Many animals in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the virus is believed to have originated, have died or are at risk of dying after residents evacuated their homes in the wake of the lockdown, animal advocates have said.
Wendy Higgins, director of international media at Humane Society International, told CNN that dogs and cats have been left behind in apartments -- not just in Wuhan, but in cities such as Beijing, too.
"Estimates are impossible, but we do know that in Wuhan, for example, animal activists have assisted with animals in upwards of 1,000 apartments. So, the numbers nationwide will be significant," she said.
The pets are at risk of starvation. Residents who were forced to leave their pets behind typically left enough food and water to last them for a few days, thinking they would be able to return soon, some animal advocates told CNN.
But nearly a month after they evacuated, many residents have not returned home.
There may be tens of thousands of dogs and cats left behind in Hubei Province, said Vshine Animal Protection Association, a China-based animal welfare and environmental organization which partners with Humane Society International.
Vshine has received at least 400 calls from residents in the city of Dalian alone, asking for employees to check in on their pets.
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