Deccan Chronicle

Abandoned pets undergo significant psychological trauma

Deccan Chronicle.| Shritha Chillappagari

Published on: September 13, 2023 | Updated on: September 13, 2023
Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra with adorable rescue dogs Panda and Diana. (Image: DC)

Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra with adorable rescue dogs Panda and Diana. (Image: DC)

Almost 3000 pets have gone missing as a result of the recent Maui wildfires. There have been 367 reports of missing pets, and pet owners file a loss report to help identify and match any found animals. Indoor pets in buildings haven’t received food or water in more than a week. An estimated 38% of cleared areas do not yet have someone removing live animals. Following the recent Joshimath land subsidence disaster, the area was labelled ‘unsafe’, forcing owners to flee their homes and leaving their pets at the mercy of the conditions, according to reports.

The Impact Of Natural Disasters

During natural calamities, animal casualties are always greater than human casualties.

Archana Naidu, co-founder of Society for Animal Aid, says, "Humans have advanced in the world. Pets form attachments to their owners in the same way that children do, and they are far more reliant on their owners. Animals that have been cared for by their family will be as terrified as humans amid natural disasters. The pets do not know how to protect themselves and are not prepared or trained to look after themselves during a disaster, causing them a great deal of psychological anguish. Many pet owners take it for granted that they can leave their pets in the wild to fend for themselves. It’s the same as orphaning a human infant. People should regard animals as beings with equal feelings as themselves."

separation anxiety

Pets will be quite disappointed to learn that their owners have abandoned them. They exhibit significant psychological and behavioural changes. "They are always hoping that someone will adopt and care for them. Fortunately, these animals are more adaptable, and they quickly submit and accept the reality. Pets are dependant for life, and when abandoned during a natural disaster, they lose their home," says Archana.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can affect both humans and their pets. "When pets raised in a safe and pleasant environment are unexpectedly left alone, they experience a variety of traumatic situations that induce anxiety, fear, aggression, and despair. These feelings have a direct impact on pet health. Pet parents don’t give much thought to their pets. It’s unfortunate that most people don’t consider the consequences before adopting or abandoning a pet," explains Jasleen Kaur, veterinary surgeon and owner of Allvet Pet Clinic adding, "Though such pets may be adopted again in the future, they require a household that is especially caring and has more time to spare to understand the pet’s special requirements and to be patient with them and allow them to overcome their trauma in their own time."

Need for a suitable environment

When trapped, pets who were raised to be dependent on their owners are unable to find food on their own. "They gradually start to rely more on dump yards and garbage. After going days without food, they became angry and began assaulting people. When pets begin to live on the streets, away from their comfort zone and clean environment, they are considerably more susceptible to contract various diseases and infections, just like humans," says Jasleen Kaur.

Post disaster recovery

Pets that survive a disaster make their first attempt to refuse rescuers’ assistance.  "Most animals can tell the difference between people who are trying to help them and those who are there to harm them. They may attack out of fear at first, but after they discover they are being saved and that the rescuer is simply trying to help them, they accept the assistance. It may take a few tries to get the pets to understand the intentions of the rescuers, but with consistent efforts and a loving attitude towards them, they will eventually give in," says Archana.

The trapped animals must be transported to the veterinarian as soon as possible to rule out any injuries. "To recover from their trauma and avoid long-term anxiety and depression symptoms, the animals require consistent affection and care in addition to medical assistance. They go through a considerable metamorphosis, just like humans. All they require is a sense of security and safety. Following the ordeal, the creatures require the greatest possible care, assurance, and sustenance," says Jasleen.

Importance of Animal Rescue teams

People shouldn’t anticipate the vet to do rescue missions when they are in need. The animal rescue teams must be established and informed right away when a disaster strikes. The teams of animal rescuers are well-equipped to carry out operations to save abandoned animals since they have the necessary manpower, tools, and training. Pets can only be saved when there are Animal Rescue teams on the job because they are easily lost in buildings while seeking shelter during disasters. "It’s very easy for a pet or a stray to get stranded in a building or location during, say floods or earthquakes. Rescuing them is only possible if there is a specialised rescue team on the job just like for humans. And we are very lucky to have such teams in Hyderabad and most major cities," says Jasleen Kaur.

Disaster plans need to be in place

"Despite the fact that it is well recognised that conserving animal lives helps people rebuild their lives, disaster preparedness rarely takes animals into account. Budgets and investments must be allocated to meet their demands, which are classified into relief operations. Every country has disaster plans in place for all types of disasters. Why are animals not included in the goal to reconstruct lives more quickly? There are insufficient shelters to care for abandoned dogs. According to GHMC data, there are around 6 lakh stray animals without a refuge. Animal birth control schemes must be implemented as one solution to the problem," claims Archana.

Adopt don’t shop

To aid animals in need, many people have genuinely opened their hearts. They continued to save these animals from a terrible environment and provide them the devoted home they so richly deserved.

Meghan and Harry have adopted a dog Mia from an animal shelter. Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas have  adopted two dogs — Panda and Diana from the shelter.

You don’t always have to select a pedigreed puppy or a designer dog.

Heart Evangelista, actress, artist, singer, businesswoman, socialite, VJ, and fashion influencer, has taken in her fair share of animal rescues in her capacity as a spokesperson for the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). She currently has five dogs, three cats, and even a lamb named Bambino in her flock. More significantly, many of them have consistently urged their fans to adopt pets rather than buy them. Geetanjali Chitta, a market research executive in Pepsico acquired two cats, a mother cat and her kittens. She has two cats and two kittens that she has adopted. "I started feeding a pregnant cat during the covid period. The cat eventually caused problems. I tried to take her home, but Spicy (cat) would become restless because she was not used to staying indoors, and she also had kittens to care for. We adopted her when she was four years old. Though she is gentle with humans, she gets agitated when she sees other cats. It was tough at first to control her."

"Laila, (the stray dog) was unwell after its mother died in a car accident," says homemaker Seema Mohanchandran, a pet owner who acquired a stray pup during the covid pandemic. "After witnessing her mother’s death, the pup was initially uneasy around people, but she eventually became accustomed to those she saw on a regular basis. We had to leave the dogs at a boarding facility for around 6 weeks when we relocated from Udaipur to Calcutta. The other pets were alright, but she did not fit in at the boarding house.  She did not allow other dogs to approach us since she suffered from separation anxiety after losing her mother at a very young age." Seema has 8 rescued and adopted pets in total with 4  rescued dogs - one being a paraplegic and 4 rescued cats.

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