Turkey’s Interior Ministry recently issued a letter urging local administrations to protect and feed the country’s hundreds of thousands of stray dogs and cats, as residents stay at home to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“Food and water will be left at the living environments of street animals, such as parks and gardens, and particularly animal shelters,” the ministry wrote in the notice. “All necessary measures must be taken to ensure stray animals don’t go hungry.”

Turkish society has a strong cultural emphasis on caring for animals in need. Municipal veterinarians vaccinate strays, and citizens help ensure their safety as part of everyday life. New stay-at-home orders and social distancing policies are heavily impacting these animals, who normally rely on the general public for nourishment, especially in Istanbul where there are over 150,00 stray cats and nearly 130,000 stray dogs, according to the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.

As cases of COVID-19 rise in Turkey, the government is considering imposing heightened restrictions on movement, but thankfully, lockdown efforts seem to be coupled with ways to mitigate the suffering of homeless animals throughout the country.

The decision requiring local leaders to care for strays is being well-received.

In a recent Tweet emphasizing the importance of caring for local cats and dogs, Istanbul’s Bayrampasa district shared pictures of its municipal workers feeding and interacting with the animals.

Thank you to the dedicated officials, workers and activists throughout the world, who are acting diligently to ensure that the most vulnerable populations are not forgotten during this chaotic and trying time.