Where do pets of COVID-hit families go?

Private clinics with shelters are taking in dogs and cats even as these animals’ human-relatives battle COVID-19

Forty-four-year-old S. Valli has a packed schedule for the last few weeks. It includes a visit to New Corner Stone Multi Speciality Clinic, a private vet-clinic-cum-shelter for pets. This may strike her acquaintances as odd — she does not have pets; nor does she work at this veterinary clinic at Vepery.

Valli has been called in to ‘temporarily’ cook food for more than 15 boarding dogs at the clinic.

These dogs have been ‘sent away’ from home, after members of their human family tested positive for the novel Coronavirus, and have to focus on having the health issue addressed.

Veterinarians in Chennai, especially those from high-risk zones — which include Anna Nagar, Teynampet, Kodambakkam and Adyar — are bombarded with calls from owners asking them to put their pets up at shelter homes while they complete their quarantine period.

From the Great Indian Mongel to the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, there are a wide variety of pet dogs cooling their paws at shelter homes across Chennai.

“After my family and I tested positive for the novel Cononavirus, we shifted our two dogs — a Labrador and a French Bulldog — to a clinic at Vepery as the caretakers were reluctant to take the pets under their wing.

Besides, leaving our pets at a shelter home comes with the assurance that they would be taken care of as a dog should be,” says 40-year-old S. Rakesh, a pet lover from Anna Nagar, who lost his parents during the pandemic.

A majority of pet lovers pull their pets out of the shelter home when one of the family members recovers from the infection. A few wait for the entire family to be back in good health, before placing that call to shelter home.

Proper diet

At the shelter, pets are fed twice a day with boiled rice, chicken and eggs. They are kept in individual cages just to make sure there are not canine skirmishes, and also to preclude contraction of canine infections that are transmitted from dog to dog.

Ambulances are sent to bring these pets — not only dogs, but also cats — to the shelter homes. Before these pets are admitted at a shelter, they are checked by the vets for any infections and injuries. Many pets are also vaccinated during their stay at these shelter homes.

“As most clinics are faced with space constraints, we can admit only a limited number of pets. We refer the rest to nearby vet shelter homes,” says Dr. Thanigaivel, a veterinarian from Velachery.

Vet clinics are still being run in all major neighbourhoods, but with fewer working hours — “from 10 a.m to 5 p.m” as against the standard time of “10 a.m and 10 p.m”, but on all days of the week.

In these difficult times, it is impossible to maintain a full workforce at any given point of time.

While minor cases can be tackled via audio or video calls, cases entailing emergency care — for example, fractures, injuries and infections — would require veterinarians to effect in-person interventions. When cases are complicated, vet doctors at the clinics and hospitals have been referring them to the Government Veterinary College in Vepery, during the pandemic. The Government Veterinary College in Vepery is the lone government facility in the city to take pets to, during these times.

The Small Animals Practitioners Association in Chennai (SAPAC), a registered body for veterinarian doctors, has more than 400 veterinary doctors as its members. Every day, on an average, around 10 to 15 cases are attended in a clinic during the pandemic as against the normal flow of 30-plus cases. In most clinics, pet lovers who show up to have pet emergencies attended to, are given free face masks and hand washers.

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