Pet regret: Many abandoned dog or cat after lockdown, says survey in Mumbai | Mumbai News

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Besides sourdough bread and virtual concerts, another “quarantine trend” that has spread has been epidemic pet adoption. With people confined to their homes and often experiencing emotional distress, many have flocked to pet stores and shelters to find a furry friend who would make the lockdown less isolating.
For many, the cat was their only companion and a dog walk, their only trip outside. But as the world progressed and the initial enthusiasm faded, many of these new pet parents realized that they weren’t dog or cat people after all.
The same animal shelters that recorded high adoptions at the height of the pandemic are facing an influx of pet surrenders due to “buyer’s remorse.” “Impulse pet adoption has been really common,” notes Kirti Bhardwaj, a member of Animal Development & Care, a group of animal lovers and rescue workers in Mumbai. “But during the pandemic, it has gone too far, as people have been craving companionship without thinking enough about what will happen when they go back to work or resume their old lifestyle.”
While Bhardwaj has been receiving “six to eight calls every day” from pet owners wanting to abandon their dogs since the lockdown was lifted, there have been several cases of dogs and cats being dumped unceremoniously at markets, roadsides and parks.
This was confirmed by the launch of the first-of-its-kind study on pet homelessness, conducted by Mars Petcare and an advisory board of animal welfare experts, last week. India data revealed that despite the increase in pet ownership during the Covid-19 pandemic, with “six out of 10 people” feeling encouraged to bring a pet home, abandonment levels are higher in the country. 50% of pet owners said they have abandoned a pet since the pandemic began, compared to 28% globally.
Many pets were abandoned at the start of the pandemic due to concerns that the virus could be passed on to pets. Others took a pet to stave off loneliness and later realized that maintenance wasn’t easy.
If 34% said they left a dog on the streets, 32% admitted they had left a cat. Among the nine countries surveyed, India also had the highest pet homelessness with a score of 2.4 on a 10 scale (lowest score, worst case scenario), followed by Mexico at 3.9, and South Africa at 4.
That doesn’t surprise Aditi Nair, founder of the Pet Owners and Animal Lovers Foundation, who stumbled upon Atlas, a six-month-old Great Dane on a construction site in Thane about eight months ago. “He was very sick, had loose motions and a grub wound – all due to a severe lack of care. The first thing we did was report it to the local police station because someone might be looking for a missing pet. No one was, which means it was abandoned,” Says Nair who nursed Atlas back to his health before he was resettled and recently reassigned Jabbar.
“Most abandoned dogs and cats are ill and/or come with behavioral problems because owners find maintenance costs prohibitive and extensive,” says Nair, who has been nursing three Persian cats for the past few months — Sylvester, Oliver and Peanut — all abandoned outside of Scholl with varying degrees of ordeal. Sylvester had larval wounds to the tail and liver, while Oliver had multiple wounds, Peanut had a viral infection and was about to lose an eye. “There is a craze for Persian cats these days and they are also being abandoned in large numbers because people buy them as a status symbol without knowing the nutritional or medicinal requirements of the breed. Yes, they are furry and cuddly, but they also require special care and attention. They should not be dumped because they are hair-drop.” Purebred canines and exotic canines are handed over or discarded every day by owners who are unable to care for them after the initial encounter. “We’ve seen a lot of Labradors and Dobermans living on the streets. When they are taken out of a protective environment, they don’t have the social skills to adapt to the street, they can’t fend for themselves and they die of larval wounds,” says Bhardwaj.
According to animal welfare advocates, pet buyers don’t always research ahead of time. “One has to understand that they are bringing the house back to life, not a toy that uses and throws,” Nair stresses. Excuses typically range from “going back to the office,” “can’t find a full-time caregiver” to “moving cities” and “allergies.” “Adopting a dog or a cat is like adopting a child. One should not make these decisions motivated if one is not able to devote their time and energy,” repeats Ganesh Ramani, Managing Director of Mars Petcare India.


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