A woman leads a dog past barriers along the nearly empty Nanjing Road shopping street out of affected areas during the Covid lockdown in Shanghai on March 31, 2022.
Qilai Shen | Mayor Bloomberg | fake images
For Anjo, a 2-year-old Pomeranian mix, that means a small patch of leaves and grass that Dani Chapman has cobbled together on her balcony while caring for a friend’s dog in quarantine.
“We had to come up with really creative ways to encourage dogs to use the bathroom inside,” said Chapman, 32, an English teacher from Ireland who also volunteers with animal rescue groups.
Almost every 26 million residents in ShanghaiChina’s largest city and financial center, are locked in a major test of country’s zero-tolerance pandemic strategy, which seeks to minimize cases through border closures, mass testing, contact tracing and quarantine. On Friday, the city reported a record 21,000 new cases, almost all asymptomatic.
The closure prevents residents from leaving their enclosures and sometimes even their apartments, and the government has not said whether that applies to pets as well. Chapman said the final decision rests with each compound.
Some communities have agreed to make an exception for dog-walking, but others are refusing or leaving the rules ambiguous, meaning dogs in some parts of the city have been kept indoors for nearly two weeks.
“It’s all based on luck and how understanding the community committee is, which really isn’t fair to the dogs,” Chapman said.
Pet owners trying to play by the rules are doing their best to simulate the great outdoors, which works better for some dogs than others. Like Chapman, Kyle Chen covered part of his balcony with leaves and grass for Kaká, his 4-year-old schnauzer. The dog wasn’t having it.
As a last resort, Chen began secretly walking with Kaká when no one was around, usually early in the morning or late at night.
“I have exhausted all means,” he said, adding that his furtive walks had been approved by the person in charge of enforcing anti-epidemic regulations in his compound.
Homebound Shanghai residents have complained of difficulties obtaining food and medical care, concerns that pet owners say extend to animals as well. The lockdowns were originally set to last just five days, and many people were unprepared for them to be extended as tests turned up new cases. Panic buying, store closings and a shortage of delivery people have some owners worried about what their pets will eat.
Others worry that their pets won’t be able to receive veterinary care because many animal hospitals are closed.
“And if something urgent happens, who else could come to our aid?” said Ashley Huang, who has a 3-year-old Shetland Sheepdog named Dundun.
Another issue causing pet owners distress is what happens if they or someone they know tests positive for the virus. According to Chinese government policy, COVID-19 patients and their close contacts are sent to centralized quarantine facilities, while those with more severe symptoms are hospitalized. But it’s not clear what happens to their pets.
Chen said he couldn’t imagine being separated from Kaká if he got infected.
“It’s like you’re letting your 4-year-old ride alone,” he said.
A simulated outdoor environment didn’t work out so well for Kyle Chen’s 4-year-old schnauzer, Kaka. Courtesy Kyle Chen
Throughout the pandemic, there have been reports across China of pets being killed in the name of virus prevention after their owners are sent into isolation or quarantine, sparking an outcry among China’s growing legion of devoted pet owners. country. This week, a video widely shared online appeared to show an epidemic worker in Shanghai beating a corgi to death in the street after its covid-positive owner was taken away.
After watching the video, “who isn’t going to start worrying about what their pets are going to suffer if they test positive?” Huang said.
The incident was similar to one in Jiangxi province in November, when a woman shared home security camera video of two anti-epidemic workers beating her corgi to death while it was in quarantine.
There is little risk of animals passing the virus to people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
By contrast, the southern city of Shenzhen, which recently underwent a week-long lockdown, has established China’s first “pet hut”, a roughly 16,000-square-foot space that can accommodate about 300 pets for free to ease the worries of owners who are isolated or quarantined. Shanghai residents have called on the government to establish something similar.
Chen said there would be less panic if the government made the arrangements very clear.
“Because we will be sure to know how our pets will be treated,” he said.