Stray animals bear the brunt as virus reigns

AFP
As the coronavirus forces billions of people around the world into lockdown, another sizeable population has also been hard hit – stray animals.
AFP

As the coronavirus forces billions of people around the world into lockdown, another sizeable population has also been hard hit — stray animals.

While pet owners in many countries are still allowed to walk their dogs, thousands of other animals — the exact numbers are unknown — are starving and turning feral.

The mass closure of restaurants has also deprived hungry animals of leftover meals, forcing them to take greater risks.

For many, the curbs are tantamount to a death sentence.

“We are seeing an increase in the numbers of cats in areas where we feed, some appear to have been abandoned, while others have roamed far from their usual spots in search of food,” said Cordelia Madden-Kanellopoulou, a co-founder of Nine Lives Greece, a network of volunteers dedicated to reducing the overpopulation of stray cats in Athens and other cities.

According to the city, the stray dog population in Athens is put at hundreds while the cats run into the thousands.

“It is a huge worry to us that strays could be exposed to more cruelty and poisoning, being more visible and hungrier now, and thus more likely to trust and approach people,” said Madden-Kanellopoulou.

Greek officials over the weekend said an online platform had been created for food donations and veterinary services for strays and pets whose owners are unable to care for them.

In neighboring Turkey, authorities in Istanbul distribute around a ton of food for street cats and dogs every day.

“We were taking care of strays even before the coronavirus,” Tayfun Koc, an Istanbul feeding worker, said.

“I say this to all our citizens, stay at home, we will take care of our little friends,” he added.

Authorities elsewhere in Europe are gradually realizing that allowances must be made for stray populations.

After Spain went into a lockdown on March 14, Madrid officials closed down Retiro park in the city center where around 270 cats live in 19 different colonies.

For days, volunteers were not able to enter. City hall authorities eventually allowed them to give food to park gardeners to distribute.

A single volunteer may also enter the park three times a week, for an hour at a time, to check on the health of the cats.

Mercedes Hervas, the president of the Association of Friends of the Cats of Retiro, said that this was not enough time to check on them all and look after those in need of medical care.

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