Rescuing the cats and dogs of New York City left behind by Covid-19 victims

It is nice to see the media discussing not only the human victims of Covid-19 in New York City but their cats and dogs as well. A brilliant network incorporating coordinated teamwork has achieved great success in caring for cats and dogs left behind either by deceased owners or those confined to hospitals because they contracted Covid-19.

Pet rescue NYC during the Covid-19 crisis. A great network of people make it work. Photo: Desiree Rios for The New York Times.

Sarah Maslin Nir of The New York Times reports on those involved in this sad story. The first thing I note is that in late April, New York City’s emergency management and welfare offices created a hotline for people who were having difficulties caring for their pets during the pandemic. It appears to have proved vital as a hub to which victims of Covid-19 and their neighbours can address their problems and report abandoned cats and dogs.

Also an organisation which appears to be central in the rescue of these animals is Animal Care Centers of NYC. Dr Robin Brennen is a veterinarian at this organisation and part of a team of specialists who have helped companion animals left behind.

A problem with cats and dogs (and other pets) left behind, because their owner has to go the hospital, is that somebody has to contact the services to ensure that they are rescued and care for. The hotline I mentioned above is obviously a great help in this regard. On other occasions cat and dog owners have failed to notify, for one reason or another, the services and on these occasions neighbours have helpfully stepped in because, for instance, they have heard dogs barking inside empty apartments.

In addition to rescuing pets, New Yorkers can avoid surrendering their pets by contacting the hotline requesting assistance with regards to subsidised emergency veterinary medicine and the city’s network of free pet food pantries.

The New York Times reports that as at June 17 about 145 New Yorkers had turned over their animals via the hotline. It was the only option apparently I assume that on some occasions it is because the owners have died because of the virus. The animals have been cared for by Animal Care Centres of NYC. Cats go into automatic quarantine for 14 days because it is now known that they can contract Covid-19 from their owners. After quarantine they can be adopted.

The staff who go into homes to rescue companion animals are well equipped. One guy who does it is Feraz Mohammed, an animal control officer at Animal Care Centers of NYC. He goes in with his Tyvek suit (a kind of hazmat suit), cat carrier, face mask and the ability to get those desperate companion animals into a safe environment. He says that entering homes where the virus is present can be nerve wracking.

Recently he entered the apartment of a person who had been hospitalised by the virus and her dog and cat had been left in the apartment for five days. The tabby cat was hiding under the couch. He coaxed her out. The cat’s dog companion bounded towards him delighted to see him. He said that once they are fed and watered they feel better.

You can’t help but be impressed by the network of organisations who are involved in the rescue of these animals. They are the victims of victims of Covid-19. I have mentioned two but there are others. For example, one group, Red Rover provides financial help to people with pets in crisis. They all deserve a big pat on the back for being committed to animal welfare under dire circumstances.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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