New Delhi: Today, the world has come to a standstill while grappling with an unprecedented crisis. The pandemic COVID-19 has impaired economies and left streets deserted and minds full of chaos. India is experiencing an extraordinary situation with the nationwide lockdown, which has confined children and adults to their homes. In this grim scenario, companion animals have proved once again that they are man’s best friend – they have always been a great source of positive energy and this holds true in these challenging times as well.
As we enter week 3 of the lockdown, there are reports of several people including children fighting depression and other mental health issues from being confined indoors. Parents are finding it hard to engage children brimming with raw energy and adults are trying hard to juggle work from home while managing their households. Research tells us that even as little as 10 minutes of interaction with cats and dogs produces a significant reduction in cortisol, a major stress hormone. Animals, especially dogs and cats, can help reduce stress, anxiety, depression and ease loneliness.
However, animals are invariably bearing the brunt of the lockdown. Street animals relying on dhabas or sabzi-mandis for food are now starving. Animals in locked up pet shops are dying slow deaths. Access to medicine and care is hard to come by. Food, water and bare essentials vanished overnight as India was engulfed into the lockdown’s grip. Hunger, unfortunately, does not discriminate.
Varda Mehrotra, Executive Director, FIAPO, says, “Animals are hit hard during this lockdown, and unfortunately their suffering remains unseen by the majority; misinformation and rumors make their plight worse. The government has also recognized this, and veterinary services, street feeding – all continue to be essential services permitted during the lockdown. Please keep water bowls outside your houses and leave food outside for street animals. Please coordinate with other residents in your area to ensure animals in your locality don’t go hungry. Speak to your local authorities/animal welfare organisations for assistance to animals, as they will have access to the right information and aid in such times.”
FIAPO, as the collective voice of the animal rights movement in India, urges people to take care of companion/street animals during this challenging phase and recommends the following steps:
· Guardians should closely monitor the decisions that are being taken for the safekeeping of companion animals
· Maintain hygiene of companion animals
· Ensure any animals housed with them are kept mentally stimulated through indoor play, games etc., if they aren’t permitted to go on their daily walks
· Keep water bowls outside their houses
· Coordinate with other residents to ensure animals in their localities don’t go hungry
FIAPO has also launched a resource center for NGOs and individuals who need support in these times to treat and feed animals. You can get assistance for any legal problems you are facing during this lockdown and if you need materials like food/medicine then they can help you connect with other local member organisations. Please visit www.fiapo.org/covidresponse for more information.