When India’s COVID-19 lockdown forced a family of migrant workers, to pack their bags and leave Mumbai to return to their villages, there was no question of leaving their pets behind. A photograph of the family, walking on India’s Mumbai-Nasik Highway, holding a puppy and a goose went viral on Twitter today, and started a debate on how, when a crisis strikes, pets should not be abandoned.
Tweep @navin_nadar posted the photo with the caption: “This is a family of migrant workers. They are walking on the Mumbai Nasik Highway along with their belongings. So next time when you think to give up your pet whom you ‘loved like your own child’ just remember this pic.”
The photograph gained thousands of likes and retweets, with most people praising the duo, for not letting hunger and poverty stop them from taking care of their pets.
Twitter user @Devyyanni tweeted: “This is amazing, they are poor, they are struggling for food, but to a parent, their child always comes first. Pets are your children and should always be treated like that, even if adversity strikes.
And, @iid_sp added: “Noble, noble souls. I am lost for words at my utter helplessness.”
When the novel coronavirus pandemic struck, there were reports from across the world that people had started abandoning their pets. They feared that animals constituted a risk vector for COVID-19. Soon after, the World Health Organisation issued a clarification on their website, stating that “there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19”.
Many tweeps said that educated and “fancy” pet-owners, needed to learn from this migrant family.
Tweep @imaarush posted: “Education does not come from merely books of facts and data. It's wisdom which make us human and gives the ability to discern and respect moral values, acquired through experience.”
And, @alooishh posted: “Poor are we who surrender at first impression of trouble. Her hands and heart is full of love. She is rich, I am not.”
According to an Australia-based news website, theconversation.com, animals, specifically pets, “remain at risk in ways not currently considered in national policy responses. This includes the risks of abandonment, opportunistic adoption and poor outcomes post-pandemic, and domestic violence.”
Reportedly, in many parts of the world, the lockdown resulted in a rise in pet adoptions. Animal activists now worry that once people go back to work, these pets will be abandoned again.
The viral photograph of the migrant workers was also noticed and shared by Bollywood actress, Anushka Sharma on her Instagram stories.
Sharing the story of another such family in her neighbourhood, @jenaanindya posted: “A beggar's family of three members and a pet dog are visiting a nearby school where the labourers and needy are being provided with cooked food, they always ask for an extra food packet for that pet.”
Along with praising the poor, considerate labourers, Twitter users also continued to highlight the plight of those walking long distance on foot.
Tweep @averagekind posted: “Why is no one doing anything for these migrant workers? It breaks my heart...”
India’s lockdown is expected to continue through May 17, with the government easing the lockdown in phases gradually.