What we know about pets and SARS-CoV-2:

What we know about pets and SARS-CoV-2:

The American Veterinary Medical Association put an updated statement addressing the SARS-CoV-2 in animals, including pets. This statement provides some excellent information that provides clarity to many of the questions we have heard from animal services staff, volunteers, and the community at large.

The main takeaways are:

  • Current expert understanding is that COVID-19 is primarily transmitted person-to-person.
  • There is no evidence that dogs and cats naturally infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19) spread it to other pets or people.
  • There is no reason to remove pets from homes where COVID-19 has been identified unless there is a risk that the pet itself is not able to be cared for appropriately. The best place for pets is at home.
  • If you are ill with COVID-19, you should restrict contact with pets and other animals.
  • Despite over one million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, we have only seen examples of two dogs, one cat,, and one tiger with positive tests for infection as a result of suspected natural spread.

 

As always, our top priority is the health and safety of our animal services staff and the communities (including pets) that we serve.  It is for this reason that we are asking animal services, especially municipal shelters or shelters, holding a municipal contract to adhere to emergency field operations only.  This means limiting calls for service to public safety concerns, sick/injured animal calls, and legally mandated quarantines that cannot take place outside the shelter.  As we begin to see larger numbers of people impacted by COVID-19, we must prepare for the possible influx of COVID exposed animals to our shelters.

The first thing animal services agencies should be doing to prepare for this potential influx is communicating the urgency for pet owners to have a plan.  Pet owners should develop an action plan for what will happen to their pet if they are to fall ill and are unable to provide care, including the name and contact information for a family member or friend who has agreed to provide care.  Here is a sample outline for such a plan.

In the event that pets must come into a shelter, municipal shelters and those holding municipal contracts are most likely to have staff appropriately trained and equipped to deal with infectious disease outbreaks.  These organizations should also have a veterinarian on staff or a contract with a veterinarian who can provide medical oversight/guidance for the reduction of spread. The key points regarding this type of intake transition are:

  • Quarantine facilities should only be taking in sick/injured animals, animals exposed or potentially exposed to COVID-19, and animals on legally mandated rabies quarantine that cannot take place outside the shelter.
  • Local Non-Profit Shelters (not operating government contracts), rescue organizations, and foster networks should be utilized to take in and house healthy stray and owner surrender pets.
  • Animals taken in for COVID-19 quarantine should be housed in isolation (separated from all other animals housed at the facility) for 14 days before transitioning to other placement options, including short- or long-term foster care.
Cat and Kitten Intake During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Cat and Kitten Intake During the COVID-19 Pandemic

One of the main concerns we have been hearing this week surrounding the COVID-19 Pandemic is timing.  No time is ideal, but on the precipice of puppy/kitten season, really?!? Consistent messaging from the leading experts on the subject of intake is Emergency Intake Only! The position statement from NACA on the issue has been endorsed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Shelter Medicine Program, The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement, University of Florida- Shelter Medicine Program, The Humane Society of the United States, and many more. All that being said, what we continue to hear is, “What about the abandoned kittens?” First, are we 100% sure they are abandoned?  Information that has been shared over the years continues to show us just how unlikely unweaned kittens are to be truly abandoned.  Whenever possible, kittens should be left to the care of their mothers.  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care & Control in North Carolina put together a video on this issue, which is easily shared via social media with your communities. If kittens do enter the system, get them out as quickly as possible.  The University of Wisconsin-Madison Shelter Medicine Program, in conjunction with the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program, has put together a fantastic sheet of recommendations on the intake of kittens during COVID-19. These recommendations will aid in animal services departments balancing human and animal health and safety. Our communities and volunteers are fantastic supporters of the work we do every day, during this time of crisis we must engage them in pushing out the “Don’t Kit-Nap” or “Leave them Be” messaging.  Pasco County Animal Services in Pasco County, FL, has had tremendous success with their “Leave them Be” program, and I know their Assistant Director Spencer Conover is always happy to discuss their model.  Another group doing fantastic work with community cat programming is the Humane Rescue Alliance; their Director of Regional Outreach (who also happens to be on the board of NACA), Alice Burton is a genuinely amazing person and a fantastic resource when it comes to moving cats and kittens out of your shelters as quickly as possible. The key messages surrounding cats and kittens during this pandemic are:

  1. Only bring them into your care if it is an absolute emergency, and you have exhausted all other options.
  2. If you do bring them in, especially the kittens requiring intensive care, get them back out as quickly as possible
  3. Our priority during this pandemic must be the health and safety of our human staff and citizens first, and one way we can aid in keeping our teams safe and healthy is by encouraging citizens to “Leave them Be”
  4. We understand and acknowledge the communities concern surrounding the potential for an increased number of kittens this season due to the suspension of SNR services. These concerns are shared by many, but our priority at this time must be on the health and safety of staff and citizens, a conscious effort will be made to make up for ground lost in the area of SNR once we return to normal operations.