By Jithendri Gomes
As families, we are now struggling to source the daily essentials, as many promising delivery services are failing to meet the expectations, and currently buying whatever we could get our hands on. But for those responsible for the lives of more than that of their family, it is truly a challenging time as the ability to buy food in large quantities is clearly difficult. In light of this, we spoke to a few animal welfare organisations and activists to find out how they are coping with the current uncertain situation.
Rescue Animals Sri Lanka Founder and Chairman Anusha David shared her experience during this difficult time of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I’ve got a curfew pass with me. I showed the Police the documents from the Trust, articles written about me, especially with awards that I have won for the work I have done, and most importantly pictures. I approached the police station closest to my house.”
The first time she went to the police station to acquire the curfew pass, she had gone walking for more than 4 km. Once acquired, she had been able to access Sathosa to buy the necessary supplies to feed the animals.
We asked her as to what protocols she followed in order to continue her service to benefit any organisation or individuals who may be doing the same service, to which she responded, noting point by point:
- Take photographs when you go out to feed the animals or of the ones you have in your shelter – every day if possible. This will help immensely as it is proof that you are not misusing the pass and will help build confidence with the authorities. This is the most important point
- When approaching the authorities or the Police, take all the relevant documents that you may have, especially if you are an organisation
- Before going to the police station, write a request letter stating all the details. If you are feeding the dogs on the street, include the times of day you will be doing so along with the areas that you usually cover. It must also contain the national identity card numbers of you and those who will accompany you as well as the vehicle number. If possible, write it in your mother tongue (if it is not English) addressing it to the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the police station closest to you
- Whenever you step out, carry this letter, the curfew pass, and the identity card at all times
“If you follow this, the Police will grant you permission, and it will also help them to get rid of their suspicions of us misusing the curfew pass,” David added.
We spoke to Animal Welfare and Protection Association Secretary Shiona Weerasekara about the challenges they are facing as an organisation. They have two shelters based in Colombo feeding close to 500 cats and dogs.
“Sourcing rice and pet food is a big problem for us currently. We have our suppliers that usually provide us with our requirements. But they themselves are facing issues with the curfew imposed and so are unable to travel freely. We usually buy close to 500 kg of rice per week and transporting it in our vehicles is not possible. This also means we are unable to get the requirement from the trucks that come to the area. So we have issued letters from the organisation to our suppliers for them to be able to pick the food from a certain place and deliver it to our shelters,” Weerasekara explained.
She noted that they are also facing problems with receiving funds and paying suppliers, adding: “As an organisation, we pay through cheques that require two signatures. However, currently, the curfew is an obstacle. The simple logistics are also difficult. We also have our staff in both shelters that need to be looked after.”
Apart from the animals in their shelters, they also feed those around the area as well who are unable to find food. However, the biggest challenge for them is sourcing the food.
Also sharing their experience as a shelter was Nushani from Cat Protection Trust Sri Lanka. Nushani is based in Colombo and houses 25 cats. She said she was able to manage with the supplies that she had already purchased. However, their main shelter is based outside Colombo and has a bigger requirement. Indira, who is looking after this shelter, spoke of the difficulties she is facing with sourcing the large requirements of food.
“The Police have been helpful so far, assisting us by granting permission for food delivery. However, they have become stricter now with travelling between districts and that is posing a bigger problem to us. There has also been no fish available to feed the cats.
“I am afraid of how long this may continue, so I am managing with the resources I already have by making the portions smaller. It is saddening, but at the same time, I have to be prepared,” she noted.
Shilpa Samaratunga also feeds animals found on the road. She lives in Panadura, just outside the Colombo District border, and spoke of the difficulties she is facing with sourcing food, especially since pet food comes mostly from Colombo.
“The Police have been helpful so far with issuing passes to me. I also feed a few people who need it. What is saddening to see is that when I started out, there were only two, but now, I have to feed around 20 to 25 people as well. Even with animals, I am seeing more collared dogs and cats on the road than from a week ago, proving they were originally from homes,” Samaratunga said.