Karnataka's Covid-19 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) has recommended screening pet dogs and cats of Covid patients in home isolation. This is in addition to its recommendation of surveilling animals at the Bannerghatta zoo and their caregivers for Covid-19. The committee made the recommendations at a meeting on April 26. Health Commissioner D Randeep said the surveillance of Covid in animals should happen in coordination with the Veterinary Department and the Institute of Animal Health and Veterinary Biologicals (IAHVB). "The proposal will be sent to the government for approval," he said.
The IAHVB, which is located in Hebbal, submitted to the TAC the details of animal samples it had tested since 2021. "Among the suggestions was taking up antibody testing in animals. The target population would be pet animals in households where humans have been found to be Covid-positive, and lions and tigers in the zoo," said Dr H K Muniyellappa, Professor and Head of Department, IAHVB. Dr Muniyellappa called for testing animals whenever an animal attendant/caretaker tests positive for Covid-19.
Animal welfare advocate Priya Chetty-Rajagopal, founder-trustee, CJ Memorial Trust, said testing animals might be unnecessary. "Animals were not tested for Covid even during the peak of the second wave. Consequently, not a single animal in Bengaluru was found to be positive. The nine-in-one vaccine for dogs which covers hepatitis, rabies and leptospirosis covers Covid-19, too. So these tests may be redundant."
In Bengaluru, there are over one lakh pet dogs and more than 3.41 lakh stray dogs, as per Rajagopal. "I can say for a fact that no pet dog that has died in the past three years has undergone autopsy for Covid. With these test results, what does the government hope to achieve? Dogs and cats have a natural recovery process from Covid. If the government is worried about transmission to humans, it may backfire and lead to the abandonment of pets. We are stirring up the pot for no reason," Rajagopal said.
Salma K Fahim, Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, said: "Human, animal and wildlife health are converging. In fact, the government of India is proposing the launch of the One Health project as a pilot due to the increasing awareness about the overlap."