In the middle of the coronavirus outbreak, a key demographic is being neglected — pets. In Wuhan, the center of the virus outbreak, travel bans and quarantines have trapped many pet owners away from home, meaning their animals are being left to fend for themselves. An estimated 50,000 pets had been left at home around the time of the lockdown which coincided with the Lunar New Year, so local volunteers are stepping up to make sure those pets are safe.
Lao Mao — a pseudonym meaning “Old Cat” — is one of the volunteers spearheading the mission to feed pets left alone during the isolation. “The volunteers on our team, me included, have saved more than 1,000 pets since January 25th,” he told Reuters. “My phone never stops ringing these days. I barely sleep […] My conservative estimate is that around 5,000 are still trapped, and they may die of starvation in the coming days.”
Unsubstantiated rumors claiming that animals may be contributing to the virus’ spread, have led to a number of abandoned pets, and the threat of extermination of dogs wandering the streets.
Lao Mao and his team can’t save every single pet in China, but they’re doing their best to visit as many homes as they can, entering by whatever means necessary — with the knowledge and approval of owners, of course — and making sure pets get the food, water, and care they need.