Appu, a part-Chippiparai part-indie puppy, has had enough of chewing laces, tummy rubs and snoozing on his owner’s lap. The six-month-old is now all set to go to office, as soon as the lockdown lifts.
Fortunately, Vikram Krishnan, who brought Appu home on April 10, works in a pet-friendly office and is enthusiastic about commuting with his new furry colleague. While the two might be inseparable now, Vikram confesses he initially only intended to foster the pup for a few weeks. However, the puppy quickly became family. “This dog is great company. He’s such a mood lifter,” smiles Vikram.
Meanwhile, Renuka Jaypal is all smiles. She runs Tail Alert, a Chennai-based group on Facebook that helps rescue, rehabilitate and rehome dogs that have been abandoned or given up. A depressingly high number of dogs, many of whom are pedigrees, including Rottweilers, Retrievers and Irish Setters, have been abandoned over the past few months as cities grapple with COVID-19. While she deals with abandoned pets regularly, she says the number of cases has more than doubled lately. “Breeders are dumping dogs they do not want to feed when they cannot be mated or sold,” says Renuka. “Misinformed owners think they can contract COVID-19 from a pet, despite clinics, the World Health Organization and Animal Welfare Board of India saying this is not possible. And the worst part is, some people are using empty roads to get rid of pets, undetected.”
Renuka adds, “We have struggled to find homes during this period. The number of incoming dogs has been four times the number of dogs who have found homes. We have also had some amazing families who have come forward and taken our rehabilitated dogs home. These are the stories that keep us going.”
Like Doki, a six-year-old, injured Tibetan Terrier who was rescued on March 24 and found his forever family on May 26. “Some determined people did everything they could, from raising funds for complex surgeries to providing impeccable foster care, while spreading the word about him. All this led him to his perfect forever home, where he is currently enjoying belly rubs and relaxing music.”
On the bright side, over the past month, people who were hesitant about adoptions because of hectic work and travel schedules are using this downtime to adopt and integrate puppies as well as abandoned dogs into the family. “The number of homes able to foster puppies has increased during this period,” says Renuka. Popular Mumbai-based content creator and Instagrammer (with 1.2 million followers) Jitendra Sharma, who goes by the pseudonym Ted The Stoner, agrees. He has managed to find homes for more than 8,000 pets over the last six years. He says, “As compared to 10 foster offers in a week, we now have 100 or 200 a week.” The 26-year-old adds, “Everyone is at home and keen on taking care of a pet. Fostering gives the family a chance to understand the pet and see if they can manage it long-term.”
In March, after BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) put up hoardings that suggested COVID-19 could spread through live wild and farm animals, a lot of people abandoned their pets, says Ted. Though the Corporation, later, did take back what it said, it was too late. However, quite a few pets were lucky to find homes. “Over the last two months, we have crossed 800 to 900 dog adoptions,” he says, adding, “50 to 100 have been physically adopted. For the rest, formalities have been completed and they will be going home to various parts of India, as soon as the lockdown lifts.”
While Ted is happy that people are adopting, he also wants them to keep a few pointers in mind: They should stop discriminating on the basis of breed. “If it is a pedigree puppy, we get more than 1,000 calls. If it is an Indian puppy, we get 10 calls and if it is a full-grown stray, chances of adoption reduce by 90%. We are trying to change that thinking.”
While rescue workers have always battled age discrimination, Sanjana Madappa, head counsellor of CUPA (Compassion Unlimited Plus Action) Second Chance in Bengaluru, says she has been glad to notice that over the last few weeks at least 10 senior dogs aged seven and above — some with congenital conditions like heart problems — have found homes. “People are becoming more responsible,” she says.
When the lockdown first came into effect, there were not too many people abandoning dogs in Bengaluru, says Sanjana. “But in the last two to three weeks there has been a sudden surge in abandonment and we get around six calls a day,” she says. The reason is because a lot of people have been affected financially and cannot manage the expenses that come with a pedigree, she says. “The ones who have indies won’t give up on them. Indies are a lot stronger and not high maintenance,” she adds.
Thirty dogs have been adopted over the last month, through a strict screening process. “We need to make sure that the pet is not being adopted as a filler just because people are at home now,” says Sanjana.
- Besant Memorial Animal Dispensary, Chennai 044-24466253
- Blue Cross of India, Chennai 044-46274999
- Friendicoes, Delhi 011-24320707
- Let’s Live Together, Bengaluru 9986413916
- People For Animals, Hyderabad 7337450643
Adopters are conscious about the benefits of having a pet at home, says Sanjana, adding, “Some single people realise how a pet can change their life for the better.” Like in the case of Vikram, who was living by himself when lockdown began, but is glad to have Appu around. His schedule includes going for a jog with his fur baby at 5.30 am, playing fetch, socialising with other dogs on the road and clicking innumerable pictures of his pet. “He is an active dog and loves running around. I am burning more calories now,” he laughs.