ASPCA advice to shelters could increase puppy & kitten litters by about half a million in spring/summer 2020
While pet keepers in the developed world fret about the apparently infinitesimally small risk of pets and humans infecting and reinfecting each other, following the discovery of COVID-19 infecting one cat in Liege, Belgium, and two dogs and a cat in Hong Kong, dog and cat rescuers in the developing world are much more worried about the daily struggle of street dogs and feral cats to find food in abruptly deserted cities where scraps and handouts were until recently readily abundant.
The American SPCA, meanwhile, just ahead of April Fool’s Day urged U.S. animal shelters to sidestep or seek suspension of requirements that dogs and cats be spayed or neutered before adoption, a measure likely to result in about half a million additional puppy and kitten litters nationwide during the coming puppy and kitten season.
U.S. adoption demand might be strong enough to absorb most of the extra puppies and kittens, albeit that pit bull puppy adoptions may keep adult pit bulls from finding homes.
Hungry animals could undo progress
In the developing world, hungry dogs and cats becoming problematic in residential areas could undo decades of work to reduce fear of rabies and boost appreciation of the animals’ role in preventing disease by controlling rodents.
In Kathmandu, Nepal, as in most of the developing world, “Street dogs are usually fed by neighborhood stores and butcher shops, which have all closed down, and passers-by, who are all at home,” reported Anup Ojha and Tsering Ngodup Lama for the Kathmandu Post on March 27, 2019.
“As butchers, restaurants and shops around Kathmandu have all virtually closed, approximately 26,000 street dogs around the capital are relying on” volunteers from Street Dog Care and a variety of other local animal charities, Anup Ojha and Tsering Ngodup Lama wrote.
But the volunteer efforts are not always recognized or appreciated by public officials frantic to keep restive human populations in quarantine.
Animal rescuer beaten by Kathmandu cop
“One of our staff was beaten by a policeman. Our team is scared of both the coronavirus and the police now,” Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre board member Ben Charman told Anup Ojha and Tsering Ngodup Lama.
“It is dogs in temple and commercial areas I would be worried about,” Charman added. “These are places that would be good to visit, but as of today, we’re not risking that.”
Continued Anup Ojha and Tsering Ngodup Lama, “Animal Nepal’s mobile response treatment service and the activities of the Chobhar Dog Treatment Centre have also been functionally suspended since March 22, 2020, the day the lockdown was announced.”
Kathmandu Metropolitan City Environment Division chief Hari Bahadur Shrestha reportedly directed ward committees to feed the street dogs, monkeys, and wandering cattle found within their jurisdictions.
“No dogs injured in road accidents!”
Meanwhile, posted the Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre to Facebook on March 23, 2020, “We have noticed something incredible––we are receiving no reports of dogs being injured in road accidents! With less vehicles on the road, it is much safer for animals to cross, and they are finding the streets less dangerous.”
Little beyond the names would have to be changed to make the accounts from Kathmandu representative of almost any major city in southern Asia.
Emailed Bali Animal Welfare Association founder Janice Girardi to ANIMALS 24-7, “During the COVID-19 crisis, tourism has dropped off significantly. Our BAWA shops are closed, and donations have dried up. People asked to stay home or laid off of work are unable to provide for their families, let alone provide even a basic meal for their dog.”
“Travel restrictions trapping animals in Thailand”
“Travel restrictions are trapping animals in Thailand for the foreseeable future,” emailed Soi Dog Foundation president John Dalley from Phuket, on the Thai southern peninsula.
“Soi Dog’s shelter is always at or near capacity,” Dalley explained. “Hundreds of animals are adopted overseas every year,” opening space for newcomers, but “with adopted animals unable to leave our shelter to go to their new homes, we simply have no room for new animals in desperate need of help.”
Dalley hoped to raise funds enough with online appeals to acquire additional holding space for rescued dogs.
Kerala & Odisha, India, feed dogs
“Things are not great for us here either,” emailed Federation of Indian Animal Welfare Organizations executive director Varda Mehrotra, from New Delhi, India. “We are under total local lockdown, amid massive problems in keeping essentials accessible to the majority of people under the poverty line, and of course to animals.
“We are ramping up our government and public advocacy against animal agricultural practices, so there is something positive in that,” Mehrotra said. “Still, it is a terrible situation, especially as we see so many animals and people not even being able to get access to food, let alone health care.”
A hopeful note came from Kerala state, India, where chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan appealed to local community governments to feed street animals. State police detachments reportedly began feeding street dogs at a variety of public places, including deserted bus and railway stations.
Following suit a day later, Odisha state on March 30, 2020 allocated a sum equivalent to $71,000 to help feed street dogs and other stray animals in 53 cities.
COVID-19, rabies, & data
A paradox unremarked by anyone, except by ANIMALS 24-7, is that India, along with much of the rest of the world, is under indefinite quarantine in response to a global death toll from COVID-19 which, at the end of March 2020, stood at 42,140. Only 35 COVID-19 deaths had occurred in India, according to official figures.
Every one of those 42,140 deaths was documented. Every victim had a name, date of death, and place of death.
Despite tabloid rumors that COVID-19 deaths have been under-reported in various nations, including India, and China, where the disease originated, the documented data––reported by Worldometer, a project of the Center for Systems Science & Engineering––is universally accepted by the global public health community, including ProMED, the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases.
No more than 361 rabies deaths in any year since 2003
No such documentation exists for human rabies deaths, even though the rabies death toll published annually by the World Health Organization and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control has supposedly been higher than the COVID-19 death toll to date, year after year, for decades––and most of these deaths are, according to WHO and GARC, occurring in India and China.
The Central Bureau of Health Intelligence, the same Indian government agency that tracks and reports COVID-19 deaths, has documented no more than 361 rabies deaths in any year since 2003, including rabies 130 deaths in 2017, the most recent year of data available, with 46 of the deaths occurring in the single state of West Bengal.
No health agency in any other nation in the past 25 years has ever reported more.
High estimates projected from 1911 survey
As ANIMALS 24-7 has repeatedly pointed out, beginning in 2012, the astronomically high over-estimates of human rabies fatalities distributed by WHO and GARC can inevitably be traced back, footnote by footnote in journal citations, to a survey of government hospitals in British-ruled greater India published in 1911 by doctors David Semple and William F. Harvey.
This hospital survey was done just before Semple and Harvey introduced post-rabies exposure vaccination to India, and was projected at the time to the whole of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Afghanistan, all of which were then under British rule.
COVID-19 found in two Hong Kong dogs & a cat
The first COVID-19 cases in pet animals in dogs came to light in Hong Kong on March 3 and March 19, 2020, respectively. Infected were a 17-year-old Pomeranian and a German shepherd, both belonging to people with confirmed COVID-19 cases.
A media release from the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Department on March 26, 2020 disclosed that “Further serological testing conducted at the World Health Organization reference laboratory at the University of Hong Kong indicates that the Pomeranian had developed an immune response to the viral infection with antibodies found in the blood,” meaning that the Pomeranian was infected despite having no symptoms.
The German shepherd also showed no symptoms, according to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
A mixed breed dog lived in the same household, but was not infected, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department told media.
The Hong Kong cat case was reported on March 31, 2020. “Oral cavity, nasal, and rectal samples tested positive for the virus. The cat has not shown any signs of disease,” the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said.
The Belgian cat
On March 27, 2020, Belgian National Health Research Institute division of viral disease chief Steven Van Gucht disclosed to Maithe Chini of the Brussels Times that, “The veterinary medicine faculty in Liege recently reported that a coronavirus infection has been determined in a cat. The cat lived with her owner, who started showing symptoms of the virus a week before the cat did,” Van Gucht elaborated.
“We want to stress that this is an isolated case,” Van Gucht said. “There are no indications that this is common. Additionally, in this case, we are talking about a human-to-animal transmission, not the other way around. The risk of animal-to-human transmission is very small.”
Added virologist Emmanuel Andre, “Our colleagues from the Liege Faculty of Veterinary Medicine were able to demonstrate that a cat belonging to a person infected with COVID-19 had caught the disease. The animal developed symptoms,” including diarrhea, vomiting, and difficulty in breathing, “and the infection has been confirmed,” Andre said, while emphasizing that “This type of transmission, from human to animal, required close daily contact. This is an isolated case; it is not the rule.”
Large samples find no infected dogs or cats
Observed Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases deputy editor Marjorie Pollack, “According to earlier information, a team from the China Animal Health and Epidemiology Center tested prior to February 9, 2020 more than 4,800 samples from animals such as pigs, poultry, dogs, and cats, which were all negative” for COVID-19, though none of the animals were known to have been exposed to infected humans.
IDEX Reference Laboratories reportedly collected “more than 4,000 canine, feline, and equine specimens” over a four-week period beginning on February 14, 2020 from across the U.S. and South Korea, testing for COVID-19.
“To date, no positives have been detected in any specimens,” IDEX said. “Our monitoring of canine and feline specimens is ongoing and has now expanded to Canada, all U.S. states, and countries within the European Union, including areas with high rates of COVID-19 in the human population. All samples tested for COVID-19 have been negative.”
Humane Society of Pikes Peak Region rehomes every animal
As among animal rescuers in the developing world, animal shelters in the developed world remain chiefly concerned with the effects of COVID-19 panic and lockdowns, rather than with the disease itself.
Anticipating a possible staff shortage, the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region tried to rehome every animal in the shelter ahead of the lockdowns, and succeeded.
“That’s right, Colorado Springs. You did it again! We emptied out our Cat Adoption Center on March 25,” the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region exulted a day later, “and last night, we adopted out every dog in our available dog kennel! Amazing! Just look at all those empty kennels. We can’t thank you enough for helping us find homes for all these amazing pets during this difficult time!”
ASPCA urges suspension of s/n requirements to facilitate adoptions
On a much less triumphant note, the American SPCA on March 31, 2020 announced that, “For many reasons, including recommendations from the U.S. Surgeon General, we support animal shelters’ liberal exercise of discretion, where allowed by law, to adopt or place unaltered animals, particularly where placement is necessary to avoid euthanasia or where essential staffing levels are reduced due to COVID-19.”
Added the ASPCA, “As a champion of spay/neuter across the country, including the more than 90,000 spay/neuter surgeries we perform each year,” since annexing the former Humane Alliance spay/neuter organization in 2015, “we did not make this decision lightly.”
Elaborated the ASPCApro web site, “Staff and volunteer shortages due to illness or quarantine and the need to engage in ‘social distancing’ make providing the full range of critical sheltering services nearly impossible in many locations for the immediate future. Against this backdrop, there are recent requirements and recommendations, including some from the U.S. Surgeon General, to suspend elective or non-essential surgical procedures, which may be interpreted as applying to routine, non-emergency spay/neuter surgeries.
Allow surplus births to avoid euthanasias???!!!
“Even where spay/neuter services are expressly deemed ‘essential’ (such as in New York State),” the ASPCApro web site continued, “health care workers across the country are being forced to endanger themselves due to the increasing scarcity of personal protective equipment (including face masks and shields, gowns, and gloves). As a result, there have been calls for the temporary suspension of all but the most urgent medical procedures – for both animals and people – so this crucial protective gear can be used when it is most needed. These restrictions, shortages, and competing interests raise new barriers to adopting or placing animals, particularly in jurisdictions where the law restricts the adoption of dogs or cats who have not been spayed or neutered.”
The ASPCApro web site urged shelters to seek “suspension of spay/neuter law requirements during the COVID-19 crisis, particularly if these services have already been deemed ‘non-essential’ or otherwise cannot reasonably be performed during the pandemic.”
Not mentioned were the possible effects of such a suspension, which at the present rate of shelter adoptions, circa four million per year nationally, might result in an additional half million litters of puppies and kittens being born during the coming spring/summer “puppy and kitten season.”
Meanwhile in Britain
In Britain, Royal SPCA York branch manager Peter Gorbert told media that the national lockdown, by preventing people from visiting to adopt animals, had cost the shelter 90% of its anticipated income.
The Battersea Cats & Dogs Home, founded in 1860 and saved from bankruptcy in 1871 by an appeal issued by author Charles Dickens, suspended animal intake with about 100 cats and dogs in custody among three shelter locations, in London, Berkshire, and Kent.
Battersea Cats & Dogs Home head of operations Rob Young said it was the “first time in our history we’ve closed to the public.”