Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQ

Humane Society International / Global


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Thank you for remembering animals during this difficult time. They still need our help and we are continuing our work worldwide as well as we can despite this crisis. As always, we are so grateful for your support.

How does COVID-19 impact HSI’s dog/cat population management work globally?

Nearly every country around the world is facing the threat of COVID-19. However, some have been forced to take stronger measures to contain the virus from spreading. At HSI, the safety of our staff and the safety of the people who come into contact with our staff is of utmost importance.

What is HSI doing during this crisis?

With the aim of preventing pet abandonment and/or fear regarding community animals, HSI is continuing to support our colleagues around the world and provide them with up-to-date information so they can keep their governments, communities and fellow citizens informed. We are also making special efforts to ensure animals are considered in the planning of the lockdowns, and veterinary services and pet food are considered essential services to continue during this time.

In China, there have been some isolated reports of dogs and cats being killed in an attempt to contain the virus. However, our partner groups on the ground have found that many of these reports were not factual. HSI has been supporting partner groups which have been rescuing and helping abandoned pets and informing the public that dogs and cats do not pose a risk. In several cities, at the request of evacuated pet owners, animal advocates have been entering apartments to care for pets.

We are also calling on governments around the world to help protect public health by permanently banning wildlife trade, transport and consumption. Take action: Add your name. Also, read our White Paper (available in several languages), “A Ban on Wildlife Trade, Markets, Transport and Consumption Would Significantly Reduce the Risk of Another Pandemic,” as well as our White Paper on the the connection between animal agriculture, viral zoonoses and global pandemics.

Our U.S.-based affiliate, The Humane Society of the United States, in partnership with the Association for Animal Welfare Advancement, has made available the first coronavirus (COVID-19) toolkit for animal shelters to help them respond to the needs of the communities that they serve. While created for a U.S. audience, the toolkit offers useful information for dog/cat shelters worldwide. Learn what The HSUS is doing to address the COVID-19 crisis.

HSI had identified another dog meat farm in South Korea and was preparing to rescue the dogs there when the travel ban prevented our rescue team from returning to the country. In October, after a two-week quarantine, our team was finally able to remove the dogs from the farm and bring them to the U.S. and Canada.  Please donate to fund our efforts to help these dogs and all animals worldwide.

Our country directors around the world are asking government entities in charge of coordinating emergency and disaster relief efforts to ensure that critical animal needs, such as the care of animals in laboratories, pet shops, zoos and other settings, and the ability for animal care personnel to perform their duties, be addressed in emergency orders.

We are also recommending that governments recognize veterinary services as “essential services,” allowing veterinarians to stay open and tend to emergencies under strict protocols that follow the recommended social distancing. Some cities that are under complete lockdown have already adopted this measure.

Through our network of local organizations in countries around the world, we are providing accurate and up-to-date information, tips, and recommendations for governments, shelters, veterinarians, pet owners and the community at large. We seek to prevent the abandonment of pets by providing people the information they need to make accurate decisions regarding the care of their pets.

How can I be preparing to take care of my pet?

In the event of a crisis or disaster, we urge everyone to have a disaster preparedness plan in place. And, get the word out! Remind community members that having a plan for pets is critical; individuals who become sick or require hospitalization will need to have someone to take their animals. If you can, please endure the current situation from the safety of your own home.

Some steps to take include:

  • Identify a family member or friend who can care for pets if someone in the household becomes too ill to do so.
  • Have crates, food and extra supplies on hand that can last a minimum of two weeks.
  • Have your animal’s vaccine record on hand, and if your dog or cat needs special assistance such as taking medication, write it down.
  • Pets should have proper identification, such as a collar with ID tag and a phone number.

Can my pet get COVID-19?

People confirmed to have COVID-19 (or who are symptomatic or believe themselves to have been exposed) should avoid contact with other people as well as with pets, avoiding not only all contact but also sharing any food. If a sick person must care for animals during their illness, it’s important they practice good hygiene; they should wash their hands before and after any interactions with their pet. For more information, see the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines.

The CDC and the World Organisation for Animal Health have issued advisories saying there is no evidence at this time that companion animals can spread the COVID-19 virus to people. On a related note, in early April, the Bronx Zoo confirmed that several of its big cats became ill and one of its tigers tested positive for the virus, likely after being exposed to a zoo employee who was shedding the virus.

The WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) Global Veterinary Community—an association representing more than 200,000 veterinarians—also states that the evidence strongly indicates that COVID-19 cannot be contracted from pets. The association does, however, caution that there is still much we don’t know and updates will be provided as new information becomes available.

Dr. Gail Hansen, DVM, MPH of our affiliate the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, said, “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.”

Read more on “A Humane World” blog

Watch a podcast about “Coronavirus and your pets” with HSUS Director of Shelter Outreach Kim Alboum.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has introduced a good deal of uncertainty into our lives, but being prepared can make a world of difference. Watch the video below to hear a veterinarian answer questions about pets and the coronavirus.

How can I keep my home clean AND safe for my pets?

Some cleaners that help prevent COVID-19 aren’t safe for your pets.

  • Keep pets out of rooms where you’re using cleaners that contain bleach, alcohol and other powerful chemicals.
  • Don’t leave cleaners out where your pets could stick their paws into them.
  • Follow the product instructions—some cleaners need to sit for a bit to be effective, but surfaces can then be rinsed to avoid burning tender paws.
  • If your pet needs a bath, only use products intended for bathing pets. Other cleaners can hurt them.

What can I do to help animals and shelters during this crisis?

Now is a great time to adopt a pet to reduce the potential strain on shelters and to offer to foster in case shelters start receiving an increase in requests for foster care of pets for seriously ill or hospitalized people. Please reach out to shelters and rescue groups in your area (U.S. /worldwide) for more information.

Fosters can also be lifesavers for pets who can’t adapt to shelter life, those who need to be nursed back to health and orphaned animals who need special care.

This uncertain and stressful time is also a wonderful opportunity to unify behind a common love of animals. COVID-19 does not discriminate; people from all backgrounds and communities will be impacted. A deep connection to animals transcends socio-economic, racial, ethnic and geographic boundaries and honoring that bond with compassion, not judgment, is a very simple yet impactful way to contribute positively in your community during this crisis.

Do you have resources specifically to help animal shelters and rescues deal with COVID-19?

With the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the rise worldwide, it is important for shelters and rescues to be prepared for the impact this may have on their staff and their community. View additional resources and information to help you take proactive steps to prepare.

What can I do to help animals living in the street during this crisis?

Since the primary way to stop the outbreak is to stay at home, leaving your home to provide food or water to a dog or cat should involve eliminating all non-essential interactions outside the house. If there are animals who depend on you for food or water, place these without interacting with the animal, as the same animal might be fed by multiple people in the community whose medical and travel histories are unknown. Some governments are issuing specific permits for organizations and individuals who feed street dogs/cats.

Is HSI able to rescue dogs/cats abandoned in my country?

HSI is unable to directly assist in the rescue of animals in need at this time. However, in the countries where we have a presence, we are working with government officials, local organizations and communities to help prevent the abandonment of pets. Even though we are not set up to rescue and re-home animals ourselves directly, we can work through our network of already established in-country collaborators to ensure they have the support to assist in rescue and re-homing, as the need arises and that the country’s emergency measures that are in place allow it.

Donate

Animals are still in need and the work of HSI goes on. We’d be grateful for any amount you can spare to support our ongoing efforts to help animals at this difficult time and into the future. Donate now.

In addition, every animal shelter and rescue organization in your country has bills to pay and your generous monetary donation will be gratefully accepted, particularly during this stressful time. Also consider donating supplies, both through your local animal shelter and other agencies like human food banks.

How can future pandemics like COVID-19 be prevented?

We can reduce the risk of future pandemics like COVID-19 by reducing close interactions between wild animals and humans, particularly in those cases where many animals of many different species are mixed together in close confinement. As we have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the SARS epidemic before it, concentrations of wildlife in markets is a high risk to public health. Wildlife trade, transport and consumption occurs in countries around the world, and we need our leaders to agree to end these high-risk practices if we want to prevent another pandemic from sweeping the globe. Read more on “A Humane World” blog.

Additional resources

Make a disaster plan for your pets
Pet disaster preparedness kit from the CDC
Sample disaster plan for your pets in Spanish and English from Houston SPCA
AVMA: Overview of COVID-19 transmission and infection in humans
AVMA: What do you need to know about coronavirus?
CDC: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
CDC: What you need to know about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program: Guidance on shelter care of animals exposed to COVID-19
World Health Organization: Rolling updates on coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
World Health Organization: Course on COVID-19
World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE): Questions and Answers on the 2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

Again, thank you for standing with us, especially now. Please check back for any future updates, and stay safe!

Animals are still suffering. Please donate to help.