarantine.
However, in a country of 1.3 billion people, animals are rarely the priority.
“Our volunteers are going out every day to feed the animals,” Kochhar said. “We are also educating people that the strays or their pets will not transmit the Covid-19.”
Companies like PetPal, which provide doorstep delivery of pet food and accessories, are also trying to educate anxious pet parents.
“We are ensuring regular dissemination of emails/SMS’s with the latest information to avoid any misconception and keeping our pet parents updated,” said Srivatsava Gorthy, founder of Petpal. “We have also begun an initiative of feeding stray dogs and cats by our delivery executives.”
On March 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to the nation to feed stray animals. His government has also asked states to ensure that medical help for such animals is treated as an essential service and shouldn’t be suspended during the 21-day lockdown.
A copy of the letter written by Gandhi, asking the police to allow animal activists to feed the animals.
The animal welfare board of India has also issued an advisory to all chief secretaries of states and union territories in India to care for animals during the lockdown.
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.