Amidst all the negative aspects of the pandemic around the globe, the feel-good thing that has occurred is improved human-animal relationships. Previously studies have shown that owning a companion animal bears benefits for people dealing with stress, depression, etc. At the onset of the pandemic there were misleading information regarding animals being potential COVID-19 carriers. Unfortunately, this notion caused fear among people around the globe resulting in huge increase in pet abandonment.
However, gradually the fear started disappearing with ‘stay-at-home’ orders. People across the globe started turning to pets to reduce loneliness and stress. Globally, a huge increase in pet adoption was observed during lockdown. “Adoption rates have skyrocketed,” says Animal Shelter Administrator Mindy Naticchioni from Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter. According to industry data from PetPoint, animal welfare organizations across the U.S. saw a spike in adoptions during the second half of March, with an estimated national adoption rate of 58% at the beginning, jumping to 85% by the end of the month. Moreover, dog shelters across Australia received many applications for dog adoption. Mars Petcare India General Manager Ganesh Ramani stated that there has been an exponential surge in pet adoption as people are spending more time at home and alone. The demand for pet around the globe was so high that the animal shelters faced shortage of pets.
Though the picture in many countries are found same but still there are parts of the world that have observed increase in pet abandonment during the pandemic. Malaysia has witnessed increasing number of abandoned pets. Lydia Nathan, member of rescue group ‘Voice For Paws’ , Kuala Lumpur said, “People lost their jobs, they did not have the funds to actually look after their dogs to feed their dogs at home. It’s really disheartening and really sad to see so many dogs being abandoned these days.” The similar scenario was observed in China too. The leading factor behind increasing rates of pet abandonment in some parts of the world is economic slowdown. People finding it difficult to manage expenses to care after their pets causing pet abandonment.
Despite higher rates of pet adoption around the globe, it can not be said that the pet abandonment rate will keep declining. People adopting pets to remain stress free during lockdown may not continue owning pets after the situation gets back to normal. If any unwanted challenges occur like recession, the chances of abandoning pets will rise. Moreover, increased domestic violence during pandemic bears disastrous impact on pets which often goes unnoticed. A 2008 Victorian story found who entered a shelter to escape from domestic violence stated that their pets had also been harmed. Animal shelters, rescue networks, etc. have to play a crucial role to help animals avoid the challenges.
Animal Lovers of Bangladesh (ALB)
While speaking of the responsibility of animal shelters, the role of Animal lovers of Bangladesh(ALB),an animal shelter in Bangladesh needs to be mentioned. ALB has been advocating for animal rights through their awareness and rehabilitation activities in response to the increasing violence against animals since 2000. Though there is law against animal cruelty but still proper implementation is a matter of question. Due to the greatest initiative of ALB, a huge number of stray animals have found their home. During pandemic, animal activists in Bangladesh protested for animal rights as government took decision to relocate stray animals. The pandemic generated survival challenges for stray animals of Bangladesh. Animal lovers, activists, foundations tried their best to speak on behalf of these animals from their respective fields.
Hence, it can be said that human-animal relationships during pandemic have varied from country to country. In many countries pet abandonment rate has decreased as human beings felt the urgency to bond with pets during lockdown. But as there are possibilities of occurring challenges during post- pandemic scenario stated above so it’s still a matter of concern that pandemic induced increased rate of pet adoption will continue increasing even after the pandemic or not.