While the nation-wide lockdown has affected people's lives adversely - in more ways than one - stray animals have ended up becoming an unforeseen casualty of the COVID-19 crisis.
With a rising number of positive coronavirus cases in the country, several states have implemented complete lockdown by shutting down daily markets, roadside fast food shops and tea stalls, leaving all stray animals in the lurch, with a majority of street dogs losing their sole source of food.
Additionally, the restriction of people and vehicular movement in the city has inconvenienced several good Samaritans who feed strays.
While some of the strays are starving because they have a hard time finding food, many residents have taken it upon themselves to feed them whenever possible.
One such individual is the 27-year-old Vishal Sai, an ardent animal lover. A resident of Mylapore, he has been feeding stray dogs in his locality for a few years and is doing his best to cover other areas as well.
Every day, Vishal and his friends feed a packet of biscuits for each dog, provide them with water and even play with them for a little while.
Taking care of at least 20 street dogs Vishal says, "Over the last few weeks, my friends and I have taken extra efforts to ensure that all the dogs are fed at least twice a day."
Following all lockdown criteria, Vishal and his friends commute on bikes to cover a larger area to feed our pawsome friends.
"We always have biscuits, water and bowls in our backpacks and feed the strays wherever we go," he adds.
Expressing the challenges he faces Vishal says, "We usually buy the food for them and it's a little heavy on our pockets. However, seeing the good work that we do, many have come forward to help us."
Similarly, Girija Sankar, a resident of Adyar does her bit to help the strays.
"It is saddening to see the strays suffering without food and drinking water during this crisis. Whenever I step out for essentials, I ensure that I buy something for the strays and feed them," says the socialite.
Girija adds that we must take the initiative to help the strays and has also encouraged her neighbours to do the same.
As it is Summer, she has urged everyone she knows to place water bowls outside their homes.
Sudha Chandrasekar, Managing Director of SANS Animal Welfare Association, says that the objective of her NGO has always been to prevent hunger and suffering of animals and promote their welfare.
Located at Kil Ayanambakkam, this place is a home for strays, rescues and abandoned animals. "Ever since the lockdown, people have been abandoning their pets at an alarming rate. Over the last couple of months, we saw more than 30 such cases. We have taken it upon ourselves to locate the rightful owners and educate them about the emotional trauma it has on animals," says Sudha.
While some owners understand and bring their furry friends back home, some don't and leave their pets on the streets.
"We bring these abandoned pets to SANS and try our best to find them suitable homes. While some are re-homed, most spend their lives at our NGO," adds the animal activist.
Sudha points out that not only dogs, but cats, hamsters, rabbits and even cows are abandoned during the lockdown as people think that they are carriers of the virus.
The activist argues that there has been no study or case that shows that COVID-19 can be transmitted from animals to humans.
CU Ashok Raj, a renowned photographer in the city, feels that we, as individuals, are not doing our best to help the strays.
The Gill Nagar resident says, "I have found stray dogs that are restless and run from one place to another in search for food. Recently, there has been an influx of streeties as they have travelled in search of food."
Ashok feels that if residents of each neighbourhood team up and try their best to take care of the strays in their area, then none of them would have to starve during any kind of outbreak.