Pets at the centre of the coronavirus crisis in Wuhan separated from their families are helped by Animals Asia support

07 February 2020

In the city of Wuhan there are an estimated six to eight hundred thousand cats and dogs living as companion animals many of whom have been separated from their families who were unable to return to Wuhan before transport links returning to the city were severed.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that “at present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus.”

Although cats and dogs  are not at risk of catching or spreading the coronavirus, many are at risk of being impacted by the unintended consequences of the measures put in place to stop the spread of the disease. More than 700 families have reached out to the Wuhan Small Animal Protection Association for help to rescue their cats and dogs from starvation. Many residents of Wuhan were visiting their families for Chinese New Year celebrations when the city was locked down on 23 January and were not able to return home in time. 

Animals Asia was keen to help and has provided the association with 5,000kilos of dog and cat food sourced from local stock. The pet food company joined us in showing compassion in action in this time of crisis by providing 500kilos absolutely free.

Du Fan, president of the Wuhan Small Animal Protection Association, was quoted in Red Star News saying:

"If we didn't offer help, the dogs and cats would have perished at home before their owners got back, it's our responsibility to help the animals."

Where possible the association is visiting the homes of families that have contacted them to ensure the wellbeing of their pets. In some cases the association has been sent the keys, or a security code to enter the residences, elsewhere the families have paid for locksmiths to grant them entry. When the home owners haven’t got enough pet food in the house, the association step in with the help of Animals Asia and other animal welfare groups.

Local groups are also doing an amazing job sharing important information and dispelling harmful myths. The Chinese internet is now very quickly refuting the unfounded rumors that companion animals can spread the coronavirus, with authoritative nation-wide media promoting the message from WHO.

Animals Asia’s China Cat and Dog Welfare Manager Saber Zhang said:

“We knew we would have to act fast to help ensure the welfare of cats and dogs during this crisis. We are lucky that the Wuhan Small Animal Protection Association are so well organised and that our support could be utilised so quickly and efficiently to protect some of the animals affected at the epicentre of this crisis. We would like to thank the association of their bravery in action in helping animals who would otherwise have needlessly suffered or died while this crisis is brought under control. We would also like to thank the pet food company who met the compassion of our supporters with their own compassion in action and a generous donation themselves. A final huge thank you to all the Animals Asia supporters around the world. There are cats and dogs with full bellies tonight who aren’t crying themselves to sleep with hunger because of their generosity and kindness.”

Further afield Animals Asia has had to suspend the Dr Dog and Professor Paws visits in Hong Kong, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Nanning due to the outbreak. Usually, our certified dogs would visit the elderly to bring the joy of canine companionship to those who need it most, or go into schools to educate the young about how to interact responsibly with dogs.

Guangzhou Dr Dog Yoyo visits nursing house for the elderly

Karina O'Carroll, our Animal Welfare Education Manager, said:

“It’s with a heavy heart that we have suspended these programmes while this crisis is ongoing. These dogs bring tangible healing and joy to people who are in dire need of their unconditional love. However, with the conditions on the ground as they are, the difficult decision was made, to cease activities until more information can be obtained about the spread and risk to all from the virus. Our thoughts are with all those affected and our condolences go out to the families who have lost loved ones to this virus. And once the virus is under control and safety for our volunteers returns our Dr Dogs and Professor Paws will be out like a shot, doing what they do best: putting smiles back onto people’s faces.”

Pizza, the new Dr Dog

It is not yet known how long this crisis will last, and as we may not yet have seen the peak, we will continue to do our best to prepare for the worst, including seeking any opportunity to help dogs and cats in urgent need. Our teams are working around the clock to help animals that through no fault of their own are impacted by this unprecedented and unpredictable crisis.

Please continue to support their work by donating today.