Note: This is a dynamic situation. Please go to our info sheet for the latest updates.
In preparation for an increase in COVID-19 cases and the hospitalization of people with severe disease, animal service agencies are collaborating with public health departments to support the animals of persons who require hospitalization. For people that do not have family or friends that can care for their pets during their hospitalization, animal service support may include temporary sheltering of their pets. For people who may need to self-isolate or are quarantined after exposure to an infected individual, animal service agencies are working to support the co-housing of people with their pets in their homes or in temporary emergency housing.
Co-housing people with their pets whenever possible has a three-fold impact. First, previous disasters demonstrated that pets are integral family members and people will place themselves at significant risk rather than be separated from their animals. Compliance with important recommendations, including disclosure of symptoms or exposure to an infected person, may be compromised if people believe they may be separated from their pets when isolated or quarantined.
Second, pets have a beneficial impact on human health, providing companionship and reducing anxiety. Isolation and quarantine are extremely stressful with uncertainty, fear, and anger that may be exacerbated by social isolation. Reducing stress by keeping families together, including a family’s pets, is important to maintaining the health of both the people and their animals.
Third, animal shelters could quickly become overwhelmed unless they limit their services to those who truly cannot care for their pets. Bringing in large numbers of animals would stretch capacity and resources to the point where adequate care could no longer be ensured. The possibility of a crisis in the human health care system because of a rapid influx of patients beyond the capacity to provide care is very real at this time. Avoiding a parallel crisis in animal welfare is essential to protect community health and is in the best interest of all the individuals, humans and animals, involved.
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association, WSAVA, has compiled information from global authorities on the current understanding of the role of companion animals and COVID-19. There is no current evidence that companion animals are a source of infection to people.
For more information visit WSAVA’s information page:
Current recommendations from the CDC include washing hands before and after interacting with pets if ill. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/steps-when-sick.html
Note: We thank our colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Shelter Medicine Program, who partner with us on our Resource Library, for sharing this post with us.