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Asian animal groups rush to rescue pandemic-hit pets

COVID-19 lockdowns have compounded the stray dog problem across the region

A stray puppy saved by Rescue P.A.W.S., a Thai animal welfare group that provides sterilization services as well as food, veterinary services and limited shelter. (Photo by Ron Gluckman)

BANGKOK -- People were not the only victims of the COVID-19 pandemic as it spread across Asia, closing borders, halting travel, filling hospitals and cemeteries, and devastating regional economies. The costs and death count are still mounting around the world. But few tolls take in the impact on animals, particularly domestic pets, as the resources of animal shelters, welfare and rescue groups around the region struggle under unprecedented strains.

The challenges are instantly apparent on a tour around Hua Hin, a beach resort south of Bangkok. "Look there," says Henna Pekko, pointing up a dirt and gravel road, as we ride by in a pickup truck packed with supplies. Along the tree line, she points to five dogs, which quickly retreat into the bushes as we pull up. The dogs look similar, and are probably from the same litter, living wild.

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