All creatures great and small during COVID19

Dogs have loved it. Cats have hated it. Fish may not have noticed. But many humans have relied on their pets to get them through the last months.[1]

Around the world people reported the healing effects of having pet or wild animals around them. I can certainly vouch for this. My two rescue beagles, Bonnie and Clyde who joined our family just before the virus struck, provided incentives for exercise, opportunities to meet neighbours I had never met before and much affection and amusement.

However, I was also interested in how COVID 19 affected animals – wild, stray, captive and domestic – and how humans reacted.

The Guardian reported that animals around the world came into the lockdown in search of food or simply to play.[2] Many wild animals benefited from the reduction of pollution of their habitats and the quiet of urban centres and waterways as human modes of transport came to a halt.[3]

Zoo animals were variously affected. Some loved the quiet, others were visibly lonely and zookeepers had to devise many ways to keep them happy and stimulated. [4]

Not all human reactions were positive. In India, I read of people being harassed for feeding stray animals and pet shops and breeding facilities being shut down with animals left inside. The Welfare Board sent an urgent advisory directing officials to check these properties. And some people simply used the pandemic to abandon pet dogs.

At the same time, it was really heartening to read of the many ways citizens took the initiative to feed or otherwise help animals in need. In India, the Animal Welfare Board of India issued a letter two days before the restrictions went into effect, declaring feeding ‘companion and stray animals is an essential service’.[5]  Many cities issued ‘feeder passes’ that permitted to leave their houses to care for street animals and birds including dogs, cows, monkeys and various feathered beings, mostly through their own resources.

In one place, a stray dog was reported not eating anything because every person that saw it gave it food to eat!

In the United States, the anti-cruelty group Animal Wellness Action reported a surge in adoptions but also noted many people abandoning animals at shelters when they couldn’t care for them.

Animal rights groups in Europe warned the pigeons were at risk because the humans who normally fed them or dropped morsels of food on the streets were stuck at home. The group, while acknowledging that pigeons are a problem for many cities, says they should not be allowed to die a painful death. In Krakow, Poland, one animal welfare organisation is coming out specially to feed the flocks abandoned for the time being.

Australia doesn’t have many stray animals but it does have plenty in shelters. I was happy to read how many animals were adopted during the lockdown and hope that fears they will be abandoned due to the recession or once restrictions eased up and people can return to their workplaces won’t eventuate.

There were some unanticipated outcomes. Dog owners had to be warned not to over exercise and overfeed dogs while they were at home. And some cats were reported to be extremely unimpressed with the intrusion of humans into what they regard as their territory. One owner reported: ‘My own cat now sleeps in another room when I work from home, though he also demands dinner earlier than he would normally be fed.[6]

The effect of corona on animals affected by the devastating bushfires of early 2019 are still being investigated. Scientists have been forced to cease or scale back fieldwork, prompting concerns it could affect wildlife recovery.

Queensland’s Bindi Irwin voiced the feelings of many about people’s relationship to wildlife:

“I feel like I’m nothing without wildlife. They are the stars. I feel awkward without them.”[7]

Regardless of the country and kind of fauna affected, animal welfare activists around the world voice their hope the experiences during the outbreak have increased awareness that animal welfare and human wellbeing are inextricably linked. And many are hoping this will lead to the end of the global wildlife trade following the exposure of the links between the sale of wild animals for human consumption and corona.[8]

As Henry Beston says:

‘We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals… In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.[9]

Peace and quiet without those pesky humans around. They just need to come home at my dinnertime. Source: Unsplash: Chris Barbalis@cbarbalis










2 thoughts on “All creatures great and small during COVID19

  1. Wonderful post, Indrani. Initially there was a lot of misinformation regarding domestic pets and the pandemic. A covid cat refugee wandered into our home and has stayed. She has a lovely nature and I think we benefit greatly from each other.


  2. Cant imagine getting up in the morning without my cat mewing me awake, cant imagine opening the windows in the morning without the music of the birds.They dont know my name, I doubt if they know what they mean to me but without them my mornings would be silent -the true sound of silence.


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