Words fail to describe the pitiful condition faced by street dogs in the Valley these days.

They used to survive on scraps of waste food dumped on the roadsides or leftovers thrown in the neighbourhoods.

However, with most of the Valley dwellers locked in their homes and no source of food available with the prohibitory orders in place, the creatures are finding it hard to survive," said Rukmini Tamang, 59, a resident of Jorpati.

Tamang, however has been "regularly feeding street dogs in my locality" a mixture of "rice, daal, and buff meat" that she prepares "every morning".

And she's been doing so on her own ever since the restrictions were imposed.

However, she regards her feeding a bunch of street dogs as " drop in the ocean" as "thousands of street dogs around the Valley are in desperate need of help".

Along with dogs, cows and oxen that roam the Valley roads are also currently facing difficult times. This is when animal welfare organisations like Sneha's Care step in to offer much-needed relief to street animals in the Valley.

These days, Sneha Shrestha, 39, founder and owner of Sneha's Care, a Lalitpur-based non-profit charity, together with her staff is quite busy making the rounds of the Valley in two of her vehicles, feeding street animals at several locations.

Photo Courtesy: Sneha's Care
Photo Courtesy: Sneha's Care

Each morning, Shrestha and her team of seven staff prepare a mixture of buff meat, pumpkin, and rice for dogs and boiled potatoes and grams for monkeys. They also take along vegetables like cabbage and grains for cows, and rice grains for birds "to feed them on the way".

"We feed around 1,200 animals daily at places such as Haatiban, Khumaltar, Sanepa, Satdobato, Ekantakuna, Pulchowk, Jamal, Ratna Park, Exhibition Road, Sinamangal, Pashupati area, among other places. Organisations like us have fixed locations to feed animals so as not to overfeed at some places while animals remain underfed at other places," shared Shrestha.

Shrestha also shared "constant obstructions from the traffic police due to the travel restrictions in place and the COVID-19 fear among the staff have affected the process of feeding animals to an extent".

Shrestha who has already rehabilitated "170 injured or diseased street animals from the Valley roads" at her facility in Lalitpur shared that "there are still thousands of injured and diseased animals lying on the roads and the government should work out long-term plans for building a good number of animal shelters in the country which can offer big relief to street animals".

Apart from animal welfare organisations, a few individuals are also extending help to street animals on their own. The Himalayan Times came across one such individual on the premises of Pashupati who was feeding biscuits to dogs and monkeys.

Nitin Tiwari, 25, a resident of Gaushala comes "to Pashupati every morning" carrying a backpack filled with food of different sorts.

"Since the temple is closed, visitors can't come around, which means all the local animals and birds are cut off from their main source of food. Hence, I have been bringing biscuits for the dogs and monkeys, vegetables for cows and oxen, and corn for the pigeons in the surrounding areas, which I believe will at least keep them going," shared Tiwari.

He has been using his "own money" to feed the animals despite "my family's insistence to not to go out due to the fear of COVID-19".

Tiwari believes that "this is the perfect time to prove our worth as human beings by extending help to our fellow creatures during such hard times".

"This is what actually makes us human," he added.

When it comes to addressing such a grave problem faced by the street animals, the government is the foremost authority everyone turns to. However, Dr Lok Nath Paudel, Chief Livestock Development Officer at the National Livestock Resource Management and Promotion Office under the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development said, "We don't have specific programmes to feed street animals. However, we have been playing the role of a coordinator between the local level authorities, animals welfare associations, and veterinary associations across the country and they have been feeding the street animals at the community levels."

Asked if the stray animals are being adopted by the department for their rehabilitation, Paudel dismissed it saying, "The lack of infrastructure in the country has made it impossible to adopt street animals so far."

Similarly, Ishwor Man Dangol, Spokesperson at Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) said, "We don't have any plan to feed street animals, but we are giving permission to animal welfare associations in the Valley to feed them."

Venting ire on the lackadaisical approach of the government towards solving these ever-present problems faced by street dogs in the Valley, Rajan Bhandari, 41, an animal rights activist from Sinamangal said, "The government has decided to make the Valley roads beggar-free, but why are the authorities never talking about managing thousands of street dogs leading miserable lives on the Valley roads? It's a pity that the government didn't mull over providing even a small portion of the budget to offer relief to these street animals who have been suffering for more than a year due to the pandemic."

Bhandari added, "The Valley dwellers are equally to be blamed for the street dogs' plights as they keep dogs as pets for the safety of their house and for their children's happiness and then later leave them on the roads when the dogs get diseased and old."

Hence, he requests everyone to "either not keep dogs as pets at all or regard them as their own children if they wish to keep one".

The Himalayan Times was informed that the animals at the Central Zoo, Jawalakhel are being fed properly even during the ongoing crisis.

Dr Chiranjibi Prasad Pokharel, Project Manager at Central Zoo, shared, "We have been providing food for our animals like in normal times and everything is fine so far."

A version of this article appears in the print on June 3, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.