There are posts on social media telling people not to abandon their pets amid the coronavirus lockdown for fear of getting COVID-19 from the animals. Despite overwhelming evidence that the risk of coronavirus spreading from pets to humans is low, some people have taken the irrational decision to abandon their pets that they have at one point treated like family.
The volunteers of a non-profit in Pune are, however, not the ones to fall to such fears and are coming forward to help pets, especially dogs, that have been left to fend for themselves alone by their owners.
Over 50 volunteers from the Animal Adoption and Rescue Team (AART) have been patrolling the streets of Pune, looking to rescue abandoned pets and feeding strays, news agency PTI reported, amid the lockdown that has been extended thrice, the latest being till May 31.
"Since the lockdown was imposed, we have seen a rise in cases of dog owners abandoning their pets, especially imported breeds such as Dobermans, Labradors and German Shepherds," says AART volunteer Ajay Pujar.
The non-profit has so far rescued over 40 dogs across Pune. The animals have been sheltered at a facility on the outskirts of the city.
"Another reason for owners abandoning pets is that several of them, including students, have left the city because of the pandemic, leaving the animals behind," says Mr Pujar.
Vineeta Tandon of Animal Rescue Trust says more and more people are abandoning pets. "As abandoning pets is a crime, dog owners don't call shelter homes directly and instead leave these canines tied to gates of dog shelters or in areas where they know strays are fed regularly," she says.
The Health Ministry has said coronavirus cannot be transmitted from dogs and cats to humans, says Tandon, who runs a shelter home in Kharadi, adding her organisation has so far rescued 23 dogs since the lockdown began.
The US' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, which tracks diseases globally and whose officials are directly involved in advanced laboratory work, on its website says until scientists learn more about how this virus affects animals, people should treat pets as they would other human family members to protect them from a possible infection.
"CDC is aware of a small number of pets worldwide, including cats and dogs, to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. It appears that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from people to animals in some situations," the CDC says on its website.
With inputs from PTI