Coronavirus: China Shelters ‘Overwhelmed’ With Abandoned Animals

BBC / SUPPLIED

As millions of citizens in China stay locked in their homes to try to prevent the spread of coronavirus, animals are falling through the cracks.

Lockdown panic has caused many to give up their pets in fear that they’ll be contaminated. Others simply can’t get back to their homes where their animals are waiting.

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BBC / SUPPLIED

Coronavirus Fears Cause Many to Abandon Pets

“It’s very concerning,” says Mary Peng, founder of the International Center for Veterinary Services clinic in Beijing. “China’s animal shelters are generally unlicensed and run by good Samaritans and they are completely overwhelmed.”

A concerned citizen of Wuhan named Lao Mao told the BBC, “There are more animals needing help these days…[the situation is] very dangerous.” That person said he and his friends have rescued over 1,000 stranded animals.

“So many of them have starved to death,” Mao said. “Only a few of them can reach me for help. There’s nothing much I can do but I will save as many as I can.”

Many people who left the country for the Chinese New Year in January can’t get back to their pets due to the lockdown. They expected they could leave their pets alone with some food and water and that they’d be back soon. But tragically, over 60 million people were placed under travel restrictions. They couldn’t return to their pets, and it’s likely many of those animals starved.

People Hiding Animals in Need

A volunteer for the Furry Angels Heaven charity in Wuhan, China is keeping 36 dogs and 29 abandoned cats in her apartment. The volunteer spoke with TIME but asked that they keep her name anonymous. She fears retaliation if anyone finds out.

“I have to keep them secretly as the government only allows one dog per apartment,” she says. “My neighbors have complained to the police many times, but one policeman tips me off before a raid so I can hide the animals in my car.”

Apparently, if doctors diagnose a person in Wuhan with coronavirus, it’s policy to kill any animals living in that person’s home. This shocking practice is slated as a precautionary measure.

“It’s a bad situation here. We are not allowed to go outside and I am afraid my dogs and cats will be out of food soon. I am worried if I or my family get infected with the virus then all of the dogs and cats could be killed by policemen,” the anonymous pet rescuer told the BBC.

That same police officer who warns the volunteer of raids brought the woman two animals to hide because “he didn’t want to kill them.”