Over the last couple of weeks, many pet owners like Nafisa are facing pressure from neighbours and landlords who are asking them to discard their pets. Some landlords are reportedly threatening to evict pet owners from their homes if they refuse to give up their pets
Just like any other house cat, Amour lives with Nafisa's family members in their apartment. However, when the coronavirus pandemic began, some of the residents told Nafisa she should get rid of her cat.
"During a committee meeting, one of the ladies told me it was inconsiderate of me to keep a cat in the house. I tried my best to not get angry and immediately left the place," Nafisa said.
Over the last couple of weeks, many pet owners like Nafisa are facing pressure from neighbours and landlords who are asking them to discard their pets.
Some landlords are reportedly threatening to evict pet owners from their homes if they refuse to give up their pets.
Panicked many pet owners are hiding their pets or leaving their pets out on the streets.
The World Health Organisation has stated that there is no evidence of the coronavirus being transmitted from animals to humans. Health experts too have not yet declared anything about pets causing the pandemic or making it worse.
An infected owner should, however, refrain from taking care of the pet and maintain hygiene.
Asking to remain anonymous, a writer from Dhaka shared her experience as a pet parent and a foster caregiver for animals with The Business Standard.
She said, "I used to look after and feed some of the stray animals in my area. The number has now increased as some of the residents are discarding their pets. Regardless of breed or age, some owners have left their pets out on the streets."
"I have soundproofed my apartment and hidden my cats. I have stocked up on cat food and other essentials, but I do not know how long I can continue like this."
Moreover, people are not following the guidelines for using bleaching powder and are using too much of it to clean the roads. Stray animals could get poisoned from it," she added worryingly.
Zoonotic diseases are those which spread from animals to humans, such as avian influenza (bird flu), SARS, MERS, swine flu and the nipah virus, that comes from fruit bats. Although the novel coronavirus is a zoonotic disease, there is no evidence supporting the transmission of COVID-19 from pets to humans.
Rohini Alamgir, project delivery manager at the World Food Programme Bangladesh, emphasized this lack of evidence and expressed her growing concern over the situation in Dhaka.
She added, "For coronavirus, we should be following the basic hygiene guidelines, such as frequently washing our hands, staying indoors etc. Throwing our animals out of our homes cannot possibly be an answer. This is just panic driven mania and as pet parents, we shouldn't be giving in to this. We need to fight back with facts."
Rahat Rahman is the co-owner of two cafes in the city which have play zones with cats in them. Both the places have been shut down due to coronavirus, but every day people turn up, asking the security guards whether they can leave their animals there.
Strangers keep messaging Rahat on Facebook, requesting to drop their animals off at the cafes.
"I have given up trying to make them understand that we do not run an animal shelter, and that it is simply wrong to throw your pets out of the house! I try to remain calm, but what is happening is disheartening," Rahat said.
Obhoyaronno, an animal welfare organisation in Dhaka's Mohakhali, recently posted on its Facebook page that it is willing to look for those who are being harassed by landlords for having pets.
It said it would help these people take legal action.
It has asked the victims to respond to eviction notices where they should clearly state that immediate eviction in this time of crisis is illegal and that there is no scientific or legal basis of it on the grounds of coronavirus.
Obhoyaronno founder Rubaiya Ahmad thinks that owners have to be strong-willed and take a stand against anyone trying to cause their pets any harm.
"If a landlord is asking you to get rid of your pets, know that there is no legal or social backing for it. So, exercise your power and do not tolerate such demands."
According to her, "If you are feeding or helping stray animals, please do it discreetly. Right now, making a fuss might attract the wrong kind of attention."
The Business Standard also reached out to the owner of Care and Cure Veterinarian Clinic Dr Shaddam Patwary.
"I have been trying to raise awareness about treating pets ever since the outbreak. I tell others that even after regularly handling ill animals, I am doing fine.
So the question of contracting the virus from healthy animals does not even arise."
The doctor also said, "The Animal Welfare Bill 2019 strictly prohibits any kind of cruelty towards animals. If a landlord tries to throw out a pet or harass the owner, he/she should be informed of this and if needed, one can call 999 and seek help."