Society

Quarantine tales: Who fed the dogs out?

The lockdown has shut down restaurants and pushcart vendors that were a source of food for many strays. Luckily, the feeders are still doing their jobs providing meals for dogs in and around their locality, some of them armed with passes

Gandhinagar’s furry four-legged inhabitants can recognise this two-wheeler from miles away. After all, this is their regular buffet-on-wheels service. Every morning at 4.45 am, Radhika Kasturirangan loads her scooter with two big buckets of food and takes it for the strays around her locality. Ever since the Government called for a 21-day lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19, her radius has extended to include areas towards Kotturpuram. “Now that the roads are empty I feed them at 5.30 in the evening,” says Radhika, who has been at this for the last 15 years. She feeds 70 dogs regularly, but given the current situation and with a number of restaurants and push carts shut, she says that around 20-25 new dogs have joined the party.

Quarantine tales: Who fed the dogs out?

It’s not just food, sometimes finding water too becomes a task for these animals. “Today I noticed a water bowl was empty outside one of the shops and there were a few animals around, looking expectantly at it. I filled it. The staff used to fill it everyday for the animals on the roads but they are on leave now,” she says.

Latha Thampy, coordinator of People For Animals in Thiruvananthapuram also urges people to set out water for their neighbourhood's community dogs and cats. She says, “Since it is summer, water is a must for all animals. Dry food, especially pet food makes them thirstier. So I cooked rice and fish waste that I got from Palayalam market to feed the dogs.”

When the stay-at-home orders were first implemented, a few 'feeders' were uncertain about what it meant in terms of going about their usual routines. Some were apprehensive after watching videos of food delivery executives being beaten up by a few cops in other cities. Fortunately a recent statement issued by the Animal Welfare Board of India on Monday, helped clarify the rules: It states that “feed and fodder for large animals and food for companion and stray animals is an essential service and maybe kept operational during lockdowns.” To help aid better facilitation, Maneka Sanjay Gandhi, Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) and animal rights activist, on Twitter announced the availability of 100 passes for feeders per district.

“This pass helps in case the police or anyone stops you,” says 23-year-old Anoushka Mehta, who, three days back, got into trouble with her neighbours, despite social distancing and being out alone, for feeding her regular pooches on the streets. “This is an essential service,” she reiterates, adding, “I also get the dogs neutered, and feeding them means they are more manageable. Some people don’t understand that.” The Delhi-based dentist has been feeding dogs in her locality in Lajpat Nagar as well as in Faridabad where she went to college. “Now that we are under lockdown, I managed to source 100 kilograms of dog food with the help of generous people on social media. I’ve delivered it to my college — shut for now —where the watchman on duty feeds the dogs on campus and around.” Anoushka gets chicken and rice cooked at home for 150 dogs in her neighbourhood.

Dinesh Baba, who started Cloud No 9 Kennel and Nursing Care in Chennai says, “While it is important to feed animals, it is also imperative to follow social distancing.” He advises going out alone rather than taking to the streets in a group and defeating the purpose of a lockdown. He also suggests cooking a little extra if possible and leaving the excess food outside the house so animals can help themselves to it. Strays in residential areas will somehow get a meal, he believes. His concern is dogs who live in non-residential areas like highways and railway stations.

Dinesh and his jeep — laden with a big degchi full of rice and dal or chicken or eggs — are a familiar sight on the stretch that runs from Injambakkam to Porur. That is the feeding ground for nearly 300 wagging tails that await him. He also has a few vegetables to feed the cows that amble along.

Dinesh says the Chennai police have been cooperative, as long as he travels alone. “They are, in fact passionate towards animal and point you to a few more hungry ones,” he says. Meanwhile in Thiruvananthapuram, a few volunteers, despite possessing I-cards issued by FIAPO (Federation of Indian Animals Protection Organisation), faced problems in a few places. Since Tuesday, activists of People for Animals (PFA), Street Dog Watch (SDW) and FIAPO have been out in the streets to feed stray dogs.

“I put up a post on Facebook and exhorted people to give ₹10 to feed a dog. It elicited a good response and I bought biscuits with that money," says Parvathy Mohan, coordinator of FIAPO, adding that she managed to feed about 300 dogs with the money.

(With inputs from Saraswathy Nagarajan)

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 8:47:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/who-fed-the-dogs-out/article31184262.ece

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