The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on companion animals around the world. Shelters and rescues in many countries are seeing an increase in abandoned dogs and cats or have had to remove animals from homes and localities where people have become sick or fled. With lockdowns in effect in so many places, street dogs and cats and other animals, who usually depend on human activity such as markets and shops to obtain food to survive, are going hungry.

Thanks to a generous grant from Mars, Incorporated, Humane Society International is bringing relief and help to these animals in more than 20 countries. These are places where our help is most needed right now, and where we already have a strong network of partners and volunteers on the ground to work with quickly and efficiently.

As you will see in the following video, HSI staff and volunteers wearing personal protection equipment like masks and gloves have been feeding starving animals in countries from India to South Africa. They are bringing food and medical treatment to dogs in communities that can't access veterinary care, ensuring companion animals remain in loving homes and out of shelters. And they are even helping reunite owners, in some cases, with lost pets by mobilizing a vast social media network built through years of working on the ground in these countries.

Already, we have helped more than 100,000 dogs and cats in these countries, and we expect to reach many, many more over two more phases of this project in coming months.

In South Africa, for instance, we have delivered 700 COVID-19 relief packages, with dog food and face masks, for dogs and their owners in communities around the town of Hoedspruit. The dogs will receive medication for internal and external parasites; our partner in the country, HALO, has been running a spay/neuter program and emergency veterinary treatment for community dogs during the pandemic in accordance with local veterinary regulations. We will also support three other partners in the Greater Cape Town area in days to come and hope to have tremendous impact for community dogs there.

In India, HSI teams have been feeding dogs in hard-to-reach areas in the cities of Lucknow, Vadodara, Dehradun, Jamnagar and Dindigul. We partnered with local organizations or government agencies in six more cities and fed more than 18,000 street dogs each day, and sometimes cats. We are also providing medical treatment to more than 1,000 dogs with injuries and illnesses.

I have heard so many heartwarming stories from staff, like a reunion our India team facilitated between a lost dog, Coco, and her owner, Ritika. Coco had wandered out after someone left the front gate open and Ritika couldn’t go out looking for him because of a lockdown where she lived. When our team was called in they immediately mobilized a vast community network and posted pictures of the dog online. Soon, Ritika and Coco were back together.

Then there's Anarkali, a three-month-old kitten who had lost her mother, and who our team successfully placed in a loving, forever home despite all the limitations in place during the pandemic.

In coming days I hope to hear even more such stories as our partnership work with Mars continues in the following regions:

  • In the Americas, where the United States is a key area of focus. We’re also providing assistance to partners on the ground in Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Guyana.
  • In South Asia, where our robust street animal welfare program in India will continue. We are also supporting our partners on the ground in China where we have seen instances of both animal abandonment and animals left behind when people became ill or fled the area.
  • In Africa, where we are bringing help to South Africa and Liberia, where we have country offices, and Mauritius, to help street animals and companion animals. We will also be bringing help to Tanzania, Nigeria, Morocco and Mozambique.
  • In Italy, Serbia, Nepal and parts of the Middle East, which will also receive or are in the process of receiving funds.

We realize that as this pandemic progresses, other nations may need our help, and we stand ready to assist to the best of our ability. HSI has years of experience helping animals and people in disaster-struck areas, which positions us ably even during an unprecedented situation such as the one we are now in.

We are grateful to the hundreds of staff and volunteers who are working every day to keep animals safe at a time they need help more than ever. And we are truly thankful to Mars, our longtime partner, for making it possible during this crisis to expand our lifesaving work for companion animals and the humans who care about them. We’ll keep you updated on our progress in days to come.