It’s so hard to know what to believe when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. So much misinformation is being posted and spread around. State, county and local governments have been forced to figure this out on their own—and that has left us hanging.
I don’t want to get sick, and I really don’t want to have my friends and loved ones ill because we didn’t take things seriously enough. People need to take precautions—if not for themselves, out of care for others—and that includes the need to provide a plan for our best friends, our beloved companions: the animals that rely on us for safety and care.
One bit of good news: According to World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Veterinary Community, there is no evidence that companion animals can be infected by COVID-19. But we humans can, and we should always—not just in a crisis—have plans in place that address what happens to our pets if something happens to us. This is not the time to overload shelters from carelessness or panic.
So, what do we need to do in the event we get sick or are hospitalized? Animalsheltering.org lists five key points to be prepared. (Given that we live in earthquake country, being prepared is even more necessary. Consider Salt Lake City’s earthquake on March 18; it can happen at any time.)
• Identify a family member or friend who can care for pets if someone in the household becomes ill.
• Have crates, food and extra supplies on hand for quick movement of pets.
• Keep all animal vaccines up to date in the event that boarding becomes necessary.
• Ensure that all of your pets’ medications are documented, with dosages and administering directions. Including the actual prescriptions from your veterinarian, if possible, is also helpful, as is including your veterinarian’s contact information.
• Microchip your beloved animals. If that’s not possible, make sure they have identification—such as an up-to-date tag with a current phone number on a collar or harness.
I asked Dr. Allison Bradshaw, Mobile Pet Vet in the Coachella Valley, what advice she could provide to help people feel more prepared.
“As we face possible supply-chain interruptions or quarantine, it will be wise to have a two-week supply of pet food and any medications that your pet may rely on,” she said.
She also reiterated that there’s no evidence your pet can have, spread or get ill from COVID-19.
“The American Veterinary Animal Association has released the following statement: ‘Infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they spread it to other animals, including people,’” she said.
I asked her what she thought about going to a dog park. She said that people should be aware and take the precautions to avoid human exposure (stay six feet apart; don’t go out if you’re sick, etc.), but not because of exposure between dogs.
Don’t be in a vacuum, and don’t isolate to the point that your animal needs help. There are many resources to help. Start by calling your veterinarian for advice.
With so much uncertainty in our lives, our highly sensitive animals can sense the frustration, concern, fear and confusion we are feeling—and that might cause anxiety in them. However, it is more important than ever to protect your animals from getting loose. We cannot rely on the system to do our work for us—because those who work to protect our animals at the shelters may need to protect themselves.
Carlynne McDonnell is the founder and CEO of Barkee LaRoux’s House of Love Animal Sanctuary, a senior animal sanctuary and hospice in the Coachella Valley. She has been rescuing animals since she was 4 years old.