The Humane Society: Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQ 

We at the Humane Society of the United States are reeling from the changes happening in the world outside, as we know you are. We’re thinking about the people out there who are anxious, homebound or sick—and all of your animals too. We’re also working to continue to provide services where we can, including making sure that you have good and practical information about how this virus may impact you and your family, including its animal members. We’ll be updating this page as frequently as warranted. Please stay safe! 

 What is the Humane Society of the United States doing to address this crisis? 

 We assembled a toolkit for animal shelters to help them respond to the needs of the communities that they serve and are in close contact with our Shelter and Rescue Partners to share information. Our Pets for Life program, which supports pet owners in underserved areas, has delivered additional supplies to senior and immobile clients and is modifying spay/neuter and veterinary appointments to maintain those valuable services within guidelines. Client visits by Pets for Life teams are shifting to phone outreach and delivery of food and medications to avoid close contact for at-risk clients. 

 The staff and volunteers at our animal care centers remain committed to ensuring the animals have no gap in care. Society may be on hold, but our work for animals in critical need is not. Rest assured, the proper diet and care of these animals will never be compromised. We are fully committed to our sanctuary residents. They came from cruel situations and we will not let them down now or ever. Our sanctuaries already practice excellent standards of disease prevention and we’re prepared for necessary changes in supply chains and staffing. While our staff continue full steam ahead to make sure that the animals who rely on us receive the highest quality care, they continue to update their wishlist of supplies. 

What is being done at the state level? 

 Our state directors all across the country are asking emergency managers and other officials to ensure that critical animal needs, such as the care of animals in various settings and the ability for animal care personnel to perform their duties, are addressed in emergency orders. 

 Many are working with local pet food banks by encouraging donations, helping with delivery and posting resources online. Find your state and follow along on social media! State Facebook pages are being updated several times daily about the need for fosters and pet/human COVID-19 facts, plus what people can do to help shelters and each other with pet needs. State Directors are also responding to inquiries from shelters and ACOs regarding management during this crisis and reaching out to shelters to assess what the most urgent needs are. 

 Should I have a preparedness plan for my pet(s)? 

 In the event of a crisis or disaster, we urge everyone to have a 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 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 and have copies of those records available 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. 

We understand not everyone has a personal support system or the financial means to meet the above recommendations. When experiencing difficulty in creating a preparedness response, please reach out to local shelters and animal service agencies to find out what support is available. During this crisis, there may be options of temporary housing for pets, donated supplies, subsidized veterinary services and more available to help people care for and stay together with their pets. 

 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 Organization 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 there is nothing that shows pets can spread COVID-19 and there’s no reason to think pets might be a source of infection. It is always good for people to practice careful hand washing after handling a 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. Our pets provide a very important and positive role in our lives.” 

 The coronavirus (COVID-19) has introduced a good deal of uncertainty into our lives, but being prepared can make a world of difference. Watch this video 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 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 someone to step in for their mom (or whose needs are beyond what busy shelter staff can often provide). 

 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 judgement, is a very simple yet impactful way to contribute positively in your community during this crisis. 

 Offer Support And Supplies 

 Check with your local shelter or rescue to see how you can support them during this crisis. Your generosity will be gratefully accepted, particularly during this stressful time. Consider donating supplies, both through your local animal shelter and other agencies like human food banks. 

 TIP: Amazon recently announced that they will “temporarily prioritize household staples, medical supplies and other high-demand products.” While placing orders, shop on AmazonSmile and select the Humane Society of the United States as your preferred charity so a portion of your purchase supports our work at this critical time! 

 For people living in poverty and underserved communities, pet support services are more important than ever during this crisis. Low wage families and people working hourly wage jobs are being hit hard with loss of income and no paid time off from work. Currently, and in the coming months, there will be additional financial struggles and barriers for large numbers of people in accessing resources and affordable care and supplies for pets, and therefore a huge demand on these service agencies. Check in with your local animal shelter and ask how you can become involved in supporting the community. 

 Other Ways to Help Your Local Shelter or Rescue 

 We also encourage suspension of fees and fines (return-to-owner, licensing, etc.) similar to the way companies and municipalities are suspending late fees and utility turn-offs. With kindness, compassion and flexibility, we can work toward all pets and the people that love them staying together during this crisis. 

 What about small businesses that serve the needs of pet owners? 

 If necessary, we will work with state governments to encourage authorities to define veterinary services, animal control and access to pet food and supplies as essential services that must remain open if additional business closures are ordered. 

Check out “Coronavirus and your pets” on our podcast. 

The Humane Society of the United States is registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Contributions to the HSUS are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law. The HSUS’s tax identification number is 53-0225390. Charity 

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