How You Can Help Pets Who have Lost Their Owners to COVID-19

Orphaned pets require your help more than ever during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Here's *exactly* how you can do your bit to ease their pain.  

The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has uprooted the lives of humans and animals alike. Many pets from loving homes have been left quite bereft and confused as their pet-parents fight the virus or, in some cases, succumb to it.   

While the grim tales from the COVID-19 pandemic can be quite disheartening, do not lose hope. Each one of us has the ability to make a difference in our own small way, especially for these pets. 

Animal welfare organisations, NGOs and boarding facilities are working round the clock to ensure that abandoned pets are able to deal with the loss of an owner. Recently, comedian Vir Das also took to social media promising free show tickets to the person who adopts an abandoned pet dog based in Bangalore to boost the NGOs efforts. So, if you are looking to help out or are a pet owner, here's what you can do to help your furry friends, who are desperately seeking your help. 

   

Prepare for the worst-case scenario

Whether you are a pet parent or fostering pets from COVID-afflicted families, it is wise to arm yourself with a backup plan to ensure that your furry friend is taken care of in case of an emergency. The Humane Society International (HSI) also advises that 'in the event of a crisis or disaster, we urge everyone to have a disaster preparedness plan in place. And, get the word out! Remind community members that having a plan for pets is critical; individuals who become sick or require hospitalization will need to have someone to take their animals.'

covid dogs

Here are some steps to include in your plan, according to HSI:

- Identify a family member or friend who can care for pets if someone in the household becomes too ill to do so.

- Have crates, food and extra supplies on hand that can last a minimum of two weeks.

- Have your animal’s vaccine record on hand, and if your dog or cat needs special assistance such as taking medication, write it down.

- Pets should have proper identification, such as a collar with an ID tag and a phone number.

Devanshi Shah, founder and CEO of PetKonnect agrees, she says, "I strongly recommend making your pets an emergency handbook that communicates your pet's needs and routines so that they can be managed at home in your absence. Ideally, you must ensure that there is a next of kin who will be responsible for the pet in case of a mishap. Pets cannot communicate their needs and routines. If something happens to the pet parents, this handbook will avoid the next set of foster parents from going in blind. This is the mature and responsible thing to do." 

Natasha Kothari, Founder of Studio UnGap.

However, in the absence of an immediate family member or domestic help to take care of your pet, Natasha Kothari, founder of Studio UnGap, advises reaching out to experienced foster parents in your pet groups, trusted animal NGOs and blogs who can help put out a foster appeal. 

She adds, "If the chances of the pet being adopted seem unlikely, immediately reach out to animal care facilities that may have provisions of keeping pets as permanent guests or you can even crowdfund the pets boarding cost." 

If you are fostering an orphaned pet...

Maintain strict hygiene: Fostering or adopting an orphaned pet is a massive undertaking. You must exercise proper hygiene and grooming especially if the pet is from a COVID-afflicted family. Devanshi says, "Pets can also be carriers of the virus through their fur or paws. So, ensure that you take adequate precautions while getting a pet home that is orphaned due to COVID. Clean their fur, paws, their accessories and other things thoroughly before getting them home." This cleaning routine needs to be practised regularly if you take your new furry member outside for their much-needed walks and exercises. 

She also advises getting the medical history documents for any ongoing treatments that require special attention, and also understand the pets dietary needs from the existing veterinarian to ensure the least amount of changes in diet, schedule and medication.

sad dog

Do not make a unilateral decision to adopt/foster: Taking care of a dog, cat, rabbit, bird or even guinea pig is not a one-man task. Natasha says, "Before adopting a pet, make sure your entire family is on board - collective care for the pet is important. You also need to have the resources to take care of your pet which includes having time to train them, take them for regular walks, regular vet visits and grooming sessions etc." 

Devanshi adds, "We need to understand that separation anxiety is very high in pets especially when they've lost their parents. They need to be handled with a lot of love and care to make them feel safe again. Because of this, fostering or adopting an orphaned pet is a very huge responsibility, and everyone in the family needs to be ready for the commitment."

Also read: What the Hey! Your Pets Cannot Infect You With Coronavirus!

Give them as much love as you possibly can: Just like many of us grieving the loss of a loved one to the virus, animals feel the same way. Unfortunately, they may not be able to understand the situation or the reason why their pet parent is not around any more.

"We don’t realise it, and they don’t show it, but they need all our reassurance. In some cases orphaned or abandoned pets may have had some kind of trauma that affects their behaviour. Understand that they need to be dealt with extra care. One needs to understand what the pet has gone through and foster practices that actively help them overcome their trauma," says Natasha. 

List of recommended organisations:

World For All Animal Care (Taking care of stray dogs)

The House Of Pawz (Boarding for pets from COVID-affected families)

The Bark Club (Boarding for pets from COVID-affected families)

Happy Pettings (Boarding for pets from COVID-affected families): 

Anubis Tiger Foundation

Youth Organisation in Defence of Animals (YODA)

Remember, we are all in this together and it is important to make a difference in whatever small way we can. A little kindness goes a long way!