Volunteers swing into action to feed stranded pets amid Wuhan lockdown

By Huang Lanlan Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/5 18:08:03

Zeng Eryang's British shorthair, Yoyo Photo: Courtesy of Zeng Eeryang

Zeng Eryang anxiously woke up from her dream one night after returning to her hometown. She dreamed of her British shorthair Yoyo, left in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province, which records the largest number of the novel coronavirus infections and has been since dubbed as the epicenter of the deadly epidemic. 

Zeng returned to her hometown in East China's Shandong Province on January 18 to spend the Chinese New Year (CNY) holiday with her family, leaving Yoyo alone at her rented apartment in Wuhan. 

The 25-year-old was gripped with nervousness after the Wuhan government announced the quarantine policy to contain the virus transmission, which banned people from entering or exiting the city from January 23.

The policy worried Zeng. Owing to her initial plan of returning within two weeks, she had only prepared 15 days of food and water at her apartment for Yoyo before leaving. 

"I daren't imagine what could happen if I wouldn't be back on time," she sighed.

Zeng is one of the tens of thousands of Wuhan pet owners who left their pets alone at home this CNY vacation. According to mayor Zhou Yongwang, over 5 million Wuhan residents had left this city before the quarantine was imposed.

Chen Wei's boyfriend's pug dog, Fries Photo: Courtesy of Chen Wei

Free service

At least one in 10 Wuhan families raises pets, local animal-rights advocates said.

The city has a total of 300,000 to 600,000 pet dogs, estimated Du Fan, director of Wuhan Small Animal Protection Association (WSAPA).

The number of pet cats in Wuhan is harder to count. "Probably double the pet dogs," Du told the Global Times Tuesday.

Worrying about those several 'home-alone' pets that may hardly survive because of the city quarantine, Du and other WSAPA members decided to give a helping hand. 

They wrote a post on social media on January 26 in a bid to get in touch with owners like Zeng who couldn't return on time to feed their pets.

"Contact us if you left your pet alone in Wuhan," the post stated. "Our volunteers will visit your home and feed it for free."

Zeng happened to see the post on February 1 after all of her previous efforts, including asking her friends and neighbors for help, had failed. She excitedly called the association and was assigned a volunteer who visited her apartment with a spare key that afternoon.

WSAPA strictly regulates the owners providing volunteers keys or passcodes to their homes, or permitting them to call a locksmith.

Zeng watched the volunteer add food and water for Yoyo. "We were on a video call during the whole process," she recalled.

To reassure the pet owners who have security concerns on strangers entering their premises, the association asks its volunteers to make video calls with them when in their homes. "It also enables the owners to see the condition of their pets," Du said.

Zeng's Yoyo looked healthy and energetic in the camera. Better yet, that afternoon the volunteer prepared Yoyo 20 more days of food and water within reach and promised Zeng to come again days later to clean the cat's litter box.

"I felt relieved," she told the Global Times.

List of pet owners seeking help from Wuhan Small Animal Protection Association Photo: Coutersy of the association

More pets to feed

To date, WSAPA has helped 500 'home-alone' pet owners across the city. "We have some 60 volunteers who can visit more than 100 homes per day," Du introduced.

Local resident Chen Wei received their help Monday. 

Chen's non-native boyfriend left Wuhan before the quarantine, and she kept visiting his apartment to feed his pug dog, Fries, until her community started banning the exit of all residents as there had been many confirmed cases of infection in her community.

Fortunately, Chen contacted a WSAPA volunteer who happened to live in the vicinity of her boyfriend's apartment. This middle-aged female volunteer not only added food and water for Fries but also cleaned its excrement.

"I'm deeply grateful to her," she told the Global Times, adding that she would like to join the volunteer group after the epidemic situation improves.

More pet owners are still anxiously waiting for help. There are over 1,000 names on the association's waiting list as of Tuesday, Du said.

Keeping 'home-alone' pets alive and healthy is beneficial for the city's virus prevention and control, he said. "Or their bodies would decay and breed lots of bacteria if they finally died alone."

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