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Abandoned when Pakistan’s largest cities were locked up, hundreds of cats, dogs and confined rabbits were found dead inside the pet market quickly shut down when coronaviruses spread.
The animals still live in a corner of the vast Karachi Empress Market rescued only after activists begged the authorities to gain access.
Two weeks after closing, Ayesha Chundrigar can hear the cries of pets from outside the store, which together hold up to 1,000 animals.
“When we entered, the majority of them were already dead, around 70 percent. Their bodies lay on the ground,” Chundrigar, who runs the ACF Animal Rescue, told AFP.
“That’s so terrible, I can’t tell you.”
Hunger and locked up in a cage without light or ventilation, a survivor pet sits among the dead, trembling.
As the virus pandemic grew, Pakistan’s major cities plunged into closure, forcing many shops to close. Only stalls selling important items such as food and medicine are permitted to continue operating.
That kept pet shop owners from their business, some forced to sneak in at night to feed animals.
After a desperate rescue, Chundrigar has now convinced the Karachi authorities to allow the pet shop owner and his team to access the animals every day.
– Thrown in the gutter –
In the eastern city of Lahore, animals meet the same fate.
The bodies of about 20 dogs were found dumped in a ditch near Tollinton Market, a pet business center that has been closed leaving animals to starve.
Kiran Maheen was able to save more than two dozen dogs, rabbits and cats after convincing officials in the market to allow him entry, but a large number had died.
“When the police opened the shutters, many animals were already lying dead inside,” Maheen told AFP, adding that many died of suffocation due to lack of air.
Pakistani authorities have confirmed about 2,900 COVID-19 cases and 45 deaths, although the count is estimated to be many times higher due to limited testing in this poor country of 215 million.
About 25 percent of the population has lived below the poverty line, but the millions more who get daily wages have joined them since the lockdown began, experts said.
© 2020 AFP