Stray animals that primarily depend on garbage waste and leftover food from restaurants for their meals go hungry everyday as the coronavirus crisis continues and Dhaka city comes to a standstill. As the pandemic progresses, even people who would feed strays on a daily basis have stopped coming out of their houses. On the other end of the spectrum, many are being harassed while feeding strays as rumours circulate that dogs can spread the virus.
Contrary to popular belief, the World Health Organisation (WHO) cleared the air when they announced in March, "At present there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus." According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, the risk of animals spreading the virus to humans, though it exists, is very low.
While new discoveries are being made everyday regarding animals' relationship in regards to the novel coronavirus, armed with the proper equipment, it is deemed safe enough to come into contact with animals — not only because animals might spread the disease to humans, but because there is a higher risk of humans spreading the disease to animals.
First and foremost, you'll need a pair of gloves. Even if you won't be touching the animals, when you're stepping outside your house, you are likely to come into contact with other surfaces that may carry the virus. If you do not have gloves to use, carry hand sanitizer with you. Try to avoid contact with the animal by throwing the food on the floor but make sure to sanitise if you do come into contact. Try not to leave food rotting on the streets as this can increase the risks of contamination.
Secondly, make sure you carry a mask with you. While it is unlikely that you will contract the virus from an animal's breath, you may get it from pedestrians, which is why it's important to wear a mask. When feeding the animals, it is best to do it in areas where the risk of running into other people is relatively low.
When feeding strays, dry food such as biscuits are very affordable options. Though it is usually advised not to give dogs sugary treats, light sugary may be a good source of energy for animals that go hours (or days) without eating. Other options may include boiled vegetables, which will give them the nutrition they require. While onion, garlic and pepper are deemed harmful for cats and dogs, they tend to eat other vegetables, such as carrots, corn and chopped greens. Avoid giving them table scraps and stale food since this will likely make them sick.
If you are unable to get out of the house yourself, you can always help out by donating money to charitable organisations — even donating as little as 35 taka can help a dog that might have otherwise gone hungry.
The Independent (April 17, 2020). Coronavirus: can your dog or cat get covid-19 and can you catch it from your pet?
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