The pandemic is going to kill more than just humans
The ongoing pandemic has taken over the world and brought every country, large and small, to a standstill in a manner that is unforeseen. Even the mightiest of nations, individuals and organizations seem to be crumbling before the threat of this invisible agent of misfortune. The human race as a whole has never been so united yet so terrified in recent times. Cities have turned into ghost towns as people are staying indoors and away from all places of public engagement, since ‘social distancing’ is the only safety net humans have been able to discover against this pesky problem.
India has a population of 35 million stray dogs according to present statistics. Most of them, if not all, are dependent on scraps of food from households or community feeders for survival. As foot traffic has all but disappeared in the past couple of days in the country, these 35 million souls have inevitably started to starve.
We, however, have been so consumed in our own sorrow that we have forgotten that there are other species being affected by this pandemic too. Creatures that survive on human kindness.
Every marketplace, office complex, and university campus in the country have their fair share of strays. They depend on students, office goers, shopkeepers and other individuals who frequent these places for food and sustenance. As markets, universities, and offices shut down, these animals no longer have access to food nor water. Several NGOs and other animal welfare organizations cared for thousands of dogs and cats in the city who are now left without food. Even residents in some localities are afraid of feeding their strays in fear of catching COVID-19 from these animals.
While the pain of dying from starvation, that these poor souls are going to experience in the next couple of days, is unimaginable, even for the more stone-hearted, this situation presents a worrisome logistical problem. As these animals die over the coming weeks, and they inevitably will, their corpses left uncared for in the open due to the lack of sanitation workers and general state of curfew, will give rise to new kinds of biohazards. The resulting diseases and degradation in living standards might worsen the situation.
I am not encouraging you to break the curfew and put yourself and others at risk of being another statistic in the pandemic. However, I urge you to kindly take care of the strays in your immediate vicinity. Even though the times are rough, the mood bleak, and the resources low, we humans are adaptable enough and self-sufficient enough to survive this pandemic. The voiceless on the street are not so fortunate.
As for the fear of catching COVID-19 from stray animals, WHO claims on their FAQ page that dogs and cats are not vectors of the disease to the present knowledge. That being said, however, it must be kept in mind that caution and basic hygiene must be exercised while dealing with animals both at home and on the roads.
This piece of writing is in no way meant to serve as a reminder of all that’s wrong in the world, neither is it meant to place upon you another depressing burden to think of on top of all that is going wrong. My intention is to simply make you aware of the suffering other species may be facing and alert you to the ways in which you might be able to help.
I request you to please care for those you can, humans and animals alike. This is the time to be compassionate towards all life forms without discrimination.