Adoptions have slowed, experts see no COVID-19 transmission risk from pets

3 min read197 views and 52 shares Posted March 27, 2020

Your dog or cat isn’t going to give you the coronavirus.

The World Health Organization stated it plainly when it issued a statement noting that there “is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19.”

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention backed up WHO’s reassurance with their own: “There is no reason to think that any animals or pets in the United States might be a source of infection with this novel coronavirus.”

Nevertheless, social media is full of reports of people dumping their pets at shelters or, worse yet, having them euthanized out of fear.

“It is a very real concern,” PAWS president Kathy Fitzkee said this week. “People are scared pets may be contact carriers of the coronavirus.”

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PAWS, also known as Preservation of Animal Welfare & Safety Inc., is based in Camp Hill and operates in eight counties in south-central Pennsylvania, including Lebanon. So far, Fitzkee said, PAWS “hasn’t seen an increase” in the number of abandoned or surrendered cats, but she cautioned that “misinformation on the virus and pets has led people to either abandon or surrender pets throughout the country so we wouldn’t be shocked to see it happen here.”

Another concern, she said, is the financial hardship caused by virus containment measures, which include the closure of schools and nonessential businesses and a request for people to stay home as much as possible.

“Financial hardship is a very real concern for pet relinquishment,” she said. “With unemployment and uncertain times people may not be able to afford the basics for their pet. This may result in more abandonment/surrenders.”

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Similarly, Fitzkee said, there was an increase in pet surrenders during the last recession.

Because people are not venturing out of their homes as much, however, Fitzkee said the number of adoptions has decreased significantly.

PAWS will continue arranging meetings with prospective owners, she said, while taking precautions to limit contact between shelter volunteers and their visitors. Without adoptions, she said, PAWS will soon be unable to take in additional animals.

Kristen Tullo, Pennsylvania state director of the Humane Society of the United States, noted that pet owners across the state “are making phone calls to find out if their animal companions can spread the virus.” She reiterated the WHO position that pets are not transmitters of the disease, and she said there is “no evidence of cats, dogs, or other companion animals becoming infected.”

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She acknowledged, however, that “some pet owners may need to surrender or seek long-term foster care for their pets due to economic reasons.”

The Humane Society website, at humanesociety.org, lists organizations that are providing assistance to people who are having trouble covering the costs of pet care because of loss of work.

“The serious and long-term effects of this pandemic are a massive challenge we must face together if we are going to lessen the human and animal suffering that will inevitably take place,” Tullo said.

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The Humane Society of Lebanon County did not immediately respond to two requests for comment.

Dr. Tammy Stone at Veterinary Medical Center of Lebanon, also said they “have not had an influx of people abandoning or euthanizing their pets out of fear” or because of financial concerns.

The medical center remains open for essential appointments only. The doors are locked to the public, Stone said, and nothing from a pet’s home can be brought into the medical center except for cat carriers. People dropping off or picking up their pets must do so at the curb without coming inside.

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“We are taking this very seriously in order to keep everyone as safe as possible,” she said. “The vast majority of clients are appreciative of our efforts to minimize contact during COVID-19.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has issued guidance with regards to pets and COVID-19.

The state, according to release, “recognizes that pets are a significant part of our families and communities” and says plans “should be in place at an individual and community level, during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Among their suggestions:

  • Buy pet food and supplies as you normally would, without stockpiling, so that all pet owners can continue to have reliable access.
  • Practice social distancing when walking or exercising pets.
  • If your pets have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, give them a bath and limit contact with anyone under quarantine.
  • Be sure all vaccines are up to date in the event boarding becomes necessary.
  • Place a list of pets in the home on your front door for emergency responders, including a description of each animal and their location in home.

The ag department also compiled a list of pet food pantries at agriculture.pa.gov/covid and said pet owners experiencing extreme hardship should consider placing their pets in longterm foster care.


Read all of LebTown’s COVID-19 coverage here.

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