HSUS, partners release coronavirus tool kit for shelters; Authorities say no evidence of pet-to-human transmission
This week, Hong Kong authorities reported what appeared to be a case of human-to-animal transmission of coronavirus, after a pet dog tested positive. As it turned out, the dog, placed in quarantine, was not sick and Hong Kong authorities immediately released an advisory saying that while cats and dogs cannot pass the new coronavirus on to humans, they can test positive for low levels of the pathogen if they catch it from people.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Organisation for Animal Health have also issued advisories saying there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the coronavirus.
That is comforting news for the millions of Americans with pets at home. However, coronavirus could pose a more serious risk for our field: with the numbers of infected people rising, shelters are likely to see increased numbers of relinquished animals coming through their doors and there will be a greater demand for long-term fostering of pets as a result.
“At this time we do not have evidence that pets can get or spread COVID-19, although it is always good for people to practice careful handwashing after handling your pet and after picking up and disposing pet waste. When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick, so you and your pet can get the best care.”Dr. Gail Hansen, DVM, MPH
Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association
That’s why, this week, the Humane Society of the United States in partnership with the Association for Animal Welfare Advancement has made available the first coronavirus (COVID-19) tool kit to help shelters and rescues prepare for the impact the virus could potentially have on their staff and their community.
Our goal is not only to help shelters and rescues prepare for an influx of pets, but to implement preparedness protocols and finalize plans to care for staff members who may become ill.
Here are some steps shelters and rescue groups can take to prepare for possible increased intake of animals:
- Have a long-term foster contract on hand, like this one developed by the Wisconsin Humane Society.
- Reach out to foster networks and maintain an up-to-date list of those available for fostering and support.
- Prepare and share a facility plan and talking points for staff members.
- Provide regular updates to employees, volunteers and board members.
- Have extra crates, food and other pet supplies on hand to accommodate the potential for increased intake and support foster networks.
- Prepare a contingency plan in case of staff illnesses or quarantine.
- Strongly encourage employees, volunteers and others to stay home when sick
Our kit also includes guidance shelters can offer to members of the community. If you have a pet, having a plan in place is critical because those who become seriously ill or require hospitalization will need to have someone to take care of their animals. Here are some suggested steps:
- Identify a family member or friend who can care for pets if someone in the household becomes too ill to care for pets.
- Have crates, food and extra supplies on hand for movement and relocation of pets if necessary.
- Keep all animal vaccines up to date in the event that boarding becomes necessary.
- Ensure that all medications are documented with dosages and administering directions. It’s a good idea to include the prescription from your veterinarian with the medications and your pet’s to-go bag.
- Pets should have proper identification: a collar with ID tag and a microchip with current, up-to date contact information.
The coronavirus has introduced a good deal of uncertainty into our lives, but being prepared can make a world of difference. You can watch this video to hear a veterinarian answer questions about pets and the coronavirus. We’re keeping a close watch on related developments and will provide consistent updates in the future.