Dedicated staff at a South African animal shelter have gone into lockdown with dozens of dogs, cats and horses to make sure its four-legged residents are not left to fend for themselves during the coronavirus crisis.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses Robert Mugabe’s state funeral in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Sept. 14, 2019. Dignitaries including former and current African leaders on Saturday paid tribute to the late former President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe at the state funeral in Harare. Photo: Xinhua

Despite the outbreak, it’s business as usual for the team at the WetNose Animal shelter outside the capital Pretoria where they continue to walk, exercise, feed and care for its unwanted pets and farm animals.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa imposed a nationwide lockdown late in March in a bid to halt the spread of coronavirus. But under the new measures workers feared they would not be permitted to travel to the site, so five of them decided to move into the shelter to prevent the animals, which are being abandoned.

“It’s been hard for the staff because they have been on lockdown on this property,” said shelter manager Veronica van Greunen, stroking a ginger cat.

“Not visiting their families, not allowed to go see them, not allowed to go out of this property. So they’ve basically been in quarantine… with all the animals.”

South Africa is the worst-affected country on the continent by the virus, with more than 2,000 confirmed cases of the disease and 25 recorded deaths so far.

People are only allowed to leave their homes to shop for groceries or seek medical attention.

Van Greunen said having workers on site was key, as animals were still being taken in by the shelter despite being closed for adoptions until the end of the lockdown – which was extended to April 30 this week.

Worker Josef Mashaba said he was undeterred by the prospect of not seeing his family.
Newspaper headline: Shelter staff choose lock-in with animals