It’s A Dog’s Life for Animals During Lockdown 

It’s A Dog’s Life for Animals During Lockdown 

The coronavirus pandemic has been torture for animals in India — they have been abandoned, ill-treated and neglected. Animal activists are stepping in to help.

“People have always abandoned animals with little legal consequence,” said Mohana Dutt, an independent rescuer in Karjat, a small city east of Mumbai. “Now, they’re using coronavirus as an excuse.”

India is a country that reveres animals, whether cows as mothers, snakes as the lord’s companion or even rats who perch themselves besides deities. The irony: Animal welfare is often ignored. It’s common to see various species, cats to rats, scrounging at the same garbage piles.

In the five months since the pan-India lockdown, household pets, commercial horses and cattle, and buffaloes that block traffic have suffered.

Recently, Mumbai-based animal rescuer Aditi Parameshwaran saved four malnourished, ill-treated donkeys from a homeless man. The mother donkey’s milk (touted as a cure-all) was sold at high prices, but her foals were left to starve. Thanks to crowd-funded sponsorship and police intervention, the donkeys were sent to the Kalote Animal Trust, a shelter near the city.

The two donkeys. (Courtesy: Aditi Parmeshwaran)

 

The two donkeys after being rescued. (Courtesy: Aditi Parmeshwaran)

“We’ve received over 40 animals — either surrendered or sent to us in the past five months,” said Sameer Vohra, founder of the trust.

That’s a help, but the problems are massive, such as stray cattle on Indian roads. Owners often abandon cows that no longer produce milk. Bulls are left to fend for themselves. These strays then roam the fields, destroy crops, or survive on what they can find from discarded food and vegetable waste.

Civic bodies and residential complexes exacerbated the situation by advising people to avoid animals. In the early days of the pandemic, it was unknown if animal-to-human Covid transmission was possible. Posters and memos pushed this theme. One sported a caricatured bat and puppy warning: “Avoid unprotected contact with live wild and farm animals.”

Appeals to the municipal corporation from animal organizations, including the Animal Welfare Board of India, ended this campaign — but the damage was done.

“Fear of cats and dogs spreading the disease resulted in a lot of abandonment and relocations,” said Dutt, who rescued two St. Bernard dogs during the lockdown.

If pets were given the boot, strays faced more danger than usual.

A sign warning against unprotected contact with animals. (Courtesy: Welfare of Stray Dogs)

“Community animals are dependent on the kindness of the roadside tea stall owner or hawkers,” said Abodh Aras, CEO of Mumbai-based nonprofit organization Welfare of Stray Dogs, which has successfully conducted a trap-and-release program across Mumbai.“As offices and other businesses shut down, they were suddenly left without any source of food,” he said. At the mercy of the elements and traffic, these animals often met painful deaths.

In addition, in the past few years, governments of various Indian states have tightened laws around the consumption of cow meat and beef-related mob violence has escalated. As a result, farmers who can’t afford to keep old cattle or ship them to slaughterhouses are forced to abandon them.

The 20th Livestock Census, the latest conducted by the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying in 2019, calculates 193.4 million cattle in the country, a 1.3% increase over the previous census.

To combat the situation, animal lovers have upped rescue efforts. Adoption appeals have increased, feeders have widened their routes and others have opened their homes to pets whose owners are stuck in quarantine or died.

“We introduced a new initiative to prepare food for strays,” said Aras. “We feed over 5,000 dogs throughout the city every day.”

Welfare of Stray Dogs has distributed more than 130,000 pounds of food to animal lovers. They’re part of a small but dedicated network of people who try to ensure, during a crisis, they save as many animals as possible.

(Edited by Siddharthya Roy and Fern Siegel.)



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MEET AN ANIMAL: Tiny Schnauzer Saved from Dog Meat Factory in China Has New Leash on Life

MEET AN ANIMAL: Tiny Schnauzer Saved from Dog Meat Factory in China Has New Leash on Life

The scrawny, underweight schnauzer named Frankl didn’t drink from a water bowl for the first three days after Kimberly Wright adopted him. He lapped up his own urine from an absorbent “pee pad,” a habit he adopted in a Chinese slaughterhouse alongside an uncountable number of other dogs.

His brother and sister were cooked alive. One was boiled and dismembered. The other was skewered and burned. They were probably five or six months old.

Frankl was there too, but in the blink of an eye he was gone, bought by an animal rescuer instead of a hungry family. He was limp, his hair matted, his breath foul.

Now five years old, he has his choice of dog beds—he prefers the light orange one in her office, Wright says—and he sleeps in her bed at night.

Frankl looks like any other miniature schnauzer at a park in Newport Beach, California, but he started his life at a prisoner in a Chinese dog meat factory (Courtesy: Kimberly Wright)
Frankl was filthy and underweight when Marc Ching bought him from a vendor in China. (Courtesy: Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation)

The dog meat factory left Frankl with parvovirus, a highly contagious virus that strikes Covid-like fear in the hearts of dog owners. It’s fatal in 9 out of 10 dogs who go untreated. It took treatments in two different veterinary clinics to rid him of the pathogen, according to Marc Ching, founder of Animal Hope and Wellness.

Ching personally rescued Frankl. He walked into a slaughterhouse and paid for him. The seller thought nothing of it.

Today Frankl is a healthy 9 pounds and has his own Instagram feed where hundreds of photos show him in dozens of outfits. Wright sometimes takes him for walks in Newport Beach, California, wearing a tuxedo jumper.

He’s partial to frozen yogurt dog treats. His favorite toy is a stuffed candy corn. He stands as tall as four rolls of toilet paper. He’s an American.

Frankl’s owner, Kimberly Wright, has turned him into a therapy dog for other dogs, pairing him up with feral and abused canines at her home, where she fosters several dogs at a time (Courtesy: Kimberly Wright)
Frankl has foster sisters and brothers now; her real siblings never escaped the dog meat trade. (Courtesy: Kimberly Wright)

In December 2015 he left China on a plane bound for Los Angeles, where Wright named him after Victor Frankl, the Austrian neurologist famous for his dark but powerful book “Man’s Search for Meaning.” It’s based on his recollections from spending years in Nazi concentration camps.

Frankl’s Instagram page—the schnauzer’s—describes him as a “Chinese torture chamber survivor.”

Wright, who fosters rescued dogs in her home, has given him an appropriate job: He’s a sort of canine counselor, a therapy dog for others rescued from the streets of Los Angeles or abused in homes.

Wright puts Frankl with the quiet ones, the dogs that don’t trust her because they don’t know how.

A German Shepherd named Jonie was once among the most wary. She grew up feral. Jonie watched one day as Frankl sat on Wright’s lap.

After an hour and a half of cautious peering, Jonie crept in their direction and leaned in for her share of the petting.

Marc Ching is pictured holding Frankl at an undisclosed veterinary clinic in China shortly after her rescue. She needed treatment for Parvovirus from two different facilities. (Courtesy: Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation)
Frankl wore a tuxedo on the day of her owner’s wedding (left) and posed on Halloween in 2018 (right) with her favorite toy—a stuffed candy corn.  (Courtesy: Kimberly Wright)

Frankl got to the U.S. before the coronavirus did. Now, with airlines limiting flights and the summer heat limiting the effectiveness of climate control in cargo holds, more than 200 dogs are waiting in Ching’s shelter for their golden tickets to the U.S. and adoptive homes. They might start coming as the weather cools, but first they must receive the same immunizations that pet dogs get in the U.S.

Ching wants to see China catch up to the rest of the world and adopt animal cruelty laws. “It’s not illegal in most of the country to hang or torture dogs and cats,” he says.

As China absorbs the blame for unleashing the Covid pandemic, the Communist Party leadership is making small changes. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs reclassified dogs and cats from livestock to pets just months ago.

The annual Yulin dog meat festival carried on, unaffected, in June.

Frankl is an entire ocean away from China, where dog meat is common enough to warrant its own festival every summer. (Courtesy: Kimberly Wright)
Marc Ching flew from China to Los Angeles with Frankl and started him on his new life (Courtesy: Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation)
Frankl’s favorite dog bed is this one, in his owner’s office. but he sleeps in her bed at night. (Courtesy: Kimberly Wright)

“To be honest, the reclassification and Covid-19 haven’t really made any difference in the eating of dogs,” said Kai Su, China Director of Animal Hope and Wellness. She said city governments elsewhere did tighten their local laws.

Ellie Roberco, the founder of Animal Hope and Wellness, said many people simply don’t know that some Chinese eat dogs the way Americans eat turkey or venison.

“I’m surprised by how many people don’t know it still exists until they read about it or see it documented on social media,” she says. “One click and a post is shared across the world.”

(Edited by Kathleen Huston and David Martosko)



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