While humans are suffering immeasurably from the coronavirus crisis, cats and dogs in Hungary have also become unlikely victims of the outbreak.
According to Magyar Nemzet, a number of Hungarians are abandoning their pets out of fear that their cats and dogs can be carriers of the disease, while other pet owners suffering hospitalization have simply been unable to care for their animals.
While there are some studies that show cats can carry the infection, dogs are less likely to catch the disease, with only a few isolated reports arising where dogs tested positive. At the same time, experts are advising pet owners to not abandon their pets, as the odds of transmission are negligible.
Human doctors and veterinarians also indicate that while dogs and cats are unlikely to catch the disease, their fur and paws can carry the virus just like any other clothing item, meaning that people shouldn’t stroke any animal on the streets and clean their own pets as well as possible when entering the house. Cat owners should also refrain from letting their cat roam freely outside.
The other issue in Hungary involves hospitalized owners being unable to care for their pets. The problem is further amplified by the fact that many animal shelters are temporarily closed. While these shelters continue to care for animals already there, they do not accept new arrivals.
What is happening in Hungary is the polar opposite of what has been happening in the United States, where out of fear of being stranded home alone, people have virtually emptied all animal shelters in search of a companion.
Under the umbrella of the National Food Safety Authority (NÉBIH), that coordinates the effort and helps in gathering donations, several animal welfare associations have established a “Unified Emergency Animal Protection System”, available on its own website.
One of the few animal shelters that is still open to the public, Rex, has established more stringent screening of potential owners for the duration of the crisis in an attempt to asses their true commitment. The shelter is also warning people that they should only adopt a pet if they are certain it can be cared for even if the owner is hospitalized.
Another dog shelter association, ZöldEb (GreenDog in English), has set up a network of helpers who assist people in walking and feeding their pets and even find temporary homes for those animals whose owners cannot be at home for some reason.
Title image: Dog and his owner in Budapest. (Magyar Nemzet/Zoltán Havran)