Please help the strays in the time of pandemic

“NO one will be left behind” was the kind reassurance from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin when he announced on March 27 the RM250 billion “rakyat-centric” economic stimulus package to protect the people, support businesses and strengthen the nation’s economy following the Covid-19 pandemic.

The package, known as Prihatin  was intended to provide immediate assistance to ease the burden of the people and business. Following from this announcement Malaysians were indeed relieved to have a kind and caring government sensitive to the rakyat and businesses sufferings arising from movement control order (MCO) which saw citizens staying at home and many businesses shut.  

When businesses highlighted that they needed more support, the government had responded and announced additional financial support for companies. When movement were severely restricted causing soup kitchens volunteering work to be abruptly suspended creating much hardships for the homeless, this caring government had quickly responded to offer selected premises to house the homeless and provide them shelter and food .

Thus it is evident that the government is indeed sensitive to the sufferings of the rakyat and goes the extra mile to offer much need help to alleviate the hardships faced by all categories of its citizens.

However amid the pandemic, there is also enormous implications for another category of victims, the silent voiceless ones, the animals.

An more than 100 countries are placed under lockdown with people staying indoors and many businesses including restaurants, roadside eateries and daily markets are closed, this posed a severe  hardship to strays as their usual food and water supply, scraps and leftover meals from these establishments,  is suddenly cut off and they face imminent starvation and dehydration. 

A few days ago as I was passing through an empty eatery, I saw several strays looking desperately for food and water but to no avail. A number of them looked thin and malnourished as a result of severe starvation and dehydration.

Feeling sad and pity for the strays, I quickly took some cat biscuits and water and poured these onto a plastic plate and bowl and placed these near to them. I saw how they devoured the biscuits due to extreme hunger. After that day, I daily top up the biscuits and water to ensure the strays have sufficient  food and water to sustain themselves. I was  pleasantly surprised and happy to observe the following days that some kind Samaritans had also added more cat food on the plastic plate which I had placed near the empty eatery  to feed the strays.

Recently I received a WhatsApp message forwarded from my father of a request for donation to procure cat food by a kind Malaysian, Pak Abu who is taking the initiative as a volunteer to feed a large number of stray cats that are found around the canteen of the Ibrahim School Old Boys Building in Sungei Petani, Kedah. Understanding the plight of the cats, as the canteen is no longer operating and  thus there is no food nor leftovers which the strays are able to feed on, my family and I have donated to Pak Abu to help support him in his noble quest.

My article aims to focus on the plight of the strays with the hope that the government will offer suitable support to prevent these helpless little ones from starving and go unattended without the urgent medical treatment  especially for the sick and injured strays.

Although confronted by a challenging situation presented by this global pandemic, there are however caring people everywhere working day and night to help animals. Some international headlines and responses are shared below:

Odisha Sanctions Over Rs 80 Lakhs For Feeding Stray Dogs, Other Animals During Lockdown

News18 India 
Maneka Gandhi Reminds Animal Lovers to Feed Strays amid Covid-19 Lockdown 

Middle East Monitor 
Turkey’s Interior Ministry urges local councils to leave food at designated locations on a regular basis so that the animals would not starve 

Cape Argus  
Call for Capetonians to foster dogs during Covid-19 lockdown

The Hindu 
Outreach for Stray Animals during lockdown

The Indian News Express 
Covid-19: Stray animals feel the bite as pandemic spreads across world

Strays left to fend for themselves as pandemic spreads

In Greece, Athens city councillor Serafina Avramidou for animal welfare shared that they have started installing feeders in different areas of the city making sure that dogs and cats are fed regularly. She has also signed more than 350 permits for volunteers to visit feeding areas.

In Spain City Hall allows volunteers to give food to park gardeners to feed strays. 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 to identify those in need of medical care and offer urgently needed treatment to the sick and injured strays

Recommended actions for the Malaysian federal and state governments:

1. Government to allocate funds, similar to Prihatin package for Rakyat, but targeted for strays following the example of the Odisha government for procurement of food, for medicines and vaccinations.

The government with support of veterinary departments and city councils , in partnership with private sector, could :

2. develop an online platform listing stakeholder, sponsors, volunteers for food donations and veterinary services for strays and pets whose owners are unable to care for them

3. support introducing mobile clinics in each state ;  to offer treatment and help to sick and injured strays; establishing roster to inform date and location mobile clinic is offering its services 

4. establish feeding programmes by installing feeders in different areas of the city and states making sure that cats and dogs are fed regularly

5. launch an outreach programme offering animal food to individuals who want to feed strays in their localities and security guards at the Universities and localities with a community of strays

In conclusion, I would like to quote Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan who tweeted on April 17 about helping stray animals in this current crisis.“As the world is coping with the outbreak of Covid-19, We must not forget those without a voice. Let’s make sure stray and abandoned animals are treated with care and compassion.” – May 22, 2020.

* Sheriffah Noor Khamseah Al-Idid Syed Ahmad Idid reads The Malaysian Insight.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.

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